Your body has experienced some changes in the last couple of years. You’ve gained some weight, especially over the pandemic, and now you have serious body insecurities.
You’re struggling with trying to accept these changes BUT at the same time, you want to look and feel “put together.”
My mother always told me that if I looked put together, society would assume good things about me and treat me with respect. This was especially important to her when I went after jobs, or, went with her to family parties. She wanted me to look the part! Did you hear that growing up, too?
I heard this message from a very young age, and it impacted my own sense of body insecurities growing up.
Through my own journey, I know that things can be different. And far better. These days, I help women as a registered dietitian and certified Intuitive Eating counselor.
I’m going to talk you through ten tips for overcoming your body insecurities so that you can find acceptance, honor your aesthetics, and experience health without any more guilt.
Let’s start this post with a quick look at how the urge to diet is tied to your body image.
how body shame leads to the diet cycle
Your body insecurities impact your relationship with food in a big way.
Look – there’s nothing wrong with wanting people to see you a certain way or treat you with respect. I’d reckon we all want that, right? I certainly do. It’s basic dignity.
The problem starts when that desire for external acceptance brings about internal low self-esteem, racing thoughts, and binge-restrict cycles with food.
When you feel shame for your size, you begin restricting – because that’s what you’ve been brought up thinking you need to do (I was!).
You jump on the latest diet trend and are motivated to “be good this time”.
But “being good” all the time leads to feeling like you’re missing out. Especially when you have to opt out of tasting your niece’s birthday cake. You don’t want to “cheat” on your new diet.
You can only put up with feeling deprived for so long and so you give in and eat ALL THE THINGS!
Bring on the guilt. And shame for “failing” again, and a tummy ache from overeating – leaving you unmotivated to do anything.
Ugh. Is there another way?
If you are done going through this cycle on repeat, it’s time to take a deeper look and sort out ways to feel more comfortable in your body.
The most important thing is to work on feeling good in your body, right now. This takes away the power that fad diets and diet culture have over you. Make me feel bad for simply existing? I don’t think so, diet culture!
here are my ten tips for overcoming your body insecurities
While working on these habits and suggestions takes time and practice, they really do help. Give yourself grace as you do the hard work of unlearning the toxic expectations you have learned in your family and society at large.
- be okay with not being okay with your body
You see the rise of the body positivity movement online and you feel like a “bad feminist” for every negative thought you have about your body.
You may have negative talk concerning your body, and this is your honest-to-goodness feeling so don’t judge yourself for having these thoughts in the first place.
You were probably programmed from a young age by your family, the media, and the healthcare system to think that being fat is “bad.”
So next, let’s start to reprogram. The next time you feel negatively about yourself, say “it’s okay, it makes sense to feel this way”, and see if that helps make you feel slightly less tense (even if it doesn’t feel “good”).
Your thoughts may slowly become more positive as you look inside yourself and find comfort in your body.
- update your wardrobe
You put on your favorite pair of jeans and there’s something wrong. They’re cutting into your sides and pinching you; you feel like you had to squeeze yourself into them today.
It’s a painful reminder that your body has changed.
There is nothing wrong with changes, however, you can bypass the automatic negative thoughts that come with this (and honestly, be more comfortable) by updating your wardrobe.
It doesn’t have to be investing in an entire wardrobe change. Simply update your bras, underwear, and 2-3 staple pieces that you wear regularly (like yoga pants, jeans, or a top you’d be excited to wear out to dinner).
If you’re not ready to toss your current clothes, put them in the back of the closet or under the bed so they aren’t making you miserable every time you open your closet.
You can also refer to my previous blog post for steps on updating your closet.
- spend time in your body
Sometimes the best way to stop thinking so much about your body is to spend time in it. This means doing activities that help you to feel centered and connected to your body.
And as a heads up, this may feel difficult for you, especially if you’ve experienced past trauma that makes your body feel unsafe. Maybe you feel so negative about your body that it’s hard to connect with yourself.
You can start slowly – maybe do a simple stretch, take a 5-minute walk outside, or listen to music with your eyes closed. Many of my clients find these gentle movements help them reconnect with their bodies.
When you move your body, consider movement that makes it feel good, and not like it’s being punished. This may help you start to experience your body differently and appreciate its ability to move.
- stop saying “I feel fat”
“I feel fat” has become a catch-all phrase for expressing your negative feelings about your body.
But fat is not a feeling.
Can you be more specific with what you’re feeling? What’s really going on?
I work with my clients to label what their physical sensations are instead of using fatness.
My clients can detect internal physical sensations (“I feel tired”), external physical sensations (“my bra is pinching me”), and emotions (“I’m stressed”).
When you are able to label your emotions and physical sensations for what they are, you can address your negative feelings or sensations.
For the examples above:
- If you feel tired, get some rest
- If your bra is pinching you – get a new bra or a strap extender
- If you feel stressed – work on relaxation and stress-relief techniques
Naming your feelings will bring you closer to feeling safe in your body and bring you closer to comfort in your skin.
- diversify your social media
Check your social media feeds. Do you see mostly tall, thin, white women obsessing over their bodies, taking selfies, making salads, and lifting weights?
It might be time to switch things up! Seeing the exact same “look” or body type over and over again can create an unhelpful, unrealistic norm for what bodies should look like.
Try following women you admire, who look like you, or at least women who don’t feature their bodies as their main source of respect.
You may find someone whose crafty skills you admire, someone with a unique perspective on something, or maybe someone who just makes you laugh out loud.
This may feel uncomfortable at first but this will help your brain normalize that there is DIVERSITY in body sizes out there!
AND – admirable, “put together” women come in all shapes and sizes. Yes, it’s true.
Build your community to reflect that truth and you will find a better sense of belonging, no matter your appearance or size.
Another thought – stop following diet and fitness accounts altogether! Personally, I love following accounts with adorable seal videos and – as a 90s child – American Girl Doll meme accounts. It’s weird, but it’s the kind of content that makes me smile. What gets you smiling?
See if you can get your algorithm to help you connect with ALL the parts of you, not just the part of you struggling with food and body image.
- consider your aesthetic
Think about your personal style. What is your color palette? Do you have a style, like “bohemian”? What makes you feel most like you?
Remember, you are allowed to look different from other people and create your own “signature look!”
I had a client who was a dentist and she told me she wanted to look “cute and put together”, even though she had to wear scrubs every day.
She felt that her scrubs fit her body differently than her smaller-bodied peers, which challenged her self-image.
She decided to try wearing new hairpieces and footwear that matched and she developed her own personal work style. Making these small shifts helped her feel more like herself and she was more confident in her bigger body.
I would suggest choosing clothing or looks based on your comfort, preference, and style, rather than as a means to achieve self-worth. When you feel comfortable, you’ll feel more confident.
Developing your own signature look that reflects your personal style and is an expression of yourself can feel positive and exciting to pursue! Give it a shot.
For tips on gaining confidence in plus-size clothing and feeling great, listen to Josie share her journey to food freedom and starting a fashion blog.
- push back on the anti-fat bias
A lot of ideals we have about looking “put together” come from the thin, rich, white ideal.
That may be uncomfortable to hear but the idea that there is one way to look put together has racist, classist, and fatphobic roots.
Do these ideals match your own? Are they serving you? If not, you have permission to leave them behind.
What would it feel like to leave that bias behind and help reshape society into one that is more inclusive and welcoming? Because the truth is that your worth and value are NOT based on how you look!
We’ve been conditioned to believe that being fat is somehow less, but it wasn’t always that way. In a previous blog post on fat bias, I unpack this hurtful idea and discuss how to shift your perspective.
I realize bias is not going to disappear overnight, and living in a world that judges bodies on how they look can be hard. But we can all play a part in dismantling thin privilege.
In the meantime, I encourage you to find a community and set boundaries so you feel less alone facing anti-fat bias.
- reduce body checking
When I say body checking, I don’t mean the act of running full speed into someone!
I mean repeatedly checking your body shape or size to see what changes (if any) have occurred.
This may include using scales, mirrors, or other methods like pinching or squeezing your body.
This experience can dampen your mood, cause significant distress, and trigger disordered eating behaviors, especially if the feedback you get was not what you had hoped for.
Some clients tell me that body checking can make getting ready in the morning a nightmare. They wish they could just get dressed and move on to the more important parts of their day.
If you want to change this habit, consider starting by removing the scale from your view, or stop weighing yourself altogether. Your weight isn’t a measure of your health or your worth.
Ending these behaviors can be challenging and complex. If you are finding it hard to stop, or you notice your body checking is causing you to engage in harmful eating behaviors, I suggest you enlist a professional to help.
- set boundaries with triggering people
How do you feel when someone around you goes on a diet or engages in “fat talk?” It likely adds to your body insecurity, doesn’t it?
Many of us grew up with moms who valued thinness and dieting. To make things worse, as we’re healing our relationship with food, they STILL engage in these behaviors right in front of us.
I talk a lot about generational diet trauma on my Instagram. Follow me for tips on working through your diet trauma and healing your relationship with food.
Triggers may also come from your partner, who never really struggled with eating and body image (or the opposite – they really, really do). Either way, their situation may make it hard to affirm your experiences.
I can help with how to communicate better with your spouse about Intuitive Eating so that you can get some more support.
On your journey to food freedom, you’ll need a supportive community around you.
That also includes finding a fat-friendly doctor to be able to access the proper healthcare provider that sees you for you!
- build self-esteem around your values
This is my favorite tip because here, you can get to the place where you realize there is more to you than your body.
Think about where your self-esteem comes from.
If the only source of your self-esteem or self-worth was how “attractive” you believe you are, then on negative body image days, you would feel totally defeated.
So consider what else raises your self-esteem. Look at the image below. See how “attractive” may still have a place?
It’s okay if you still, or always value that a little. The trick is to diversify your sources of self-esteem and prioritize the most important parts that align with your TRUE SELF and values.
You have so many other great qualities that make you your greatest self.
your ticket to guilt-free eating
Working on body insecurities takes shifts in your thoughts, and how you seek feedback from your body, as well as surrounding yourself with a supportive community.
It takes some work, but you can get there.
What was your favorite tip? Would you like to bridge your body insecurity work with your journey to heal your relationship with food?
Your journey to guilt-free eating begins with understanding your dieting past.
Begin the transformation by accessing my FREE guide to eating without guilt. It will help you move from feeling stuck in food guilt and fear of weight gain to feeling free and peaceful around food!