What does “healthy body image” really mean?

by Health

Body image is so much more than how you look. It’s the way you think and feel about yourself physically, and how you believe others see you. The way you perceive your body can impact so many areas of your life, including your self-confidence, self-worth, and the way you live your day-to-day life. So it’s really important to work on it, and cultivate a positive, healthy body image to allow you to live the life you want. 

So what exactly does a “healthy body image” look like, and how do you achieve it?

1. Gratitude and appreciation for your body.

Contrary to popular belief, healthy body image doesn’t always involve loving your body. You don’t have to look at yourself in the mirror and feel awed or thrilled with the reflection staring back at you. Instead, it’s more of an acceptance of your body and appearance.

Instead of aiming to love your body, focus instead on appreciating all it does and allows you to do. It lets you walk through life, breathe and stay alive, connect with loved ones. In focusing on gratitude towards your body, you leave little room for criticising or judging your appearance, instead acknowledging how powerful and capable your body truly is. Regardless of whether you like what you see in the mirror or not, if you can develop an appreciation and respect for your body, you’re one step closer to achieving healthy body image.

Discover why body image work could be the missing link in your recovery here.

2. Knowing that poor body image days and moments are normal, and they’ll pass.

Even when you’ve truly developed a healthy body image, you won’t feel confident in your body 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week. Negative body image days (or moments) are normal and inevitable, and that’s okay! Some mornings you might wake up feeling insecure or uncomfortable in your body, but if you have cultivated a healthy approach to body image, then you can rest assured in the knowledge that this feeling will pass, and you can get through it. You won’t feel the need to give in to thoughts of restricting yourself, or feeling guilty for your food and exercise choices. Instead, you’ll be able to show yourself compassion and kindness in the difficult moments, and sit in them knowing that better times are not far away!

A healthy body image gives you the confidence and security to get through these moments without resorting to negative behaviours, and allows you to understand that these experiences are normal and okay.

3. Recognising your worth is not determined by your body or appearance.

Building a positive body image involves redefining your worth and identity. In doing so, you learn that your worthiness is completely independent of your appearance. It’s not your body which allows you to be loved by others, and by yourself. Instead, it’s the things that make you you. It’s your sense of humour, your kindness, your compassion and determination. It’s the way you make others feel. It’s the joy you feel from doing the things you love.

You’re worthy of love and acceptance, from both yourself and the people around you, purely because you’re you. Nothing can change that – no fluctuations in your body, appearance or size, nothing! Improving your body image allows you to separate your sense of self-worth from your body once and for all.

Read more about overcoming an identity crisis in recovery here.

4. Choosing to combat damaging thoughts, and replace them with positive ones.

As we mentioned, negative thoughts will still pop up even after you’ve done the work to achieve healthy body image. But you’ll be more able to overcome the judgmental, insecure thoughts simply by practicing awareness. By noticing and observing the damaging thoughts when they arise, you can separate yourself from them, remembering that your thoughts are not you! 

When you recognise a negative thought appearing, you have the opportunity to override it, replacing it with a positive thought or affirmation instead. So if you catch yourself thinking, “I look hideous today,” you might instead focus on, “I’m so grateful my body is healthy and functioning today.”

Developing healthy body image gives you the strength and compassion for yourself to allow you to rewrite the negative thoughts into positive ones, further reinforcing that you’re more than your body!

5. You don’t punish your body with excessive exercise or restricting food.

When you develop healthy body image, the need to punish and control your body diminishes significantly. No longer do you need to restrict or limit your food intake, fear or eliminate certain foods, follow rigid food rules, or exercise excessively to compensate for food choices.

Instead, you can listen to your body and its needs, and act accordingly. You can prioritise rest, find food freedom, and allow yourself to enjoy all foods whenever you like. You can respect your body, rather than treating it with contempt and forever trying to warp it or resist any natural fluctuations it may experience.

Healthy body image removes the need for the negative behaviours you may have reverted to in the past, instead allowing you to focus on gratitude and kindness towards yourself, and helping you befriend your body.

6. You don’t spend an excessive amount of time dwelling on your body. You accept it for how it is.

Have you ever found yourself spending ridiculous amounts of each day obsessing over your body and appearance, wondering how you can take up less space, or achieve certain body-related goals? If so, you’re not alone. But improving your body image helps this habit become a thing of the past.

When you achieve healthy body image, you’re better able to put things into perspective. Suddenly, your appearance and size aren’t the most important things about you!

There’s so much more to life, and so much more to spend your time thinking about, than your body. In working on your body image, you create so much mental space to focus on the things that truly bring you joy in life – whether that’s your relationships, your hobbies and passions, your career. You can be more present, and lean in to the things that truly matter.

You don’t need to be consumed by thoughts of your body. Instead, when you learn to accept it exactly as it is, you allow your body and mind to be free, and to focus on the important, rewarding parts of life.

Listen to this podcast on body acceptance after an eating disorder.

As you can see, working towards a healthy body image is not only incredibly rewarding, but also crucial in the fight for full recovery. You deserve to cultivate positive body image, and to feel comfortable in your body. You deserve to accept yourself, feel at peace in your own skin, and find the confidence to know you’re so much more than your appearance.

If you’re ready to achieve healthy body image once and for all, sign up to the waitlist for our upcoming Building Better Body Image course today!

Ready To Improve Your Relationship with Food and Get Your Period Back?

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.

Click below to book your free discovery call and get started.

Sarah King

Sarah King

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.