How to develop a positive body image in 9 steps
Are you unhappy with your body?
Do you want to live a happy, healthy life?
Your first step starts here.
Having a positive body image is something the majority of women, and many men struggle with today. When you take proper care of your mind and body you will naturally feel empowered, productive and happy. The nourishment you give your physical body affects your hormones and brain function which in turn affects your emotions and thoughts.
Simultaneously, when you abuse your mind by telling yourself negative stories this stems negative emotions, affecting your hormones. You are then less likely to eat a healthy diet and keep active. This is what we call the self-abuse cycle.
You canâ€™t simply develop a positive body image by trying to convince yourself you are beautiful no matter what without also changing how you care for your physical body. Nor can you focus on intense exercise and healthy dieting if you look in the mirror every day just to tell yourself youâ€™re not good enough.
If you donâ€™t look after both your mind and body you will find yourself facing an uphill battle AND you will ultimately crash and burn. A Sisyphean task if you will.
You need to care for your mind & body simultaneously so that you can feel amazing and truly love yourself.
Here are the first 9 steps you need to be taking to build a positive body image and a healthy body.
1. Be curious
â€œHappiness is a journey, not a destinationâ€ â€“ Buddha
This is your journey to develop a positive body image. It is about learning about yourself and what works for you. Start prepping yourself to try new things. Be curious and challenge yourself.
Never eaten an eggplant? Try grilled eggplant. Always thought surfing looked cool? Take a surf lesson or try paddle boarding to start with. Think the advice in this or other self-help blogs sounds dumb? Try it and find out for yourself. You may be surprised.
Need some inspiration? Watch Matt Cutts TED talk on 30-day challenges.
â€œâ€¦ the next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not. So why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot…â€ â€“ Matt Cutts.
2. Be patient with yourself, youâ€™re still learning
While you are opening your mind to trying new things you need to remember to practice self-compassion and be patient with yourself. Developing a positive body image is a journey. You have to work at it. It’s not going to happen overnight but the effort is worth the reward.
â€œBe in love with your life, every minute of itâ€ – Jack Kerouc
Donâ€™t beat yourself up! If you donâ€™t enjoy something or it doesnâ€™t work out as you had planned. if you â€˜chicken outâ€™ trying something new just relax. Tell yourself that Itâ€™s OK, you can try again another time.
The most important thing is that you learned something. Maybe you learned you donâ€™t like something. Or that you must try something a different way. Maybe you learned that you need to practice more.
â€œIf youâ€™re not making mistakes, youâ€™re not making anythingâ€ â€“ John Jerrett (my pop)
3. Realise you have the power to change
Though we often feel like our minds are stuck on their own uncontrollable path. The good news is theyâ€™re not! Our brains believe what we tell them to believe, If we tell them nasty things (even when we feel it is out of your control) your brain will believe them. If you tell your brain nice things. It will believe that.
You have the power to decide what your story is. Even if you don’t feel like you do now.
â€œWhat we think, we becomeâ€ â€“ Buddha
Marisa Peers explains this brilliantly in her 2-minute video â€˜Train your brain to do what you wantâ€™:
- Your brain will do what you tell it to do
- You can choose what you tell it
- You can change the stories you naturally tell yourself.
4. Use affirmations to change your mindset
Affirmations are powerful tools for your mind. Remember; You can choose what you tell yourself and what you believe! In step 4 we are going to start incorporating positive affirmations to help us develop a positive body image.
What are self-affirmations?
Self-affirmations are positive statements that you repeatedly tell yourself, out loud or in your head. You will use affirmations to challenge and replace your negative stories, breaking the self-abuse cycle.
How do self-affirmations help?
They have been found to help:
- Improve problem-solving abilities on students under stress (Creswell et al., 2013).
- Help us to remind ourselves of our core values. Which in turn assists us to change our behaviors (Casio et al., 2015).
- Enhance creativity (BuisonjÃ© et al., 2017).
- Reduce stress hormones, epinephrine, and norepinephrine (Sherman et al., 2009).
How do you find an affirmation thatâ€™s right for you?
Self-affirmations can be anything you want. A good way to start is to first recognize what your negative stories are. These may be easy to identify, something like â€œI am uglyâ€ etc etc. Or you may have to do some digging to really find whatâ€™s holding you back.
If you need to do some digging. Keep a pen and notepad on you. Then write down a reminder whenever you put yourself down. Now, that you are consciously looking for your negative thoughts they will be easier to find.
Interestingly the affirmations you feel the most resistance to saying are often the ones you need most. Push through. Even if it feels uncomfortable.
How do you start using your affirmation?
1) Start by replacing your positive affirmation with your negative story.
For example, if you regularly tell yourself you are ugly or fat then every time that thought pops into your head tell yourself you are beautiful instead. Overpower your negative story with your positive story. Say it out loud if you have to.
This is easier said than done. Especially if you put yourself down a lot. But, if you stick to it it will get easier and easier. The more you repeat your positive affirmations the more benefits you will reap. See my super-scientific graph:
Once you overcome your negative stories with positive ones you can have more fun with self-affirmation and start using them more and more to become your best self. I have been through all these steps myself so I know how hard they can be but, Remember If you keep at it they get easier. Then benefits start to pile up.
â€œNothing thatâ€™s worthwhile is ever easyâ€ â€“ Nicholas Sparks
2) The other common tactic for using self-affirmations is to simply say then to yourself three times in the morning, three times in the middle of the day and three times before you go to bed.
Repetition is key when it comes to self-affirmations.
Check out our Pinterest Daily Affirmations board for inspiration:
In the first 5 steps, we focused a lot on mindset. Now we will move into the physical actions we need to take to develop a healthy mind-body alignment to fuel our positive body image.
5. Get moving
Now that we are preparing our minds to be nicer to ourselves in our positive body image journey itâ€™s time to show our body some love and get moving. Remember that having a healthy, active body helps regulate our hormones which will help us in steps 1 through to 4. Make a plan to start incorporating these steps into your life daily.
The key is to keep your body moving regularly without straining yourself. Though it is primarily a diet book by Mark Sissons ‘The Keto Rest Diet’ has great information about what the right amount and type of exercise is that you should be doing. He comes primarily from the point of view of over-exercising, but, he makes it easy for under-exercisers, like myself, to understand how and why you should start your body moving more.
A word to over-exercisers:
Over-exercising can also cause chaos in our bodies. Problems include stress on our joints, stress on our hearts and unbalanced hormones. Healthy levels of fat stores are very important for women to have a healthy menstrual cycle, maintain fertility and prevent bone loss (Warren & Perlroth, 2001).
If the thought of missing exercise stresses you out, you tend to prioritize exercise over spending time with friends and family or you feel the need to exercise even when you are sick or injured. You may have an over-exercising problem. You should consult with a medical professional if you or family are concerned.
But, it’s OK because youâ€™re reading this to work on becoming a healthier version of your best self! There are loads of resources to help you. Plus, you have already started with your affirmations in steps 1 through 4. Customize the affirmations for your personal needs. You may want to start with one along these lines:
- â€œI am beautiful the way I amâ€
- â€œIt is OK if I take a restâ€
- â€œI am cool, calm and collectedâ€
- “It is OK to let myself rest”
- â€œI love myselfâ€
A word to under-exercisers:
It is important that you start to get moving. As someone who has always had a hate-love relationship with exercise, I get it. It can suck and for whatever reason, you may be reluctant to do it, unfortunately, you need to.
But, it doesnâ€™t have to suck or be boring. Donâ€™t get hung up on a traditional exercise routine like jogging or doing reps at the gym.
Apply your â€˜be curiousâ€™ mindset from step one and try new things. Get a friend or family member to join you. Spending time with them and helping each other will make it easier and more enjoyable.
Find a new hobby:
- Under-water photography,
- water aerobics,
- pole dancing,
- Live-action role-playing,
- salsa dancing
The list goes on. Exercise can be fun. Be spontaneous, you donâ€™t have to do the same thing every day if a routine is not your thing. The world is your oyster.
Some tips for moving more:
- Start small. Instead of tackling that daunting 1-hour yoga video routine start with a 15 minute one. The idea here is to get yourself used to exercise without it being stressful. You will still start to reap the benefits from day one but you will be less likely to crash and burn.
- Make small sustainable changes.
- If you work at a desk make sure you get up and walk around throughout the day. Even if it is just to the tea room to get a water or cup of tea.
- Stretch. Get the blood circulating. This will also help get the blood moving to your brain and boost your mental performance.
Check out our fun exercise ideas board on Pinterest for more inspiration.
6. Start making small changes to your diet
Your body is fuelled by what you eat. You want to fuel it with good sources of energy to make you feel good. As a lover of food and passionate cook, I know that healthy food can be very delicious.
This is where curiosity comes into play again. Learn more about food and pay attention to how different food affects you. Did that meal make you feel amazing or a bit sick and bloated afterward? Did you crash a couple hours later? Do you really need a portion that big? Perhaps you need a slightly bigger portion?
The best change you can start doing today is decreasing your carbohydrate and sugar consumption and increasing healthy fats in your diet. Keto, Paleo, and Bulletproof diets are currently increasing in popularity and science to back them up. They are often also more orientated towards how you feel and lifestyle changes rather than a weight loss goal. Weight loss is a nice side-effect of feeling healthier and more energized.
As we discussed earlier mind and body are interconnected. If we want to develop a positive body image we need to look after both our mind and body. What we eat is such an important contributing factor to our overall health. Plus it’s a fun and delicious way to feel better about ourselves.
Here are some videos to help explain what these diets are and how you can get started:
There are loads of books on this topic. There are the two favorites I started with, also available in audiobook format
A quick search on Google will turn up with loads of low carb recipes. I recently found this website that has tonnes of delicious recipes and resources for beginners.
Tips when getting started on a low-carb diet:
- Use a food diary for a couple weeks to get to know your diet and look for trends. Donâ€™t make this an obsessive habit though. Food quality is more important than calorie counting. I like My Fitness Pal.
- Make small, sustainable changes. No crash dieting. It can seem a bit daunting at first. Add or subtract something from your diet. Get used to it and then try something new.
- Donâ€™t get upset with yourself if you have a slip-up. Itâ€™s all good. Just keep working at what makes you feel good.
7. Drink water
I know you have heard this over and over again before but, itâ€™s an important mention. The human body is on average 60% water (50- 75 % depending on your gender, weight, and age). It is important for our overall health. Your skin will look healthier and you will feel better. Important steps in developing a positive body image.
So yeah, if you want to develop a positive body image, drink some more water if you donâ€™t drink enough, you know who you are.
Tips on how to start drinking more water:
- If you donâ€™t like the taste of water try to get a filter. As an avid water drinker, some regions tap water tastes bad depending on the additives.
- Try adding fruit slices or a herbal tea bag to add flavor.
- If you like bubbles consider investing in a soda stream to make carbonated water.
- If you’re a sweet tooth try xylitol, stevia or raw honey. I use stevia. It tastes a bit odd at first and is also super strong so you really donâ€™t need much. The more you remove sugar from your diet the more sensitive to it you will get and the less you will want.
- Get a drink bottle so you can accurately measure how much you’re drinking every day.
8. Pamper yourself
Donâ€™t only treat yourself once a year. Treat yourself daily, weekly. This doesnâ€™t have to be expensive. Pampering yourself is an important step in your journey to developing a postive body image because it helps you feel more beautiful and cared for. When your skin is clearer, your hair looks great and you feel more relaxed you will naturally feel so much better about yourself.
- Find a skincare regime you love.
- Get a nice hair-cut.
- Treat yourself to a massage or spa day.
- Make your own coffee scrub.
- Tone and moisturize daily.
- Use facemasks weekly.
- Get some sexy lingerie.
- Have a bath (extra add a bath bomb or soak).
- Read a book.
- Listen to your favourite music
â€œTreat Yo. Selfâ€ â€“ Tom and Donna, Parks and Recreation.
Easy coffee scrub:
Squeeze out the used coffee grinds from breakfast. Add a bit of sugar (this is when you are allowed sugar) mix with coconut oil and store in the fridge until ready to use.
Mix coconut oil (fragrance or non-fragrance your choice), the stuff you buy in the supermarket is fine just get cold-pressed, with a few drops of essential oil (your choice). If you prefer a creamier texture add shea butter. Optional: few drops of glycerine (can buy at your local pharmacy)
There are loads of easy recipes you can find online that are cheap, really good for you, and easy to make. Thereâ€™s nothing nicer than having soft, silky skin and having a little bit of regular me-time. Taking time to relax and pampering yourself, even if itâ€™s only a little bit, is great for your body and mind.
9. Self-care & bringing it all together
Remember that to have a positive body image is to work towards being Your Best Self. Show yourself compassion. Accept and love who you are today. Then work to be a little bit better tomorrow, in your own unique way. You have a choice in everything you do, be happy with the choices you make.
â€œDonâ€™t ever wish to be anything but what you are.â€ Thumbelinaâ€™s Mother
This does not mean holding unrealistic expectations for your body-type. If you are tall then you are tall, if you are short then you are short. You may be naturally slim or have as they say â€˜child-bearing hipsâ€™ like me. After years of suffering from yo-yo dieting and weight control, I know that for me I will never be a size 0 model. Even at my slimmest, my bones will physically limit me to a USA size 4 (NZD/UK size 8).
When starting your journey to develop a positive body image remember to focus on exploring what makes you feel happy, healthy, and energized. Learn what makes you feel good and what doesnâ€™t, both emotionally and physically. Then focus on the good. This is the secret to having a positive body image.
Create a self-care routine and prioritize it. You cannot give more to others than you give to yourself. The more you look after yourself the more energy and time you will have for the people and things you love. If youâ€™re reading this thinking I donâ€™t have time at the moment. I get it, but, when you make yourself a priority somehow it all just works.
Self-care activities you may want to try:
- Practice meditation
- Practice mindfulness
- Practice daily gratitudeâ€™s
- De-clutter your house
- Get creative
- Write yourself a love letter
- Find a new hobby
- Make time for friends
- Stay awake an extra 20 minutes to do some bed-time yoga or wake up an extra 20 minutes early to do some morning yoga.
- Alternatively, go to bed 20 minutes early if you are chronically tired.
- Stop scrolling through Facebook and throw a ball for your dog.
- Take an extra 15 minutes in the shower to scrub your body with a coffee scrub (bonus if you use coconut oil you come out moisturized too).
- Make extra dinner so you can have the leftovers for a healthy lunch.
- Repeat your affirmations to yourself while you are driving in the car (I like to do this so no-one hears me saying them out loud to myself haha).
There are so many things you can do to work towards becoming a happier, healthier you with a positive body image. The best bit is you wonâ€™t have to stress about your weight or any other body hang-ups because you are:
A) too focused on more interesting & fun things &
B) you will naturally start feeling amazing and become your best self.
Check out our self-care Pinterest Page for more Inspiration:
- Be curious
- Be patient with yourself, you’re still learning
- Realize you have the power to change
- Use affirmations to change your mindset
- Get moving
- Start making small changes in your diet
- Drink more water
- Pamper yourself
- Make self-care a priority
Once you start on your journey to develop a positive body image you will find more ways to explore your best self. The above 9 steps are the first essential steps to get you on your way to having a positive body image and being your best self.
Once you pop you canâ€™t stop, though be aware of any fall-backs. Donâ€™t beat yourself up and get back to where you started. Good luck on your journey to developing a positive body image and remember you’re not alone!