Body image is tough ya’ll! We live in a world that is obsessed with the way we look. Whether it be skinnier, taller, younger, smoother, more muscular, curvier, the list goes on and on. Diet culture is literally yelling at us all of the time that we are not enough and need to be better. It is no wonder that majority of people struggle with negative body image. Negative body image is also a part of some eating disorders. In eating disorder recovery negative body image tends to stick around and be one of the last things that improves. It is a journey and takes a lot of time, support, effort, and love to improve negative body image.
Side note: there is also a continuum of body image struggles. There is body dissatisfaction, body distortions and body dysmorphia. We are talking solely about body dissatisfaction here today!
When we are working on body image we are working on getting to a body neutral place. Where your body is your body and you are able to accept it, respect it and take care of it. This doesn’t mean you necessarily love the way it looks all the time. We have to work on tolerating our body without acting on eating disorder or dieting behaviors, accepting our body and then potentially liking it someday down the road! To get to this place (which I know can feel impossible at times) we have to let go of our desired body, our dream body, or our past bodies. This is hard and where the grieving part comes in.
Grief is the natural reaction to loss. It is “NORMAL” and OKAY to grieve your dream/desired body and your previous bodies. Some days you might miss that body. This is an important part of the process and can help us move on and be able to accept our body one day. We are also grieving so much more than just our body. We are grieving the ideas and beliefs that were behind that body. For example, believing that looking a certain way will make us good enough or increase our confidence and give us a sense of belonging.
Here are some things to get started noticing and acknowledging any grief!
- Acknowledge what you are holding on to. Are you still dreaming of a body shape? Do you miss your old body before recovery?
- What beliefs are associated with this body? Will I be good enough then? Will my life look different somehow if I had that body?
- Acknowledge that these are lies and fantasies and changing our bodies will not magically change our lives or anything about us. What actually would help change areas of life I want to change?
- Grieve the loss of the fantasy, that body, that person and let yourself feel that. Grieving will help give you some freedom to accept you and your body for what it is.
- Know that improving body image doesn’t mean you like it or love it ever day. It means you can know your body is on your team and you respect it.
- Focus on the way your body feels instead of the way it looks.
Note: That this takes a lot of time and support, this is something you can work on with your treatment team as well! This also isn’t a one and done kind of thing. This is something you may need to come back to throughout different seasons of life.
Lastly, give yourself some grace and compassion. You don’t have to love your body everyday to be able to respect it and know that you are on the same team. Everyday is going to look different and that is okay. Take it day by day!
As always we are here for ya! You can contact us here for support and with questions!