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How to Stop Obsessing over Your Body Image and Beat Negative Thoughts

How to Stop Obsessing over Your Body Image and Beat Negative Thoughts

Raise your hand if you’ve ever said or done any of the following:

  • Pinched your stomach for fat
  • Looked for cellulite somewhere on your body
  • Hated your body type
  • Looked at magazines and felt inadequate about yourself
  • Went on a diet in the last 3 months
  • Been envious of your thinner friends
  • Compared yourself to someone else

If you said yes to any of the above, fear not: you aren’t alone. Most of us have looked in the mirror, seen something we don’t like, and immediately started thinking negatively about our bodies. In fact, body dissatisfaction is at an all time high today, with millions of people struggling with eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder.

You likely know that you shouldn’t be spending so much time worrying about the externals, but you don’t know what to do to fix the problem. You try to tell yourself not to worry about your appearance, to be happy with who you are and to stop comparing yourself to others, yet, you still cling to your negative internal monologues. Why? Because you have no concrete tools to break out of your “stinking thinking” mentality.

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How does beating ourselves up and constantly ruminating about our bodies help us get what we want out of life? It doesn’t. In fact, it can cause feelings ranging from mild discontentment to severe depression.

How do you solve the problem? By making a decision: if you’re tired of beating yourself up, if you want to embrace your intrinsic worth and learn to actually start liking your body, here are some next steps to consider:

Take Notice

You can’t change what you don’t notice, so start paying attention to what you pay attention to. That means you have to key into what your mind is always focusing on during the day. Notice your self-talk and any behaviors that are self-limiting. Listen for negative patterns in your head. Are there consistent themes? Write them down. For example, you may feed yourself a steady diet of thoughts like, “I’m a loser, I’m fat; I’m unlovable because of my appearance.” Noticing these negative attributions is the first step to change.

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Watch for Thinking Errors

People who struggle with body image issues tend to gravitate toward certain thinking errors. Here are just a few of the biggies:

  • “All or nothing” thinking. I’m either perfect, or a total failure.
  • Magnifying/Catasphrophizing. Gaining a few pounds means no one will ever love me.
  • Emotional reasoning. I take my feelings and make them facts about my intrinsic worth. I feel fat so I am a loser.
  • Negative self. Negative ways of thinking that make it harder for me to achieve my goals or get what I want from life.

Watch for triggers

If TV, Internet, social media, the fashion industry, the food industry, or magazines trigger your negative feelings or feelings of inadequacy, steer clear of them for a while. This doesn’t mean you don’t read a magazine, or watch TV, it means you choose more wisely about what you want to put into your brain.

Stop Comparing

Every magazine out there will depress you if you compare yourself to the cover girls and guys. Even though you know they’re digitally enhanced, it’s still a bummer. Pay attention to who you’re comparing yourself to, and make a deliberate attempt to stop and reset your mind.

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Recognize the big four

Don’t try to be perfect: instead, practice accepting yourself. Stop judging yourself on your appearance or body image. There is a lot more to a person than how much they weigh—focus instead on your strengths and attributes. Be ware of your inner critic; try practicing being grateful for what you do have. Do not get stuck in victim mentality. The “poor me” syndrome will keep you stuck and going nowhere.

Develop positive counterstatements

Start a list of positive statements to refute the negative things you’re telling yourself: it’s important that you have some measure of belief in their veracity. Instead of saying “I hate my body”, try saying “I’m grateful I have a healthy body. I’m grateful I can go for a run or carry my child.” You may not be perfect, but who says you have to be?

Think of the bigger picture

Living in a world that places so much emphasis on how we look is hard, but there are so many things that are much more important than how much we weigh or whether we have cellulite. Try getting outside your head and do something of eternal significance. Go to Haiti to help rebuild; volunteer at a homeless shelter; or go visit someone in a nursing home. Actions like these will dramatically change your perspective about what matters.

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Perhaps the most important part of learning to like our bodies is being grateful for them.

Have you ever felt dissatisfied with your body? Ever struggled with negative self-defeating thinking when you look in the mirror? If so, what steps have you taken to beat stinking thinking?

More by this author

Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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