Ever get those days where you look in the mirror and don’t like what is staring back at you?
Bad body image days happen to everyone, but how often they happen and the level to which they impact your day (and life) depends on how you handle them.
So if today how you feel about your body is leaving you feeling negative, hopeless and impacting how you’re showing up for yourself and those around you on a daily basis, then grab a cup of tea and settle in.
I want to share with you practical things you can do when you’re having a bad body image day. So that even on those days, you can have a good day, treat yourself with love and never feel like you need to change your plans for that day because of a reflection in a mirror, a roll on your stomach or a number on a scale.
I know that right now how you feel about your body might be overwhelming and over consuming, but you have more control over it than it might seem.
So let’s get into it…
Things to avoid on bad body image days
I want to make clear before we even get started that everyone experiences bad body image days. However not everyone is impacted to the degree that how they feel about their body impacts their entire day and life.
Here are some things to avoid, so that you’re able to change how you feel in those moments and shift your mindset and attention so that you can carry on with your day as planned.
Don’t get on your scales
This is the worst thing that you can do when you’re already feeling negative towards your body. If you wake up and you’re telling yourself, I don’t look good, I don’t feel good or I need to lose weight, please don’t jump on the scales.
I know from experience how tempting it is to get on the scales. But, why? What are you hoping for? That you’ll be a ‘good’ weight and therefore automatically feel better in your body or use it to confirm just how unattractive and ‘overweight’ you think you are. No scale should hold that much power over you.
Try this instead:
If you’re not feeling comfortable or confident in your body then instead of getting on the scales to ‘confirm or deny’ your ‘fatness’, I encourage you to dress in a way that makes you feel more comfortable and confident instead.
On bad body image days the clothes that you choose to wear will make a massive difference to how you feel. We all know that feeling when we aren’t happy with our bodies and we dress in something too tight or uncomfortable, leaving us body checking and shifting around all day with a head full of negative thoughts about how we look.
So have a look in your wardrobe, what in there always makes you feel comfortable? Do you have an outfit you always feel good in? If so, that’s the outfit for you! If you don’t have an outfit like that in your wardrobe I encourage you to go get yourself one, just don’t go clothes showing on the bad body image day.
Don’t restrict your food intake
The second one is please don’t change your eating habits. It’s so easy to respond to feeling negative towards our bodies by restricting our food in an effort to feel better.
Perhaps you get up in the morning and feel bloated or ‘fat’, does that ever result in you changing how you eat that day? Maybe you reduce your portion size, change what you planned to eat or skip a meal altogether.
When we’ve been stuck in dieting cycles and been impacted by the messages from diet culture for prolonged periods of time, this can be an automatic and ‘normal’ response. The belief is that we can balance out how we feel by limiting the number of calories we eat that day.
However, this response leads to reinforcing your negative thoughts about your body, therefore you’re actually more likely to experience bad body image days, decreased health and wellbeing and increasing your chances of disordered eating.
Try this instead:
On the days that you are perhaps tempted to restrict or change your eating habits due to thoughts and feelings about your body, remember that for you to be able to enjoy your day, your body needs fuel.
There are no foods you can’t eat on that day, and whether it’s a bad body image day or not, your body needs food, so please don’t deprive it and instead eat as normal.
To help you, you could create a reminder or affirmation to use when you’re feeling this way. Or let someone know how you’re feeling who will encourage you. If you are struggling with disordered eating, always seek out professional advice and guidance.
Another way you might respond when you’re feeling negative is to over exercise. This is often to burn off calories we think we need to lose in order to ‘look and feel good’. So you hit the gym harder than normal or go when you had no intention of going that day.
This behaviour not only leaves you exhausted but in the long term it harms your relationship with exercise and your body. You end up counting and tracking every calorie you burn and that becomes the only reason and purpose for exercise, to lose weight or ‘earn’ food.
This is why a common problem when building a positive body image is being able to learn to move in ways that make your body (and you) feel good, because exercise has become a chore and a means to punish your body for how it looks.
Although movement is key in how we feel, done for these reasons and to these extremes actually harms your physical, mental and emotional health.
Try this instead:
In addition to not feeling you need to exercise more (or at all) because of how you’re feeling about your body, on a specific day, start to focus on moving in ways you enjoy.
I know that it might be hard to know what type of exercise, or movement you enjoy, but regaining joy in movement is a great way to build a positive body image and improve your physical, mental and emotional health.
Movement you enjoy is also a great way to shift your thoughts and feelings on those bad body image days. Remember that exercise isn’t just hitting the gym or what you might consider ‘typical exercise’. Exercise is simply moving your body, so includes things like dance, cleaning, walking your dog, playing with your kids or grandkids or gardening.
So today, think about ways you can move your body that you enjoy. These could be things you’ve enjoyed in the past or have a play around with new ways to move your body and see how they feel to you.
Ignore your emotions
When experiencing a bad body image day, don’t ignore your emotions. If you feel sad, it’s ok to feel sad. If you feel tired, it’s ok to feel tired. If you’re frustrated, it’s ok to feel frustrated. You might not ‘want’ to feel certain emotions, but the most unhelpful thing you can do is to try and hide or avoid them.
When you try to hide or avoid your emotions they stay within the body and often get redirected into how we treat ourselves. So, allow your feelings, validate them. It’s okay to say right now that you’re feeling a certain way, just avoid getting ‘stuck’ in the emotion.
Try this instead:
Your emotions arise because of your thoughts, so in order to help reduce and manage your negative emotions, it’s important to know what your negative body image triggers are.
Now, you might automatically think that it’s your ‘body’ that’s triggering your thoughts and feelings. But that’s not the real reason, the real trigger is what beliefs you hold about how your body ‘should’ look.
One common negative body image trigger is social media. So when you’re experiencing a bad body image day it’s a good idea to limit your social media use.
There’s nothing more damaging to your body image or self esteem than scrolling your social media when you’re feeling negative towards your body. Unless you have a perfectly curated feed, which is impossible, there is a high chance that you will see something that negatively triggers you.
So if you’re aware that social media can have a negative impact on how you feel about yourself, I encourage you to have a social media detox that day, until you’re feeling more confident.
Dragging it out
Often when we are feeling low or negative, we can get stuck in this state and this leads us to carry these thoughts and feelings with us day after day.
Perhaps you struggle to shake off the negative thoughts about your body, and the way you felt looking in the mirror yesterday is still with you today, and the likelihood is that it will be tomorrow.
Don’t let bad body image days drag out and start to spread and ‘infect’ the rest of your days. One day doesn’t define your life, but it will if you keep replaying it and don’t let it go.
Try this instead:
When you’re feeling negative, it’s important to start focusing on the positives, however small or hard to see those positives might be in that moment.
Start making a conscious effort to focus on the positives on a daily basis, if you’re comfortable, you can do that around your body, telling yourself what it allows you to do or aspects of it that you do like. If that feels too much right now, then focus on your positive skills, strengths, traits and accomplishments.
So grab yourself a notebook or journal and either daily, weekly or as often as you’re comfortable with, start making a note of positives and things that are going well.
Your body doesn’t define your worth
The main thing on a bad day is to be yourself and know that you are not alone and that your worth doesn’t lie in how you look. Having a bad body image day does not have to ruin your entire day, you can have a bad body image day and still have a good day.
If you struggle to overcome and move on from bad body image days at the minute, I invite you to try these strategies and let me know which ones work the best for you.
Hey I’m Natalie, Supporting women like you on their road to self-acceptance and building their self-esteem is – as cliche as it sounds – my calling.