5 ways to boost your body image
NEDIC Director, Merryl Bear, discusses the challenges faced by girls and women in a world of unrealistic beauty standards and she provides strategies for improving body image in this Health feature published in Canadian Living. Read the full article here.
By Victoria O'Meara
Canadain Living, February 2011
Improving your body image is easy in just 5 simple steps.
Every one of us has faced one of these moments where a friend tags you in an unflattering photo on Facebook, or you find yourself standing in a harshly lit dressing room staring at an unforgiving outfit. For most of us, our minds habitually go to a dark and gloomy place where we hear: I'm so fat; ugly; scrawny; (insert your own emotionally damaging adjective here).
Many women feel insecure about their bodies. In a world of unrealistic beauty standards it becomes all-too-easy to only see the ways in which you don't measure up. Merryl Bear, director of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), knows exactly what women are up against. "For girls and women in particular the image of the acceptable body simply saturates our environment and it is very difficult to hold that at bay without internalizing some of the messages," she says.
How to stop picking at the negatives
We all recognize those narrowly defined image of beauty and it can be hard not to make comparisons, but Bear argues it's "when physical appearance becomes extremely important to the way that we judge our own value that the danger lies." Perhaps it's time to stop measuring our value in terms of aesthetics and start looking at the whole package.
We've compiled tips and techniques to help you do just that. With advice from body image expert Merryl Bear you can give your self-confidence a boost and start feeling great about yourself. Read on and learn to love all the beautiful imperfections that make you, you.
5 ways to love your body
1. Take stock.
Sometimes negative thought patterns become second nature and we don’t even realize we're having them. Now is the time to assess your self-talk. Step in front of a mirror and take a minute to evaluate the way you talk to yourself. Are you surprised at how harsh you sound? Find out where you're hardest on yourself and then cut it out.
2. Walk tall!
This works on a few levels. You'll improve your posture, breath easier and it's an exercise in building confidence. "As simple as it sounds it's actually quite powerful," says Bear.
Scrunching up your body symbolizes feelings of wanting to shrink into invisibility. You deserve to straighten up and be noticed! "Allow yourself to take up the space that you're entitled to," says Bear.
3. Get physical.
Let's be clear here. Being physical is not synonymous with beating your body into submission to shrink a whole dress size. We're talking about challenging yourself. "As women we are often taught to restrain and control ourselves and we lose the sense of confidence that comes with being active," explains Bear. It's time to rediscover that confidence. It could be as simple as completing a physically demanding chore you'd normally leave for someone else, or signing up for a sport you've never had the nerve to try. Once you realize how strong and capable your body is you might learn to love it for all that it can do – and maybe even what it looks like, too.
4. If you've got nothing nice to say…
Propose that all discussions of dieting, weight and physical appearance be banned from conversations with friends. This kind of negative talk can feed an unhealthy preoccupation with all things appearance, not to mention it's boring. You've got so much more going on in your life to talk about. "Stop making it a defining feature of our lives,” advises Bear.
5. Quit putting your life on hold.
Dig out some old photographs of yourself and take a good look at them. How did you feel about your body then? What were you insecure about and would you be happy to have that body now? Consider the time you spent obsessing and the things you missed out on because of a distorted self-perception. Now take a lesson from your younger self and break the cycle.
"Stop focusing on your body’s imperfections when you could actually be reveling in the best body you have right now," advises Bear. You shouldn't have to wait until you lose some weight to buy new clothes or plan that beach vacation. Live your life for today and be proud of the body you have.
You've got the goods. It's time for you to start believing it!