It’s a story we’ve all heard before—someone wants to feel better about their appearance, so they decide to embark on a weight loss journey. They start exercising and go on extreme diets, but even after achieving their ideal body shape, they still feel unsatisfied and struggle with body image issues.
At least, that was my experience when I first embarked on a weight loss journey. Like many people, I believed there was a “healthy weight” to achieve. So, I did what I thought I needed to achieve it. The problem was that I was far from satisfied once I achieved that weight. Even worse, I began noticing that losing weight only worsened my body image issues.
So why does this happen? Why does weight loss not necessarily lead to improved body image? In this article, I will examine why weight loss isn’t the solution to overcoming your body image issues and what you can do instead.
The Root of the Problem
It is important to note that while weight may play a role in how you view yourself, it is not the only factor. The reality is that the root of the problem lies in an individual's emotional health. Factors like family dynamics, childhood experiences, and societal pressures can give rise to feelings of insecurity or a lack of self-worth. As a result, this can lead people to destructive behavior and negative self-talk.
For example, my client Alice has had a complicated relationship with her body image spanning three decades. She’s tried every diet known to man and invested in countless health professionals to help her lose weight. It wasn’t until we started working together that she realized that weight loss wouldn’t help her achieve the desired goal - not feeling like she was a disappointment. Working together enabled us to untie this belief that her worth was tied to the goals that she did or didn’t achieve.
Whether self-worth is an issue you struggle with or not, it’s essential to understand that you may engage in unhealthy behaviors as a coping mechanism for these underlying emotions. This isn’t to say that pursuing weight loss is unhealthy, but there are some ways we can pursue weight loss that isn’t health-promoting. So it's essential to recognize that while physical changes may occur, they aren’t going to solve the underlying problem.
How To Tackle Body Image Issues
So how do we move forward? How do we learn to accept our bodies without resorting to extreme measures? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer here. Everyone has different needs when dealing with their body image issues. However, I want to share some helpful tips for my clients that have worked in the past.
1. Find Joy in Movement
Instead of focusing on “burning calories” or “toning up," try finding pleasure in the movement itself. That can mean engaging in activities like yoga, swimming, or simply taking time for regular walks outdoors. This way, exercise can be about feeling good rather than punishing yourself for perceived flaws.
My client, Maya, for instance, found that as a busy entrepreneur, she didn’t have much time to go to the gym. So, she decided instead to invest in exercising from the comfort of her own home. From high-intensity interval training to bodyweight exercise, Maya found a workout routine she could enjoy. By doing so, she not only made exercise a priority, but it was something she truly looked forward to doing.
2. Be Mindful of Self-Talk
Pay attention to how you talk about your body out loud and inside your head. You can challenge negative thoughts by asking yourself if you would say such things about someone else. Chances are you wouldn’t be cruel to others, so why do it to yourself?
For example, my client Veronica learned while working with me to reframe how she thought about what she should and shouldn't eat. Instead of being concerned with eating healthily, she learned she could enjoy the occasional funnel cake at the fair with her niece. By doing so, she released the unrealistic ideals set by society and ensured she didn’t pass them down to the younger generation.
3. Seek Professional Help When Needed
As a health coach, I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize the importance of seeking professional guidance and support when needed. No matter how much work you can do individually, don't hesitate to reach out for help from a licensed mental health professional. Working with someone who specializes in helping people overcome their struggles with low self-esteem and poor body image is especially important.
Having worked with many therapists throughout my adult life, I can tell you firsthand there is nothing to be ashamed of. Seeking professional help was the key to overcoming body image issues and habits that negatively impacted my health. Whether you work with a therapist or counselor is ultimately your choice. Ensure that whoever you work with has the skills and expertise to support you in becoming the best version of yourself.
Final Word From Tomesha
Body image issues can be complicated and isolating but know that you are not alone! Remember that true beauty lies within—no matter your size or shape. I hope this article has helped you start taking steps today toward learning to love and accept yourself as you are!
Focus on addressing any underlying emotional causes head-on through healthy coping mechanisms such as mindfulness practices and counseling sessions if needed. With some effort, compassion, and patience towards yourself, it is possible for anyone struggling with their self-image issues to make progress towards accepting their bodies just as they are!
If you still have questions, feel free to comment below.