We all have a relationship with our body.
For movement professionals, this relationship can be put in the spotlight — we work directly with our body and support others in theirs. This may be coupled with internal and external pressure to ‘look’ the part.
Developing a neutral, accepting and respectful relationship with our body is important for our own mental health as it allows us to engage with our lives more fully. For people who are trapped in negative body image — thoughts, feelings and associated behaviours can consume a significant amount of time and energy. When we feel comfortable in our body, we can focus on the things that are truly important to us, like our relationships, hobbies and purpose.
There are practical things we can do to improve body image in everyday life, and some people may benefit from seeking professional support. As someone who lives with thin privilege, I acknowledge that I do not face the stigma that people in larger bodies do. We live in a society that shames people in larger bodies, which can limit people's individual efforts to feel comfortable and confident in their body. For more on the impact of weight stigma and Health At Every Size click here. Now let's look at some practical ways we can improve body image.
Self-care in everyday life:
- Move in ways that bring you joy and be mindful of the experience
- Embrace rest and recovery as well as physical challenges
- Explore self-soothing practices that involve sensory touch like baths, warm showers, yin, self-massage or self-holding
- Prioritise baseline self-care to build body respect like adequate sleep, mindful breathing, drinking water and eating regularly
- Wear clothes you feel confident and comfortable in
- Get to know yourself with and without makeup
- Ditch the scales, calorie tracking and clothes that don't fit you
- On low body image days be kind and gentle with yourself and take the pressure off where you can
Social connection and setting boundaries:
- Reduce exposure to images of idealised bodies on social media by unfollowing/muting accounts that are unhelpful
- Take breaks from social media
- Diversify your social media feed to see people in different bodies, shapes, sizes and abilities
- Surround yourself with people who accept and embrace you exactly as you are
- Consider non-appearance attributes you admire in others like humour, kindness and resilience
- Ask your friends what they appreciate about you
- Disengage with diet talk and fat shaming
- Open conversations with friends about what your body supports you to do in everyday life
- Engage with studios, gyms and movement communities that value connection, curiosity, acceptance and joy
Self-reflection and using your inner voice:
- Consider what health and wellness means to you, and think critically about the images you see that symbolise this
- Remember that ‘fat’ is not a feeling. Explore how you are actually feeling like anxious, overwhelmed, uncomfortable or upset
- On low body image days, consider the variety of factors that may have contributed to this feeling e.g. poor sleep, stress at work or feeling disconnected
- Try neutral affirmations like ‘this is my body today’, ‘I am enough’, 'my body is adaptive' to ground you in the moment
- On days where you feel comfortable and confident in your body, give yourself permission to feel this way and appreciate yourself
The way we relate to our body can have a ripple effect on our community through modelling. Humans model the behaviour of others. For movement professionals — if you speak about yourself with kindness, this can influence the way your students speak about themselves. If you treat your body with care and respect, this can influence the way your students practice self-care. Behavioural modelling is a big motivator for me as a yoga teacher because I want my students to feel confident, to move in ways they enjoy, and feel embraced exactly as they are.
Ready to reflect? Body Respect Reflection Worksheet
Body Image Program
Are you a movement professional with body image concerns? Join us in 2022 a one month evidence-based body image program for people who identify as women. Click here for more info.
This information is not a substitute for individualised advice or support. If you or someone you know is struggling with body image, disordered eating or an eating disorder, education and support is available.
Butterfly Foundation — Helpline 1800 33 4673 (8am - Midnight, 7 days a week)
Eating Disorders Victoria — Hub 1300 550 236 (9am - 5pm, Mon - Fri)