Negative Body Image: How to Respect Your Body

holding a chocolate truffle near mouth

Diet culture is all around us and it is something that has been so ingrained in our minds subconsciously for a long time. It's the sight of watching our mom's diet throughout our adolescence, watching how society treats those who are overweight (on TV, magazines and in real life) and the ads all around us that tell us we aren't good enough until we look like someone else. All of these scenarios (and so many more) tell us we need to do better. So we compare ourselves to others, like those we see in the media, colleagues, friends, family, strangers and even ourselves. This all results in a negative body image. How can we let go of the need to compare and be embrace and respect our bodies?

What is Body Comparison?

Body comparison or body checking as it is referred to in Intuitive Eating (IE) is something that happens almost subconsciously on a daily basis. We are so used to doing it that we don't even notice how much we do it and the impact it has on our mental health and creates a negative body image. Have you ever walked into a room and checked out how your body compares to others? Are you the biggest/smallest person in the room? I can remember doing it when I went to a spin class for the first time. To be honest, I felt embarrassed that I had done it because I was already trying to follow IE practices at this point. But here I was  feeling bad about my body and comparing myself to complete strangers, yet again.

We Make False Assumptions:

The truth is when we engage in body checking and comparison, we make assumptions about others when we don't really know what is going on at all. We start to spiral with our thoughts and think "she must work out hard everyday" or "she eats so clean, I should really cut out sugar again...". The truth is, I don't know anything about this person. Maybe she has a naturally smaller frame than me, maybe she has an eating disorder, maybe she had liposuction, or maybe she's sick? And the truth is, it shouldn't matter at all because her journey and her life is not mine. All this does is creates a negative body image and contributes to my own self doubt.

As much as we want to believe that engaging in body checking and comparison behaviour is normal, it isn't. It's only because we have been conditioned to think this through dieting and diet culture.

picking flowers at market

How Body Checking and Dieting Go Hand-in-Hand?

Body checking and comparison stems from dieting. Society teaches us to compare our bodies by setting unrealistic versions of what a woman (and man's) body 'should' look like. The underlying message is always that we aren't good enough, strong enough, slim enough or thin enough. And all of those messages lead us right back to dieting. Because when we are caught in the body comparison trap, we believe that the way out of it is through another diet. Mainstream media knows this all too well and we are then stuck in that endless cycle of dieting.

Have you ever said things like "I'll go on that vacation when I can lose weight and feel good in my bikini" or "I'll start dating when I lose some weight." We learn to put things off because we have created a negative body image and subsequently don't treat it very well. We miss out on doing things that are good for our body because we are trying to lose weight. We put all of our focus and attention on weight loss that we end up actually abusing and mistreating our bodies more.

drinking lemon water and looking to the side

Negative Body Image: How to Learn to Break the Cycle

The truth is that when you learn to respect your body and make weight loss less important, you will then be able to move forward. This doesn't mean that you disregard your health, in fact it's the opposite. When you respect your body it means you are indeed taking care of your health.

So rather than focusing solely on arbitrary numbers about our weight, what if instead we focus on healthy living and healthy behaviours?

What if we truly shift the focus to our health (body, mind and soul) rather than just the number on a scale or the the size of our clothes.

We can learn to reject this negative body image and instead choose to (at the most basic level) respect it.

How to Learn to Start Respecting Your Body:

The reason that intuitive eating suggests learning to respect your body is because in truth that is a lot easier to begin with.

After years spent dieting and having a negative body image, it is difficult to go from hatred to love. The truth is it takes a long time to learn to like our bodies. You can read more about how I learned to navigate weight gain after I stopped dieting over here. If we start with respecting our bodies, we can then shift our perspective to one of respecting our health too. And that means, learning to end the up and down rollercoaster of dieting.

Respecting your body doesn't mean you have to love it, or even like it right now. It simply means that you treat your body with dignity and respect and do things to meet its basic needs.

negative body image graphic

A Note on Emotional Eating:

If you are someone who tends to eat emotionally to cope with your feelings, your body shape may be representative of the way in which you took care of yourself when you knew no other way (Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works). Rather than getting upset and demeaning your body, choose to be compassionate and respect yourself for surviving those hardships.

How to Treat Your Body With Respect and Change Your Body Image (Over Time):

Moving from disrespecting your body and treating it with disdain to respecting it can take some time and adjustments (i.e. it does not happen overnight).

Think of respecting your body by making it comfortable and meeting its basic needs.

This means thinking things like:

  • my body deserves to be fed
  • my body deserves to be treated with dignity
  • my body deserves to be dressed comfortably
  • my body deserves to be touched affectionately and with respect
  • my body deserves to move with ease.

How to Make Our Bodies More Comfortable:

In regards to having your body feel comfortable, I want you to think about your clothing.

Are you still trying to fit into a certain size that no longer serves you?

Are you holding onto clothes that don't fit your body, right now?

So often, we feel that we don't deserve to buy ourselves new clothes until we fit in a certain size. So we may even wear things that don't fit us properly.

But how can you be comfortable in something that doesn't fit you right now?

If that means going out and buying new clothing, or underwear that fits then go do it! Forget that age old nonsense that you need to get rid of your "fat clothes" because it is an invitation for weight gain and failure.

  • Learn to dress for the body you have right now and be comfortable.
  • Wear the clothes that make you feel amazing.
  • As superficial as it may sound, your clothing and how you present yourself to the world makes a big difference in your own body image.
holding cup of turmeric latte wearing a dress

Go Through Your Closet:

A useful exercise to do is to go through your closet and get rid of things that don't fit.

  • Donate them or sell them if you want to.
  • Keeping the old pair of 'skinny jeans' to see if you fit into them only perpetuates the same negative body image.
  • It doesn't serve as motivation and usually just serves as reminder that you don't measure up to unobtainable standards you or society has set for yourself.

Final Thoughts:

Your body deserves to be treated kindly and with respect by you first. You cannot expect anyone else to do this for you. Do things just for you, that make you and your body feel good. Whether that is scheduling a massage, a dance class or heading outside for a walk or time in nature. Make the time for it now, as your body is right now, not how you want your body to look. Show up for your body and notice how different you feel when you treat it with respect and kindness. Pay attention to how this transforms your negative body image into a slightly more positive one.

This takes time to put into practice and it is normal to have negative thoughts every now and then. We have been taught for so long to hate our bodies, so learning to appreciate them can be hard to implement. Be patient with yourself.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only share products and services I have personally used and love. Disclosure here.

I'd love to hear from you. What is your body image like? Are you currently trying to change your negative body image?

Let's talk in the comments!

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Anastasha
August 8, 2022
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Shafia
August 2, 2022
This was delicious!!! It takes some prep time but each portion is packed with flavour! Will definitely make again ❤️
Cristina
July 31, 2022
I made this yesterday and HOLY MOLY it hit the spot!!! It’s been so hot and muggy out here, so I was craving something light, cool, and filling. This recipe did not disappoint. The flavor of the peanut sauce was delicious. It had been a while since I prepared something with such color and flavor, which made eating it that much better. I will definitely make this again and try your other recipes too!! 😍🙏🏻❤️
Jaclyn
July 25, 2022
Hi Henrik! Thanks for letting me know you made them. Depending on the size of your food processor, it can be a lot to pulse all at once, so maybe working in batches is better. I'm glad you liked them and they firmed up for you :) Enjoy the rest!
henrik bechmann
July 25, 2022
Yep, they firmed up nicely. I'm freezing four, and looking forward to having the other four, dressed with sauerkraut, pickles, mustard, vegan mayo, onions, banana chiles, and maybe even ketchup. Yum!
henrik bechmann
July 25, 2022
Well I ended up baking them for 23 minutes (@400F). They're delicious! A bit soft, but I'm hoping they'll firm up when they cool. Texture is good too. Thanks for this!
henrik bechmann
July 24, 2022
Seems like a good and tasty recipe. But I had to add a generous half cup of water to get any kind of movement in the food processor. I substituted flax seeds for hemp (what I had). The mixture was a bit loose because of the water, but still formed nicely into patties. Baking for 15 min at 400F. Looking forward to them!
Jaclyn
July 23, 2022
Hi Roxanne! So for the meatballs photos with feta, I just used regular olive oil. But for the one photo with the red looking oil, that was olive oil mixed with fried green onions and Aleppo pepper. I have that recipe in full on my Instagram account - if you head over there, you'll see it - https://www.instagram.com/p/CbQXM2IlH4L/.
Roxanne
July 21, 2022
Hi! The topping on your whipped feta looked delicious. It appeared to be more than olive oil. Or maybe an infused olive oil? Do you mind sharing that recipe? I can’t wait to make this recipe. Appreciate the tip on room temp feta.
ANYA
July 19, 2022
Make these now! Once you buy your ingredients, this is the easiest recipe to execute...it's so hands off! I started the beef in the instant pot an hour before we wanted to eat and prepped the toppings while all of that was cooking. I used stewing beef and a home-made taco seasoning. I didn't have any beef broth so I used half of a bouillon cube - worked just fine! The enchilada sauce was store bought (Frontera brand) and it was delicious. Highly recommend the Monteray jack cheese - I used some Violife mozzarella that I happened to have at home but I can see how the sharp taste would add to the overall flavour.
Jaclyn
July 18, 2022
Hi Carolyn! I'm so glad you are loving my recipes, thank you so much for taking the time to let me know. I don't provide nutritional information as it doesn't align with my brand or how I personally choose to live my life, having had a disordered relationship to food in the past. I hope you understand :)
Carolyn
July 13, 2022
I love your recipes and have tried them! What would be GREAT is if you could include the nutritional value with calories. It would be beneficial to those of us trying to lose weight. Thank you, Carolyn
Julia
July 11, 2022
Just made this for my family today. I can’t have gluten or dairy but they can and this got a RESOUNDING stamp of approval! Love the simple ingredients and it tasted fabulous! Thanks for such nourishing recipes ❤️ 😊
Chris
July 3, 2022
Thanks for this! I came across this recipe very late in life, at a family meal. I liked it better than my mother's potato salad of my childhood, and better than my sister's which came from her in-laws. DH likes it very much. Win, win, win! Tip: if you don't want to steam up your summer kitchen nor fight the mosquitoes for the grill, pressure cook the potatoes!
MATILDE PAGAN
May 12, 2022
I am on a short vacation and came across this recipe, looking forward in making this. It looks really good. Can’t wait.
Whitney Mullenax
April 22, 2022
I have these cookies in the oven right now (2nd time making them in a few weeks). They are perfection and will be a great gift for some coworkers tomorrow. I made the recipe as is, great texture! I saved some for me too, don't worry ;)
Olivia Garcia
April 15, 2022
I love the ingredients in these recipes… Can’t wait to start them all!!
Anya
April 14, 2022
Don’t sleep on this wing recipe. It is soooo good! I can see this being a staple for game days, casual dinners or honestly…any day. Such a crowd pleaser as well. Oh and please don’t skip the dip. It’s unreal stuff! I was grabbing random things in my kitchen to eat it with once the wings were done.
Christa Campbell
March 28, 2022
The simplest recipe to make a delicious desert! I left out the cacao and just made vanilla coconut flavor and it was heavenly. I plan to add different flavors in the future; cacao with Orange or raspberry essence, vanilla salted, caramel flour de sel- the options are endless. Glad to find a keto friendly treat that can be made easily at home.
Rich
March 24, 2022
When do you add the mushrooms back in the pot?
Heidi
February 13, 2022
These were good! I've been curious to try making a miso dessert for a little while now, but wanted it to be grain free. I've found that almond flour based chocolate chip cookies always have some kind of nut butter, and since I just use peanut butter, it's like a PB cookie. The miso did a great job replacing nut butter and achieved a great, chewy consistency! It's definitely strong, although I'm sure white miso would have been more mild. I used dashi miso, which in hindsight sounds pretty gross.. the cookies were not at all fishy tasting, but just bold and kind of salty/savory. I think next time I'll try a little less miso. I have a tendency to use less sugar than a recipe calls for, but I definitely needed it in this one to balance the miso flavor. I just used regular butter too, not ghee.
Susan Renee Hennings
January 12, 2022
Yes, I like it a lot. Lentils are nutritious and inexpensive.
Carole
January 2, 2022
I’m just learning about adaptogens and trying to incorporate them into my “healthy arsenal”. Thanks for the info!
MAdeleine
December 27, 2021
This is the first cinnamon roll recipe i've actually gotten to work! I let the dough rest in the fridge for 4-5 hours and then rolled and filled it, then let it rest in the fridge over night and it worked great for an early morning bake. I looked through the whole recipe and you never mention what temperature to bake at. It just says "place in your preheated oven to bake" I baked at 350. Also it would be really nice if the caramel sauce recipe was included here. All in all totally delicious, worth the effort, and I will be making this again.