5 Simple Ways to
Improve Your Body Image
It's one of THE HARDEST things to do . . .
Reportedly 86% of women have a poor body image. Based on personal and professional experience, and including adolescent and teen girls, I would say that number is a lot higher. We could talk for days about the origins of our collective self-hate and probably should, but I think it's more productive right now to have a conversation about what to do about it.
Your body image is comprised of 4 parts:
Perception: how YOU perceive your body (not how it actually looks to others)
Emotion: how you feel about your body
Cognition: your thoughts and beliefs about your body
Action: the actions you take based on your perception, emotion, and cognition
If you really want to improve your body image you must always think about it from those 4 perspectives, work on changing all 4, and consider how they all affect each other.
I perceive that my thighs are too fat and have too much cellulite compared to her. My constant thoughts are that it's so unfair that I have to deal with this and she doesn't and I hate my legs. I feel frustrated, sad, ugly and stuck. Therefore I refuse to wear shorts in the summer even though I'm hot because I want to hide my horrible legs. See how that works? All 4 aspects reinforcing each other, and forming your negative body image.
It can feel like a double edged sword: I think my body image will improve if I lose weight, but losing weight is much harder without a better body image. The truth is, that if you can improve your body image NOW, right where you're at, extra weight and fluff and cellulite and stretch marks and all, then your chances of ACTUALLY reaching your health and weight loss goals goes up SIGNIFICANTLY! You can love yourself at ANY size, and I would argue that you MUST if you really want to move forward. Listen up for 5 simple strategies you can start implementing RIGHT NOW to get you on track to a better body image.
Full transcription available at the bottom of this post
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Approximately 86% of American women and girls report being dissatisfied with their bodies. Are you one of them? One study suggested that 63% of women identified their weight as a key factor in determining how they felt about themselves. What's happening here is we have confounded our weight as a key determiner of our body image and our body image is a key determiner of our self worth. There's a lot of unpacking to do here, friends, but in this episode, I want to give you five practical ways that you can improve your body image starting right now, let's go
Welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast, the place for women who are trying to do all the things and stay healthy, sane and actually enjoy life in the process. Hey, I'm Tara, a trained therapist, a life coach, a nutrition coach and a fitness instructor. And I'm on a mission to help you take back control of your mind, health and life. Each week, I'll be cutting through the nonsense and getting real with you. I'll bring you the insight and information you need to take control of your weight and health. Find food freedom. And finally break free from the thoughts that are sabotaging you and holding you back. You, my friend, are powerful, and the world needs you to start showing up in a bigger way. It's time to get unstuck and start moving forward. So let's pop in those earbuds, tie up those shoes. Let's walk and talk.
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You guys know that body image is so important. Body image affects your self esteem. And ultimately, it's a secret weapon in finding lasting success in your health and wellness journey. We could talk endlessly about the origins of your less than great body image, because almost all of us have a less than great body image. But in this episode, I really want to give you some practical things that you can do to improve your body image. And before I do, I just want to add the disclaimer that a negative body image absolutely can lead to serious problems like eating disorder behavior, anorexia, bulimia, depression, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, those things are real, and they are serious. And if you think you might be dealing with something like that, I encourage you to reach out and to seek treatment from a therapist, those things can be helped. But you have to reach out and ask for help. And talking about treatment of those disorders is beyond the scope of this podcast. So I just want to really make sure that there's a lot of us that have really bad body image. But if it goes to the next level, and we have some disordered behavior going on, I really want you to pay attention to that. And I want you to acknowledge that for yourself and seek help.
Body image is really made up of four aspects. The first is perceptual and that is the way you see yourself. So like when you look in the mirror, what do you perceive as the way your body looks? What's interesting, is that how you think you look is often not a very accurate representation of what you actually look like. We see ourselves through our own lens we do not see ourselves as others see us so I want you to really make sure that you're understanding that your body image is not how other people see you. It is your perception of yourself.
The second aspect is affective so this is how you feel about your body, what do you like or dislike about the way you look, your satisfaction or dissatisfaction that you experience in relation to your appearance, your weight, your shape the body parts, that's your aspect of body image, how you feel about the way you look.
The third aspect is cognitive. So these are the thoughts that you have about your body, the thoughts and the beliefs. So one thing that might sound familiar to you is lots of people believe they have a thought that if I was thinner, I would feel better about myself, right? If so my thought is, if I was thinner than I would have a different emotion about my body. Others think that if they develop more muscle, or they gain weight, or whatever, whatever you're going to change. Those are the thoughts that you're having about your body. So I just want to make sure that you are understanding that this is a very important aspect of what you are thinking about your body. So what you think about it, what you feel about it, and how you perceive it.
And then the last piece is the behavioral. So these are the things that you do, because of your thoughts and emotions. Does that make sense? So when you are dissatisfied with the way that you look, maybe you have some destructive behaviors associated to that, like excessive exercising or disordered eating, or you're going on another diet, another diet another day, or you need this surgery, or that surgery, right? The actions that you're taking, because of your thoughts, feelings, perceptions about your body makes sense. And this is not just actions that you're taking, like to change your body. But maybe you wear all black, or maybe you hide, or maybe you won't put shorts on in the summer. Or maybe you don't leave the house as often you'd like or maybe you don't go to the gym, like all the behaviors that are associated with how you think, feel and perceive your body. Okay, makes sense. So this means that if you really want to create a more positive body image, you have to address all four of these areas, and how they are all working together in you one person makes sense.
The first thing that we're going to talk about, which you might find interesting, but when you hear it, you'll be like, Hmm, that makes sense. You're gonna check what you think about others. First, when you see an overweight person, what do you think about that person? What are the immediate thoughts that you have? What assumptions are you making? Are you seeing an overweight person and you are assuming that they are lazy, or undisciplined, or out of control, or pathetic, or whatever words that come to your brain, I really want you to take notice, if you think about someone else with those things, who's overweight, and then you look at yourself and you think you're overweight? What do you think is the logical conclusion for your brain, all of those negative characteristics that you attributed to the overweight person, you are also going to attribute to yourself? Let's look at another way, what do you think about someone with a perfect body? Whatever your version of perfect body is? What kind of qualities do you ascribe to them? Okay, so this is important too, because then you're going to look in the mirror and you're going to see, well, I'm not that perfect body. So I am not disciplined and I am not in control. And I am not right. I am not, I am not, I am not all the things that I am not because I don't look like that. You need to tune in to what your thoughts are about other bodies, and how you compare yourself to them. And what is that saying about you? So what you want to do simply is just work on being loving and kind to all people of all body types. And know that how a body looks on the outside never tells the whole story of who that person is on the inside. If you start practicing this for other people, you will find it's a whole lot easier to be kind to yourself, because you will start recognizing for yourself. Yes, my body looks like this. But that does not determine my character and who I am makes sense. So I know it sounds strange. But first we're going to look externally right so that we can practice being kinder internally. Cool? Okay.
The second thing I want you to think about is what is influencing you? It's estimated that girls and women see 400 to 600 images a day on social media, and the vast majority of those images have to do with beauty and body. Let's just put this in perspective really fast. The average model is five foot 11 and weighs 117 pounds. The average woman in the United States is five foot three and weighs 166 pounds. This is the largest discrepancy that has ever existed between women and the cultural ideal, what women actually look like and the cultural ideal of what we're supposed to look like. This discrepancy then leads almost all of us women and girls, I mean we're talking these studies were done on girls as young as 10. to It causes us to feel inadequate and negative about our bodies, you know, that's true, it's important for you to realize, only about 1.8% of women genetically have what would be considered the ideal body type that you currently see in the media. So right now, the ideal body type is kind of slightly curvy, but your thighs still can't touch. But your butt has to be huge, but your waist has to be tiny, but your boobs have to be big. But you can't have any cellulite, right? There are so many standards, right, that we are trying to live up to. And there's only about 2%, maybe of the population that actually naturally had lives up to that standard. Okay, there's a lot of women you see who have surgically altered to meet that standard. But naturally, genetically, maybe 2%. Not even 2% of women actually look like that in real life.
I really need you to have some perspective on this. Every single image that you see on social media and magazines, TV, every single image has been altered. All of them, it is not real. We know it's not real. You see Instagram versus real life. Like that's a thing right now. Right? I love looking at them, because it makes me feel better about myself to see the real life and be like, Oh, okay, I just don't know how to pose. I don't actually look that bad. I just don't know how to pose. We know that it's not real, but we still buy into it. And we still compare ourselves to it. Do you understand how insane that is? Like that is the definition of insanity. Also, I want you to think about these women that you're looking at, you don't know what's going on for them. You don't know their history, maybe they have an eating disorder, maybe in order to look that way that they do they've had surgeries in liposuction, maybe they have major issues, maybe they have a horrible relationship with food, maybe they're completely unhealthy. You have no idea what's actually going on for them, all you see is this photoshopped airbrushed image. And you think that's what I'm supposed to look like, I don't look like that. Therefore I suck. I know that we know this. But we don't act on it. And we don't live it. So I want you to start practicing, really internalizing and not comparing, okay.
I'm talking, you know, to us women, but I need you to think about the girls too. I bet every single one of you listening know someone who as a teenager, 18 or even younger, has already had plastic surgery, they've already had injections, they've already had fillers, they've already had Botox. We don't even question anymore how wrong that is. Like, we just accept it as totally normal, that a girl for her 18th birthday would get a boob job, or that a 16 year old would get teeth veneers. Or that she would get lip injections. Like we don't even question how that could be wrong, why we can't just look the way we look, why we feel so strongly that we need to change ourselves at such a young age. I want you to start questioning that. And I want you to start questioning the messages. If you have daughters, what are your daughters receiving, what are they looking at on social media, because they are internalizing that, right now, as young as six, five years old, even they are seeing these images? And they are thinking that's how I'm supposed to look, I don't look that way. Okay, what messages are you sending to your daughters? Now, I don't have anything against surgeries and whatever things you want to do to make yourself look different. I just want you to really question why you're doing it. Are you doing it to fix yourself? Are you doing it to meet some kind of cultural standard? I want you to just have an honest conversation about why you're choosing this thing. Okay? Why are you choosing the surgery? Why are you choosing this injection? Why are you choosing this filler? Why are you choosing this? Is it because you keep scrolling Instagram, and this is what everyone looks like, therefore, this is what I should look like. I'm not saying do it or don't do it. You get to make your own choices for your own body for your own life. I'm just wanting, I'm just requesting. I'm just suggesting that you have an honest conversation with yourself about why you're doing this. Okay? And don't say it because it'll make me look better. Because that's a bullshit answer. And you know it is. I want you to really understand why.
Love it or hate it. Media is the most influential thing in your life. So you need to be careful about what you're filling your brain with. Because it's influencing all four areas of that body image for the things we already talked about. It's influential. It's influencing every single one of them. So be aware how much of your social media is images of what a body and beauty should be? When you look at all your social media accounts. How many of those videos are images of what You should look like, what this ideal body is, how much is how much of that is influencing your thoughts, and your body and your body image? What can you do to minimize this? Can you spend less time on social media? Can you be more discerning about who you follow, and I want to, I don't want to like throw people under the bus. It's not the people that are posting, they're gonna post or they're gonna post. Again, it's their life, they're making their own choices. It's not about what that person's posting, it's about what your brain is doing with what it's seeing. Okay, so there could be a perfectly nice woman, and she has perfectly good intentions, and she's just great. But whenever you look at her account, all you do is compare yourself to her, and it makes you feel bad. Stop following her, she's not a bad person. Okay, we're not ascribing any judgment to her. All we're recognizing is that looking at those images, make you feel bad about yourself. And so we're going to stop looking at them, make those choices for yourself. And overall, I would recommend just looking at social media less, stop filling your brain with all these fake images about how you should look and start filling it with life experiences, take a walk, go do something else, stop focusing on how things look all the time, stop focusing on how your body looks all the time, stop focusing on how other people's bodies look all the time. Just stop. Okay, and I'm off my soapbox.
Let's move on. Along that same line, the third thing we're going to work on is changing the focus. So clearly, based on what we just talked about, the biggest reasons for your poor body image have to do with how we tie our weight and how our body looks to our body image. So at one weight, we hate ourselves, and at another more acceptable weight, quote, unquote, we are allowed to like ourselves, I'm not allowed to like myself until I'm 10 pounds thinner. Sound familiar? What if we change the focus of our body image from our weight to our function, how our body functions. So what we're talking about is changing your perceptions, your emotions, your thoughts and actions, to be more in line with gratitude for the performance and function of your body. And not just how much it weighs, or how much cellulite we have or how much it jiggles, or whatever. So what you're going to do for this is you're going to make a top 10 list about things that you love about your body. And specifically, we're going to think about things that your body can do, and having gratitude for those things. So instead of looking at your stomach and thinking, oh my gosh, the stretch marks, hate it. What if you looked at your body and thought, this body is amazing? It carried two full term kids and gave birth to two healthy boys, right? What if you could think about that IT function amazingly for you. Instead of looking at your arms and thinking about your flappy bat wings? What if you said My arms are so strong, they can hold my baby for hours at a time. Right? We've all done that, haven't we? What if instead of looking at the cellulite on your legs, you you thought wow, my legs hold me up all day long. We walked for hours on these legs through Disneyland, thank you legs, you are amazing. And you are so strong. What if you looked at your arms and thought I have the best arms for hugging. My body is the best hugging body there is what we're thinking about. And so when I'm talking about what your body is doing, when we're focusing on what it can do, I'm not just talking about like, oh, I can deadlift, this many pounds. I'm talking about your body got you on a bed this morning, your body cleaned your house this morning, your body held your kid while they were crying this morning. Your body can do amazing things. But you need to spend a little more time focusing less on how much it weighs and what it looks like to you to what it can actually do and having some gratitude for that. Okay, it's practice. So you're going to make that top 10 list. So whenever you find yourself thinking and feeling the negative stuff, you're going to turn to the top 10 list and you're going to focus on that. Okay.
The fourth thing that you can do to improve your body image is exercise. I mean any exercise just plain and simple exercise. Moving your body will always change your body image. The more you move it, the more it'll change. When you exercise you are moving forward on your journey. So even if you don't love where you're at right now, you can focus on the fact that you are taking steps to get to where you want to be. That is crucial because it all has to do again remember thoughts, feelings, perceptions, that creates actions. And again, you're changing the focus from your weight to the focusing on your health and the functioning of your body. Exercise literally changes your brain chemistry, which reduces depression and makes you feel better about yourself. You will change your brain and you will change your body image if you start exercising, and or moving your body regularly. So we've talked a lot about the difference between exercise and movement on this podcast before either one, the more you move, or the more you exercise, or the more you move, and exercise, all of that will help. Okay, all of that will improve your body image. I use this example all the time on this podcast. But I can go from like looking at myself in the mirror and the first thing in the morning and being like, Oh, you're not so cute. Today, I can go do a 30 minute workout come back to the mirror, same exact body doesn't look any different. But now I can look at it and be like, Dang girl, you sound strong make a muscle. That is the gist. That's the example of what I'm talking about my brain chemistry immediately changed. And my thoughts about my body immediately changed. Just because I did a 30 minute workout. Okay, exercise is super important to changing your body image.
And the fifth and final tip that I want to give you for changing your body image right now. You might be surprised by. But it makes sense. The fifth tip is to go shopping. This is not obvious. But I feel like it should be obvious, especially because it's so easy to do. If you've put on weight, and let's be honest, most of us have, we're here because we probably have, here's the deal to take that weight off for good is going to require some time. Because remember, we're no nonsense ladies. Now we are done with quick fixes, we are done with yo yo diets, we're done with the fat weight loss because we know that it doesn't work we know the weight always comes back on. So if we have some extra weight that we're carrying right now, and we're in the process of wanting to lose, we are making efforts to lose that it's gonna take some time. So while you're putting in the work and the time to get healthy, buy some clothes that fit your body now, buy some clothes that make you feel good right now stop trying to fit into those old clothes that no longer fit you. Because all that does, it makes you feel like a failure. Because Oh, I put on weight and I can't fit into my pants anymore. It's going to destroy your body image and guess what happens then? Then you don't do anything. When you are having thoughts of
oh, I can't fit in these pants anymore. Oh, I put on weight. Oh, I'm just getting old. Oh, I'm never going to be the same. Oh, I'm never going to lose this weight. Oh, I
suck. I'm terrible. I hate this body. Do you think that is inspiring to you to go out and do something about it? No, it is not, it is not at all. So instead of trying to fit into the old clothes that don't fit your current body, go get some new clothes, get some new pieces that fit your body right now that make you feel amazing and fierce and gorgeous. And wear those things with pride until you get back to the point where you can fit into your old clothes.
This is a journey, it's going to take some time. And every time you put on those tight damn shorts, you're just going to be pissed. So knock it off, go buy some shorts that fit and wear those shorts and rock those shorts and be confident in those shorts and do not care about what size those stupid shorts are. Because you look awesome in them and you feel good in them and they fit. And then as you progress on your health journey, maybe you size down, or maybe you get a lot of muscle and you don't size down. I don't know, I don't know what your journey is. But what I do know is that if you're trying to squeeze your butt into stuff that doesn't fit, it's gonna make you feel like crap. You already know that's true. So stop. Okay. It's so simple. It's so simple. But we get so stuck in where we were that we can't think about where we're going. Okay? Yes, 10 years ago, you were 25 pounds lighter. Congratulations. No one cares anymore. And nor should you. The only thing that matters is right now where you are and how to feel good right now, while you're getting to where you want to go. Does that make sense? You are not going back to 20 years ago, you are not going back to 25 pounds ago. If you want to lose 25 pounds that is in the future, not in the past. So get some shorts that you find some clothes that make you feel amazing, or right now and then you can move forward you will be more motivated to move forward. Because if you already feel good where you're at, you can look in the mirror and be like Damn these pants get me good. Guess what, you're gonna be way more motivated to go do stuff to get you on your health journey to lose that 25 pounds again if that's what you're trying to do. Okay, does that make sense?
So the bottom line for me and this is controversial. I feel like I'm not supposed to say this, but I'm gonna say it because I don't care if I'm controversial. You cannot be healthy at Every Size. That is the truth. Being healthy at Every Size is not a thing. There is a such a thing as being overweight and needing to lose weight and needing to get healthy and needing to lose the weight in order to get healthy. That's real. There's a lot of us out here who might be carrying a little bit of extra weight, but we're still healthy. And there's even more of us out there who are carrying a lot of extra weight, and it's affecting your health. So you cannot be healthy at Every Size. That's not true. But you can have a positive body image and high self esteem and love yourself at any size. No matter how overweight you are, you can love yourself, and you can respect yourself and you can appreciate what your body can do. You can do all of these five things at any size, until you get to the healthier version of you. Does that make sense? You might not be right now, at the healthiest version of you, you might be overweight, and you might be unhealthy. But that does not mean that you can't have a positive body image.
In fact, I would argue that the only way you're going to get to where you want to be is if you choose to have a positive body image. Right now, you have to start with that. Because remember, your perceptions and your emotions and your thoughts are determining your actions. So if you hate yourself, you are going to keep treating yourself like you hate yourself. But if you can find a way to love yourself, you will start treating yourself in a way that is loving. And guess where that gets you. Yeah, it gets you right where you want to go. That's how you get there. But you have to start with that. You can't punish yourself with exercise and you can't punish yourself with diets that's trying to lead with action, you can't lead with lead with action. You have to lead with the thoughts and emotions and perceptions that creates the action. So we're we're practicing our body image and we're using these five tips in order to love ourselves now, because that's the key to getting to where you want to go. Okay, friend, I hope that was really helpful. I hope that you can employ some of these five tips if you do if you're not in the community group on Facebook yet I would love to see you over there. It's just called no nonsense the links always in the show notes and on the website at tarafaulmann.com. I want you to pop in there and let me know if some of this resonated with you and if these five tips if you're going to employ any of them and how they worked for you, and how they helped you move forward on this journey to health and weight loss.
Okay friends until we talk again, be well.
Heyfriends, thanks so much for being here. If you found value in today's episode, will you do me a favor and head over to iTunes? Find the no nonsense wellness podcast and subscribe and leave me a review. It would mean the world to me and help other people find the show. And I'd love to connect with you more. So find me on Instagram. I'm @tarafaulmann. Take a screenshot of this episode and share it in your stories and tag me. I'll see you over there.