How to stop hating your body
Do you feel a sense of dread, self-loathing, criticism or dejection every time you catch a glimpse of your reflection? Do you hate your body, no matter how much you change and warp its appearance? Sadly, you’re not alone in feeling this way. But hating your body can keep you stuck in quasi recovery, and prevent you from finding full freedom from the negative habits you find yourself stuck in.
To do so, you have to understand this: hating your body almost always has nothing to do with how your body looks. You could change your body, and achieve the “goal” shape or size, and still feel deeply dissatisfied with your body and appearance. So, in order to stop hating your body, and finally feel peace and comfort in your own skin, you’ll have to dive a little deeper and do the work. Here’s how to work towards creating peace between your mind and body, and finally stop detesting your perfect, incredible body once and for all.
1. Address why you hate your body.
As we mentioned, most of the time hating your body has little to do with how you actually look, and a whole lot more to do with things going on internally for you. Some people hate their body as it represents feelings of inadequacy or imperfection. Others hate their body because they’re forever comparing themselves to others, or to unrealistic beauty standards they should never be aiming to achieve in the first place. And then others will despise their body due to feeling like they can’t fully control it or how it appears, striving to gain control over the “uncontrollable” by warping it into a certain shape or size.
There are so many reasons you may feel hatred or rejection towards your body, so it’s important to do some deep reflection and figure out what’s really causing this disharmony for you. Whether you journal it out, letting the thoughts flow freely to help you identify your own thoughts towards your body, or whether you talk it out with a trusted friend or a health coach, spend some time figuring out the causes of your body hatred.
Once you’ve identified the root cause of why you hate your body, then ask yourself: is punishing or criticising your body constantly really helping you address or overcome these problems? Does placing unrealistic expectations on yourself and your body help you feel better about yourself, or is it having a counterintuitive effect? Does obsessing over, scrutinising, and continually hating on your body take you closer to who you want to be, or does it hold you back from recovery, instead keeping you stuck in your fear of body changes?
When you recognise that hating your body isn’t serving you, but is instead hindering your recovery progress and your freedom to enjoy and live life, you’ll be far more motivated to take action and work on healing your relationship with your body.
2. Stop expecting, start appreciating.
A big problem which can contribute to body hatred is expectation. So much of the time, we fall victim to our own expectations of ourselves – of how we should look, how our body should appear, how we should present ourselves to others.
But reality very rarely meets these expectations, and therefore you’re setting yourself up for feelings of unhappiness and failure.
Release your expectations of how your body “should” look, and instead recognise the fact that every body is different. Every body is unique, special and perfect exactly as it is. You don’t need to sculpt or shape your body to adhere to certain standards, set out by yourself or by others. Instead of expecting these things, and placing so much pressure on yourself, focus on shifting your mindset from one of expectation, to one of appreciation.
What can you appreciate about your body? Can you appreciate the fact it allows you to breathe, to live, to move, to feel strong, to touch your loved ones, to work? Stop focusing on what you don’t like about it, and focus on what you’re grateful for. When you enter a space of gratitude, there’s no room left for hating on your body. Instead, you move towards a place of acceptance and respect for your body – which is exactly how your body deserves to be treated.
3. Focus on function, not appearance.
There will always be parts of your body which you’re dissatisfied or unhappy with. Whether it’s cellulite on your thighs, lack of definition in your abs, or more body fat, it’s normal! But as we said before, no amount of weight loss or body changes will ever leave you feeling wholly satisfied and happy with your body. It’s time to accept that fact, and focus instead on the function of your body.
Stop obsessing over how your body looks, and shift towards appreciating all it does and allows you to do. It allows you to go for walks in the fresh air, to hug the people you love, it keeps your heart beating, it lets you feel strong and empowered.
Each time you notice yourself critiquing an aspect of your body or appearance, stop the thought in its tracks. Don’t judge yourself for experiencing the thought, but choose to replace it with a thought about the function of your body. For example, if you notice yourself thinking, “My thighs look huge and hideous today,” shift your perspective to, “My legs are so strong, I’m grateful for how empowered I feel after climbing a set of stairs with ease, or being able to carry my groceries inside.”
4. Recognise that no amount of weight loss or body change will cure negative body image.
As we mentioned, it’s important to realise that hating your body can’t be “solved” by losing weight, or dropping a dress size. The idea that “I’ll be happy with my body when…” is an illusion – because when you achieve whatever goal you set for yourself, you simply end up moving the goalpost further away, setting new, more challenging goals for yourself. And in reality, you’ll never feel truly happy or satisfied with your body, no matter how it looks.
Remember, you are not your body. Your appearance is one small aspect of you – it doesn’t define you, or make you worthy or unworthy! It’s time to regain some perspective, and spend more time focusing on the things you value most in life, and which bring you joy and fulfilment – and less time obsessing over the tiniest flaws or imperfections in your body!
Bring it back to reality, and acknowledge that you won’t love your body every day. You won’t always feel fantastic and confident in your own skin. Even those with positive, healthy body image will experience moments or days of negative body image, but they are able to rest assured in the knowledge that these moments will pass, and they can get through them.
So stop expecting such unrealistic things from yourself – whether it be an expectation of your body to look a certain way, or an expectation of yourself to feel love and unconditional acceptance towards your body always. Recognise that recovery and improving your body image is a roller coaster – full of ups and downs and obstacles along the way. And that’s okay!
For now, focus on gratitude and releasing expectations, and tune back into your body. How can you listen to what it needs, and respect it by prioritising those needs? Appreciate your body, rather than punishing it, and watch as your relationship with your body begins to improve. Before you know it, it becomes easier to stop the negative, body-hating thoughts in their tracks, and replace them with positive, grateful thoughts.
Your body deserves appreciation, respect and care. It’s time to give it exactly that.
Need some help working on your body image, and improving your relationship with your body once and for all? Sign up for our upcoming Building Better Body Image course today, and learn how to cultivate healthy, positive body image and overcome body hatred for good!
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Sarah King is an Exercise Physiologist and Health Coach specialising in helping women reconnect with their bodies and improve their relationship with food and exercise.
Through her 1:1 Health Coaching Sessions clients learn to nourish their bodies without guilt, move for joy, improve body image and self worth, plus recover from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and get their period pack if it’s gone missing.
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Hi future friends, I’m Sarah King, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and health coach.
Science, not trends is the foundation of my approach. By nourishing the body and mind with scientific facts we can build foundations for a life of realness, not just wellness.