How to Use Positive Psychology to Heal Your Body Image

By Kacie Mitterando, LMSW

Positive Psychology is one go-to resource I use in sessions when discussing body image. I wanted to offer a few helpful tips in hopes that this may end up as the beginning of some healing for you.

The National Eating Disorders Collaboration defines body image as “the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception.” (1)

Because of many factors such as social pressures, media, and family patterns, we have been mislead to believe this idea below:

A positive body image means that we love, or even just like, the way that we look and that we feel confident in the skin that we’re in the majority of the time.

and on the other hand…

A poor body image is when we dislike our bodies, feel inadequate in our own skin and may elicit behaviors that hide our bodies from being seen.

I offer this reframe below:

A positive body image means that we accept our body and respect it for what it can do. This doesn’t mean that we think our body is perfect and we may have days where we feel uncomfortable in our skin but we are able to appreciate our body and move on.

and on the other hand…

A poor body image is placing value on our body outside of its function and believing that our body is an object rather than instrument.

This may not feel practical at first; however, there are ways to begin implementing this belief system into your every day life to start the steps of transitioning into a true positive body image.

Focus on health over how your body looks

Often times we may go into a diet begin to lose weight and feel so much better! Because of this, it is very common to equate the great way that we’re feeling to the weight loss. Therefore, when we gain the weight back we equate not feeling well with the weight gain and believe as though weight loss is the answer. However, this traps us in a cycle of poor body image. One of the ideas to begin to explore is was I feeling good because I lost weight or was I feeling good because I changed my behaviors that made me feel better? For example, you may have been exercising more, which increases “feel good” hormones; you were most likely drinking more water and less alcohol and overall, increasing your total self-care. All of these behaviors help you feel good each and every day! In moving forward, practice mindfulness surrounding behaviors that make you feel good rather than behaviors that make you look good.

Work on neutrality instead of liking our bodies

I promise that I won’t make you look in the mirror each morning and tell yourself that you’re beautiful ten times over. I understand that this can just be painful and if it doesn’t feel real, it’s not going to work. The most recent research on body image shows that we are better off practicing appreciation and functionality of our bodies rather than developing a positive attitude towards the way we look. This means that when we’re feeling insecure about our stomach, focus on one thing your stomach did for you today. Did it help you digest your delicious lunch? If you’re feeling as though you don’t like the extra fat on your arms, can you remember the last person you comforted with a hug from those arms?

Separate from social media if needed

It is OK to unfollow people on social media who are not serving your positive body image purpose. When scrolling through social media, pay attention to the images you see and when you notice yourself comparing, it may be time to remove this person. Removing people off social media doesn’t mean that you dislike them or don’t want to be in their lives but is a practice of you protecting your own emotional health.

Ask yourself these questions

Below I’ve listed some questions that will help reflect on your relationship with your body:

  1. What would your 99-year-old self appreciate about your current body?

  2. Would I talk about someone I respect’s body the same way I am talking about my own?

  3. Is the reason I love the people in my life because of their bodies?

  4. How much time do I spend thinking about how I would like my body to be?

  5. If you’d like to discuss your answers to these questions some more, schedule a phone consultation to get started with therapy today.

1. 3 Positive Body Image Activities & Worksheets (2019 Update PDF). (2019, February 14). Retrieved from https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/positive-body-image/