5 practical steps to bolster your body image

Body image can influence our self-esteem, confidence and overall wellbeing – for better or worse. So what can you do to feel better about your body?

Not just an issue for younger people or women, anyone can experience negative body image at any point in their life.

“Body image is a feeling and therefore the feelings a person can have about their body and appearance can be positive, negative or a combination of both,” explains Danni Rowlands, national manager of prevention services at the Butterfly Foundation.

The harmful effects of negative body image

“As body image is tightly connected to self-esteem, experiencing body dissatisfaction can impact feelings of self-worth,” says Danni.

“Low self-esteem and poor body image can not only cause a person to engage in harmful eating and exercise, but it can negatively impact a person’s mental health, their friendships and intimate relationships as well as performance at school, work, sports and other activities.”

With negative body image having potentially profound impacts, how can you work to improve yours, or help someone else to do so?  

Do a social media cleanse

Get rid of social media that triggers you feeling bad about yourself, says Body Positive Australia founder Sarah Harry.

“Unfollow anyone whose message is aligned with dieting or who is trying to sell a message that thinness equals health,” Sarah says.

Avoid toxic outside influences

Spending time with people who are not preoccupied with their bodies can improve your own eating habits and body image, shows research by the University of Waterloo.

“It’s important to realise that the people we spend time with actually influence our body image,” explains clinical psychology researcher Kathryn Miller.

“If we are able to spend more time with people who are not preoccupied with their bodies, we can actually feel much better about our own bodies.”

Clean out your wardrobe

Wear clothes that you like and that fit comfortably, and pack away uncomfortable clothing.

“Wearing tight uncomfortable clothing can remind you that you are not in the skin you’d like to be in,” says Sarah. “Put away clothes that don’t help you.”

Find body peace

“Instead of being at war with your body, develop peace or neutrality,” says Sarah.

“People can struggle with loving their body so aim for being body neutral and then aim to accept your body without judgment and criticism.”

Give encouraging words and actions

“If you know someone with negative body image don’t talk about weight or diets or helping them to get thin. Don’t buy them a gym membership because they will think they need to change,” says Sarah.

“Reassure them that you can listen if they want to talk about it, and reinforce the idea that they are more than what they look like.”

If you or anyone you know is experiencing an eating disorder or body image concerns, contact the Butterfly Foundation national helpline on 1800 334 673.

Written by Sarah Marinos.