This morning I woke up with bad body image. I had discomfort with my body, a general feeling of being bigger and a sense of negativity about it all… I felt more aware of my size and uncomfortable both mentally and physically.
It is actually unusual for me to experience poor body image days like this. I generally don’t experience significant negative thoughts or emotions towards my body, despite the fact it is larger than it has been for years and that I am continuing to gain more weight to fully heal. Not today though, today my body image took a nose dive and it was unsettling.
However, I always keep a spare pair of positive pants for days like this and so a bit of bad body image was not going to throw my day off and certainly not going to disrupt my recovery! Instead, I called upon wisdom and experience to find ways to cope and get through.
For anyone it might help, I thought I would share some of the approaches I use to deal with times like this – those days when you just feel huge or generally very uncomfortable in your own skin…..
- First and foremost I know that when my body image worsens, it is rarely about my weight or size. I know I don’t have issues with my body size and this discomfort is always a symptom of something else in my life that is troubling me and I am most likely ignoring… Therefore – it was time to dig deep and work out what was really worrying me and address that!
- I increased my vigilance of monitoring and not responding to urges to restrict my eating or move more and to be alert to other symptoms that can pop up when the eating disorder wants to make a come back.
- I told my brain that as it had started this ridiculous game, I would play by flooding it with positive body thoughts and self talk (even if on an emotional level that was hard) … So, yes I did tell myself that I am a superhero and my body is fabulous thank you.
- In addition to the last point, I also laughed at the body discomfort. I actually forced myself to laugh at my own brain, demonstrating to it that this poor body image was not only invalid but laughable and by laughing, I released endorphins which my brain loves!
- On a practical level, I put on clothes that felt comfortable – elasticated and free flowing.
- I applied my rational thoughts… I was aware that the feelings of body discomfort were not appropriate and coming from a deeper emotional level and so I knew I could use the higher parts of my brain to choose how to respond to these feelings of body discomfort.
- Thought processing about what was happening was also helped further by my writing about it, reflecting on it and then putting this little blog post together too (you might not write a blog but journalling can help!).
- Distractions were valuable today, using methods to take my brain away from hyper-focusing on these negative body image emotions and thoughts and instead shift my attention to other things – books, learning, chatting to people etc.
- I also used visualisation – I often visualise myself in a much bigger body, feeling happy, laughing and exuding confidence… This teaches my brain that bigger is very certainly going to be better!
- A little ‘fuck it’ attitude never hurts and so I decided that if I am really getting bigger then I might as well enjoy it and reach for more ice cream.
- While enjoying said ice cream, I then re-affirmed my true values to myself. I hate diet culture and thin-spiration. I do not see fat as bad on myself or others and I knew that this was not about fatness!
Poor body image days are never fun and yet they are a part of life for most people and especially for people in recovery from eating disorders, when having to go through processes of weight gain and body changes.
Overall, there are many things that can be done to try to help on days like these, most crucial of all being to keep eating, resting and not letting any disordered behaviours back in.
Today, I acknowledged that the feelings of discomfort about my body were there but I refused to engage with negative thoughts regarding them and decided instead to instigate positive thoughts – telling my body it was bloody amazing and being grateful that it was not still as it once was in this illness…. And I kept eating and allowing it to keep growing; trusting it to determine and do whatever it needs to keep me well.