This week, we’re discussing all things “body image” with our clients – quite a timely topic considering the pervasiveness of diet culture come the start of a new year. Whether someone is suffering with an eating disorder or not, most people struggle with negative body image to varying degrees throughout their life.
Before we start – if anything uncomfortable arises for you in this post, know that you can fill out an enquiry form on the right of this page for more information on how we may be able to support you, and practice your own self-care when reading this.
Perspective is key
When we think about our bodies, the way we feel towards them is often a reflection of the amount of love, worth and respect we feel towards ourselves in general. From day one, we absorb information that teaches us about the world as well as our place within it. We internalise messages about ourselves that go on to form a narrative in our lives. Within these messages comes thoughts and feelings towards our body and if we’re ever taught to criticise our bodies, that will form part of our narrative. It’s important to know that these messages are just that – messages. Whether we hold onto them and how we respond to them is our decision.
With the advent of social media and tabloid journalism, the way we seek validation for ourselves from other people has been dramatically reduced to what’s on the outside. We encourage our clients to shift their focus and perspective, expanding it away from a dialogue around weight, shape and size, and instead to include personal interests, hobbies and relationships. These latter aspects of our lives reflect our true, inner essence and shouldn’t be limited by our own (or others’) perception of our body.
Return to your self
Elaine, Orri’s Yoga and Body Awareness Therapist, believes that underneath the layers of life lessons, messages and experiences is a true “self” that you can return to in time of need. A big part of what we do at Orri is exploring the relationship we have with the “self”, learning ways to cultivate a positive relationship with it and build a sense of self-trust and resilience. When writing this, a quote from Bessel van der Kolk comes to mind:
“Beneath the surface of the protective parts of trauma survivors there exists an undamaged essence, a Self that is confident, curious, and calm, a Self that has been sheltered from destruction by the various protectors that have emerged in their efforts to ensure survival. Once those protectors trust that it is safe to separate, the Self will spontaneously emerge, and the parts can be enlisted in the healing process” ― Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Recognise the triggers
You might want to start your journey by recognising the things that trigger negative body image. Whether it’s a social media (dare I say, Instagram?), a certain person or group of people in your friendship circle, or an experience (perhaps changing rooms) – if you’re aware of situations or activities that trigger negative body image, you can work to process and respond to them in a healthy way.
Make a note of when and where your critical voice arises towards your body. Consider how you can respond lovingly to those challenging times and, if this is difficult, reach out to a specialist for additional support.
Be body “wise”
To us, being body wise means being aware of what our body is telling us and learning to respond to those indicators. When we’re in tune with ourselves – body and mind – we can work with ourselves to navigate the world, as opposed to working against ourselves. It’s important to know that this is not something that can happen overnight, rather, consistent mindful practices can help this intuition. You might want to read more about how Elaine, our Yoga and Body Awareness Therapist, uses body-based approaches to help those in recovery from an eating disorder.
Transitions are normal and change is constant – you can cope with this
When it comes to life and our bodies, change happens all the time. That being said, we know that people with eating disorders often have difficulty with the concept of change and can struggle during recovery milestones that change their perception of their bodies. You might want to read our recent blog post on welcoming ambiguity and change in eating disorder recovery. It takes courage to accept that change is happening, but with courage comes possibility.