How to Heal Your Body Image Struggles from the Inside Out
Why do we fight our bodies, beat ourselves into submission, and cycle in and out of self-acceptance?
In an age of social media, body image triggers are everywhere. Who knew that one day, you could visually see the lives of millions of people around the world with the click of a finger on a device as small as your hand? From celebrities, to models, to influencers, to athletes, to anyone at all, you can literally be part of a stranger’s life without even knowing them personally.
I’m bold enough to say that body image struggles have been magnified by the rise of social media. I’m not against social, I use it for my business and to connect with friends and family. I use it to share my heart and my learnings. I’ve met people through Instagram that are my close friends to this day. But, I can’t help but wonder how much happier, more content, and more peaceful everyone would be without it.
Over the past six years, I’ve gone through a journey of health, discovery, acceptance, and balance.
This is a photo of me back in July 2016. I was about to launch my website and my blog, and I felt the need to be at my fittest so I could look great in the photos. I ate practically zero carbs or sugar (not even fruit), I exercised two times a day, and made it a goal to have abs.
After I took the photos, I returned to a more “normal” way of eating and started to immediately lose the definition in my midsection.
Society’s beauty standards consist of having as little body fat as possible.
I bought into it for years and still struggle with it from time to time.
It sounds so vulnerable to write that out. I know I’m not alone in this. It’s only in the recent years that normal bodies have gained more representation.
As a woman living in Southern California, a mecca for health and wellness, the pressure to look a certain way, to be a certain size, and to fit a certain mold is very real. Obviously this is an issue all over, not just in beach towns like San Diego.
So it’s almost inevitable that we struggle with body image, pressure, anxiety, insecurity, and unrealistic expectations. Even more so in certain industries like modeling, health & wellness, and entertainment.
As women, our bodies are cyclical by nature. We go through the natural female reproductive cycle every month. Our bodies literally change week by week, based on how much water we retain, what we intuitively desire to eat, and the levels of energy we maintain. Further, we are so deeply intertwined with our emotions. Our moods shift as a function of our brain chemistry and hormones. Every day can feel different. Add to that the external factors, circumstances, and events (hello 2020) that can literally disrupt the flow and balance we seek to maintain.
What’s a modern woman to do?
I propose a journey to get to the root of the struggles and heal from the inside out.
How to Heal Your Body Image Struggles from the Inside Out
1 Start with the Mind
Anything that causes us mental or emotional pain and suffering starts with a thought. It begins in the mind.
Somewhere along the way, we internalized a certain belief.
It could be so inconspicuous, like a magazine or movie you saw as a kid, a professional athlete or public figure you looked up to, or something that your mom or dad instilled in you/you observed in them growing up .
Our primary influences can seriously shape our body image for better or for worse.
Comments from your parents, siblings, friends, or strangers about your appearance in the formative years can really stick with you. This can relate to your weight, your acne, your physical traits, and so much more.
Then, you grow up some more and go through middle school, high school, college, into adulthood, and internalize images and thoughts that deeply root themselves into your subconscious.
Take a moment to pause right now and think back to any of these beliefs and stories that may have shaped your body image all these years.
The unique thing about body image struggles is that they pop up and all of a sudden you feel less than or you feel not enough. Triggers are unique and varied for everyone.
What do you do when you get triggered and you begin to feel that unsettling sensation in your gut?
Anytime I get triggered, I take it through the 3 R’s to conquer that insecurity.
First, when that feeling comes over me, I start with real-time awareness. I stop in my tracks, get present, identify the thought or belief, and trace it up or down the rabbit hole. Did this come from somewhere?
Once I get clarity on the unsettled feeling, the thoughts that led me to feel that way, and the connection to the past, I then start to reinforce truth by saying truth statements to myself. Affirmations can help ground you when you feel shaky in who you are. But it’s not just any affirmations. It’s affirmations that you truly connect and resonate with, that you feel really describe your true nature.
After I speak truth to myself, I then focus on shifting my survival emotions (doubt, fear, insecurity, judgment, comparison) into elevated emotions (love, gratitude, joy, peace, trust, inspiration). Some practical ways I do this is through listening to guided meditations, getting outside in nature, moving my body, taking a break to read a book, soaking in some sun, cooking a nourishing meal, and other self-care activities that feel good for the soul. But while I do these self-care activities, I’m not just escaping or disconnecting. I’m reaffirming the truth statements and directing love towards myself continuously.
For you to heal your insecurities, it takes radical self-love.
You may notice that you already have your version of a healing process for your insecurity triggers. This one is mine and I’ve found it helpful time and time again.
The triggers usually remain until you’ve come to a place of radical acceptance and radical self-love. Other times, a new trigger emerges, requiring a new level of awareness. This is the journey to your most whole self.
2 Then with the Heart
The next way to heal your body image struggles from the inside out is examining your emotions and the actions you take as a result of those emotions.
While the first step is a more cognitive and analytical approach, this one is more intuitive.
When you slip into the survival emotions, what do you reach for? How do you self-soothe?
Our emotions are powerful and can fully takeover. Our struggles with body image are brought about by the feelings we have about ourselves. Then, at a certain point, we start acting on these feelings and the low self-worth spiral begins. As human beings, we tend to make decisions and act based on the feelings that are strongest at the time. If led by survival emotions, we can find ourselves so far disconnected from our intuition. Even worse, the spiral can continue until one doesn’t recognize their life anymore. This especially manifests in romantic relationships.
This step involves breaking the heart connection between feelings of low-self worth and the resulting low-confidence/low-vibration actions.
An example of this is feeling unworthy to receive healthy love in relationships because of weight struggles, which can manifest itself in accepting crumbs or unavailable partners, and can eventually lead to years of unhappiness and even lower self-worth.
If left unexamined, the low-self worth patterns can sabotage any blossoming part of life.
Breaking the heart connection to unhealthy patterns is key to finally being free from body image struggles for good.
3 Lastly, with the Body
The last way to heal your body image struggles from the inside out is getting to know the ideal you.
This is looking at yourself with loving and kind eyes. This is seeing the best version of you and then powerfully stepping into that, unapologetically.
We all have that optimum state where we not only feel the best but we look the best too. This is based on you alone and not what is in right now.
This is putting blinders on, not looking at other people’s bodies but just your own.
What does health and vitality look like for you?
Not what the most popular wellness influencer is doing. Not what is being marketed to you through social media, ads, commercials, movies, TV shows, etc.
If you existed without all these visual stimuli, what would make you truly feel good about your body? I know we don’t exist in a vacuum, but it helps to get to the bottom of what true health and beauty looks like for you.
Getting to this truth will set you free. You get to set your own wellness goals that make you happy and work for your body. You get to eat what you feel is best and balanced for your own nutritional needs. You get to do the exercises and movement practices that you enjoy and are effective in helping you become your best.
This may look like changing your diet so your labs can be in the healthy range after being in disequilibrium. It may mean losing weight. It might look like gaining weight. It might mean buying clothes that fit you as you are right now and moving on from the past. It truly is such an individual journey. Diversity in body types is beautiful.
Stay true to you. Stop focusing on what other people are doing and turn your eyes on your own journey. Everyone is fighting a battle. The important thing is you are working towards health and vitality from the inside out. Design your lifestyle to suit your needs.
It will be a daily battle to halt the self-criticism or negative self talk. But when you notice those thoughts and triggers arise, start the process at step one. Go through it again. Do this process as many times as you need. Take aligned action. Keep going when discouragement comes.
You can and you will heal your body image issues. You will glow from the inside out.