Body dysmorphia, as I understand it, is having a distorted perception of your own body, typically translating into negative body image and self-criticism. In this post, I’m going to discuss some of the key ways in which I try to deal with my own body dysmorhpia in the hopes that it may help some of you. Please note though that everybody is different so what works for me might not work for you. It’s just about experimenting!
I know I’ve raved about them before, but that’s because I have found them so useful. Hearing others (often experts their fields) discussing such issues have allowed me to put things into perspective and feel less alone. Specific episodes include:
- DeliciouslyElla’s episode with Pandora Paloma on body acceptance
- Fearne Cotton’s “Happy Place” episode with Chessie King
- Venetia Falconer’s “Talking Tastebuds” episode with Laura Thomas
- Adrienne Herbert’s “Power Hour” episode with Tally Rye
- Tina Muir’s “Running for Real” episode 119 with Josh Lifrack
This might sound a bit hippy, but it’s really helped me over the past few days. I basically lie down, with my back and feet on the floor, knees bent and hands on tummy, and repeat this mantra three times: “I have a body. It can do amazing things. It has done amazing things, and it will continue to do amazing things if I keep showing it the kindness it deserves.” The reason why I don’t say things like “I love my body” is because, at the moment, if I’m being totally honest, I would by lying if I said that. Instead, this mantra allows me to acknowledge the incredible abilities of my body without trying to impose a feeling onto it. I’ll explain this a bit more in my next point.
Body positivity (or #bopo) has been spoken about a lot recently, especially in the media. And don’t get me wrong – it’s a great movement, promoting self-love rather than self-loathing. However, in DeliciouslyElla’s podcast with Pandora Paloma, they discuss the concept of body neutrality, and it really resonated with me. In trying so hard to be body positive, I was – without realising it – still obsessing over my appearance as much as before. Every time I looked in the mirror and a negative thought came to me, I would immediately try to combat it with a positive one. It became a constant cycle that, ultimately, meant I was always thinking abut my body.
Body neutrality, on the other hand, has really helped me. I’ve been cultivating it via the mantra mentioned above – although by all means use your own – and it has been both manageable and achievable. I think that body positivity is an ideal that is, unfortunately, unattainable for a lot of people (at least at first). It’s pretty difficult to transition from a place of self-hate to self-love overnight. Body neutrality is almost like a middleman, providing more space for me to not be thinking about my body image – which, fundamentally, is when I am happiest.
Function over aesthetics
I’m not denying that aesthetics are important, especially in this day and age where sharing our appearance on social media has become pretty habitual. However, I think it’s important to shift our focus from our bodies’ aesthetics, to our bodies’ functions. I know I’m guilty of not appreciating the extent to which my body works hard for me, in both sport and on a day-to-day basis. Of course we all want to “look good” (although this is subjective anyway), but by only valuing our bodies through their appearance, we’re perpetuating this cycle of negativity. If we can prioritise function over aesthetics, we can start to move away from body dysmorphia and hopefully foster a healthier relationship with it.
Talk to someone
An oldie but a goodie. “A problem shared is a problem halved” and all that. In all honesty, though, talking to friends is one of the best things for me. It distracts me, helps me keep perspective, makes me realise that my appearance isn’t all that important (aka I’m the one who cares), and I shouldn’t gain my self-worth through a size or look. Plus, when I do feel insecure about my body, my friends are always there to remind me how irrational such thoughts are. It doesn’t mean I stop criticising my body, but it stops me from believing such thoughts. In turn, this gives them less power over me and enables me to combat them with the knowledge that they’re untrue – even if it doesn’t seem it. Baby steps.
Since being injured, I have rekindled my love for nature through my daily walks. Often, a lot of my time outdoors would be spent running – and being injured took that away from me. Instead of allowing myself to be cooped up, I’ve taken advantage of this and started walking a bit everyday. By this I literally mean going for a walk (15mins to an hour), alone or with someone, rather than just walking to/from things (which I also do). On my walks, I have no destination in mind – I can simply wander, take in my surroundings and appreciate the beauty of it all. Nature has been magical for my mental health, so if you can, spend a bit longer outside everyday. Plus, I often listen to a podcast on my walks so = double whammy.
Buy new clothes (and strip the numbers of their power)
In the run up to summer, I can’t help but feel that a lot of people are made to feel insecure about their body image due to the circulation of images of people looking “shredded”, “cut” and “lean” – aka the “perfect summer body”. Clothes tend to show more skin, swimwear reveals even more, and the comparison cycle begins. If, like me, you have restored your weight since the last summer, then chances are your clothes will fit differently (or not at all). My shorts are uncomfortably tighter, some skirts don’t fit and I have cried trying to force myself into them. But, if these clothes didn’t have numbers (sizes), then I’d probably just buy a new skirt without thinking twice. It’s the fact that I’m “upsizing” that I’ve been feeling so negative about my body.
At the end of the day, though, I’d rather be comfortable in my clothes than wearing ones a few sizes too small. So don’t restrict so you can fit into your old clothes gain – just buy new ones (& give the old ones to charity because #sustainability). Plus, there are bonuses to restoring your weight, including (for the gals) moving from pancake to lemon life (if you know, you know). Embrace that femininity!
I hope you’ve found this post useful and interesting, and my inbox is always open if you want to chat (because no one should ever feel alone in this).