Self-Compassion Tips for Bad Body Image Days
You wake up for the morning feeling less than enthusiastic. Nothing feels right when you try it on, and when you look in the mirror, all you can focus on are how fat your thighs look or the pouch on your stomach. No amount of jewelry or accessories seems to help. Your hair is fizzled or flat or uncooperative no matter what way you twist and pull it. Perhaps it was a struggle getting those jeans zipped. It doesn’t seem to matter what you try; you feel uncomfortable and critical of how your body looks.
We all have bad body days, but remembering to nurture self-love is the best way to keep your intuitive eating plan in place and keep you committed to caring for yourself long-term. These tips can also make those lousy body image days a little less daunting as well.
Intuitive eating is not a diet plan. It is an eating style that makes you the expert on what you should eat, when to start and stop eating, and trust your body by listening to its signals. Using intuitive eating, you eat what you want, when you want, and how much you want. The program also stresses body positivity and a neutral attitude about types of food. The idea is that you eventually do not desire the less healthy food intensely because it is no longer forbidden. Finally, you can make nutritious choices about what you eat. Making those healthy choices not only requires breaking down the psychological concept of “forbidden foods” but requires you to have self-love and body positivity so that you care about how you treat your body.
Here are three ways to keep that self-love going when you’re struggling with body positivity:
Exercise One: Intuitive Eating WiseMind
According to Jennings (2019) and Tillotson (2021), intuitive eating helps identify physical eating (hunger) and emotional eating. Intuitive eating requires us to be both logical and non-judgmental, as well as understanding and compassionate (Jennings, 2019). A way to do this is by using a psychology skill called WiseMind, developed by Marsha Linehan (2015).
Perhaps you’ve had a big project due at work. You find yourself exhausted when you realize you’ve worked through your lunch (again), and you are starving. Reaching for the phone, you realize how off track you are. You instantly think about denying your body any food and begin berating yourself. Instead of falling into this trap, take out a paper and write about:
Logical Mind (The entirely intellectual, morally upstanding, keeper of the law side): I need to eat. I should eat healthy food, though. Eating out so much is terrible for me. This project is essential, and I’ve had to work a lot on it this week. I haven’t taken care of my lunch plans.
Emotional Mind (The critical voice that has a lot of feelings to express): I’m so fat because I eat out so much. I always mess up my food habits. I’m so lazy-I should have made lunch. I’m messing everything up for myself.
WiseMind: (They synthesis of the two, logical and compassionate): This is a tough week, and I’m doing my best. I’ll grab some quick, healthy lunch food to pre-pack some lunches tonight. I need to eat now, though. I’ll find a healthy option on the menu. This one week is not going to define my whole style of eating.
Exercise Two: Self-Soothing and Distracting
Taking the time to do a few things for yourself and your body helps you feel more connected and appreciative of your body. Self-soothing is a way for you to appreciate the body you have now, instead of waiting for the one you think you will like. One way you could do this is to focus on dressing and styling yourself in a way that makes you happy (Health Stand Nutrition, 2020). Don’t try to wear clothes that are too tight or don’t feel comfortable on you. Wear clothing and accessories that you find attractive and stylish. Another way to self-soothe is to take some time in the day to take a break, care for yourself, and distract yourself (Be Well By Elle, 2021). You might read for a bit, listen to music, get a bubble bath, or engage in a hobby. Do something that usually makes you feel good and relaxes you. This doesn’t have to take long if you don’t have a lot of time. Arrange to paint your nails or get them done after work, buy something special for a bath, or make yourself your favorite tea. In this way, you are nurturing and caring for your body, so you simultaneously feel in control and care for your body.
Exercise Three: Loving Movement and Touch
Most of us know that movement improves mood, but research also shows it can change the way your brain processes information (Pillay, 2016). This means that moving your body can help you think about things differently. If you are feeling down on your body, try turning on some music and gently moving with it, or try some yoga. These different movements can help you change how you view your body and give you different perspectives. You might start to notice things you like about your body, such as those are the thighs that hold both my kids in my lap, wow, my arms are pretty strong, or I feel different when I move my face muscles; it feels good to laugh. When we don’t have good body positivity and feel uncomfortable in our body, engaging in activity or self-soothing with touch, sometimes even moving, can feel awkward. However, it can also be what helps us connect and feel compassion for ourselves. Rockman and Hurley (2015) and Graebner (2021) recommend some safe touch examples that can build self-
love, some that can be done without anyone noticing in, perhaps, a rough business meeting. Some of these exercises can include: holding your hand, lightly running your hand on your neck and shoulders, rubbing your arms with the opposite hand (one at a time), placing your hand on your heart while holding it there, and taking a few deep breaths, and holding your head in your hands and stroking your cheeks. Knowing our body can help us love and appreciate it more.
Remembering to practice self-love at all times is essential. Without self-love, our mood and our diet suffer. Because we are human, we all have bad body image days. However, we can do many different things to try to improve the day and keep our eyes on the long-term goals we have set for ourselves. By remembering to engage in self-love frequently, we give ourselves the best opportunity to keep a positive, stable mood and diet as well as recover our mood and diet when we’ve had an off day.
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