For folks who have been working on their relationship with their body, a bad body image moment can feel like a setback or even a failure. At the beginning of your recovery journey, these moments can feel like a sign that there is something wrong with your body that you have to fix. However, in reality, everyone sometimes has bad body image moments, and noticing and naming these as “moments” can help us remember that we are not our worst thoughts and these moments are temporary.
Below are some tips for what to do on bad body image days.
Refocus on what your body does for you rather than how it looks.
Notice the way your legs help you walk and move, your lungs help you breathe and smell, and your eyes help you see the beauty in the world around you. Focus on how your arms help you embrace your loved ones and how your smile helps communicate your joy.
Despite what the world often tells us, you are not here to look a certain way. You are here to experience being alive, and your body helps you do that in innumerable ways. Maybe sit down with a pen and make a list of all the wonderful ways your body shows up for you each day.
Take care of your body with gentleness.
On bad body image days, we can often find ourselves so upset that we neglect our body’s needs. See if you can do small things in this moment to send your body respect instead. Try taking a bath with bubbles or a warm, steamy shower. Find a good-smelling lotion and rub it gently on your skin. Give yourself a foot or temple massage, paying attention to where you notice tension and how you can ease this tension in yourself through touch. Drink something warm that smells delicious (mint tea anyone?) and notice the warmth filling you from the inside. Give yourself a manicure or a pedicure, or some other form of self-care that can treat your body. Wear something that is comfortable and makes you feel beautiful—or something that just lets you forget about your body and focus on life.
Move with love.
Diet culture tells us that if we don’t like our body, we should do something about it—namely, follow inane rules about food and exercise, which can strip the enjoyment from both. In bad body image moments, tap into any desire you might have to move (or not!).
Engage in a short yoga flow, noticing what it feels like to stretch your body in certain postures. Go on a stroll around your yard or neighborhood, feeling the weather on your skin and the ground beneath your feet. Take a swim at a local pool and embrace the joy of playing in the water as you did in your youth.
The key with moving in these moments is to notice any thoughts that you “should” or “have to” move to feel better—you don’t, and you are just as worthy in a still body as a moving one. You’re not here to punish your body, but to celebrate it.
Explore body diversity resources online.
Our media tends to show us one main body type: thin, white, able-bodied, hairless, and photoshopped. Seeing this type of body exclusively celebrated can create harmful comparisons. In bad body image moments, utilize social media to diversify who you are exposed to and notice the beauty that is present in bodies of all shapes, sizes, abilities, races, and gender.
Here are some Instagram accounts that I enjoy for this purpose:
For more awesome resources, see Bloom’s website.
Notice if you have any emotional needs that need attending to.
Our culture frequently uses body hatred as a scapegoat and body thinness as a godsend. “Have acne? Go on a diet. Feeling lonely? Go on a diet. Feeling angry, confused, sad, disheartened? Must be your body, go on a diet.” Colloquially, it is even acceptable to use “fat” as a feeling when it is actually an adjective.
Take a moment to search within your heart and mind and notice any emotions that are present for you (an emotion wheel can help sort through the nuance). See if you can attend to that emotion instead. Are you feeling insecure or lonely? Reach out to a trusted loved one and connect socially. Feeling rejected? Be kind to yourself and remember that you are worthy. Feeling uninspired? Grab some art supplies or pick up a musical instrument. Feeling sad? Comfort yourself with cozy pajamas and a good movie.
The reality is, being in a thinner body doesn’t fix our emotional needs. If you’re finding that your unpleasant emotions persist, making an appointment with a therapist can help you find strategies to boost your mood and sense of self outside of your body.