9 Signs your body image could do with some assistance

The way you feel about your body has far reaching impacts on your quality of life.  It can affect your eating, your physical activity, your relationships, your career, and your physical and emotional wellbeing. 

If you’re experiencing one or more of these your body image could do with some help...

You body check

Do you find yourself checking if your body has changed size or shape via squeezing, prodding, or any other kind of touching?  For example you might notice you regularly touch your belly, grab your hips, or even wrap your fingers around your arm or wrist.  Or you might check your body for changes via trying on a particular piece of clothing, or staring in the mirror.  People are often surprised how often they do these things when they are made aware of it.  Body checking is a sign of body dissatisfaction and body anxiety.

 

You police your eating

Do you set yourself rules about what you can and can’t eat?  Do you find yourself longingly staring at a restaurant menu wanting numerous things but instead ordering the meal you feel like you ‘should’?  If you find yourself choosing food because of how it might affect your weight, rather than selecting what you feel like and enjoy, then your body dissatisfaction is affecting your eating behaviour.

 

You have a meltdown when choosing clothes

Sure, we all have moments of indecision, however if you’re regularly trying on a bunch of outfits before going out, you’re displaying a lot of distress about your appearance. You might be lamenting that nothing fits right, nothing looks ‘good enough’, or you are worried about what people will think of you.  You might find yourself wondering if staying home is easier, and your social life may already be suffering. 

You weigh yourself often

Do you weigh yourself and let the number dictate your mood, eating, clothing or exercise for the day?  Does your mood soar high if the number is less than the ‘magic’ number you’ve decided for yourself?  Does your mood sink if the number is higher than you’d hoped?  It’s suggesting your sense of worth is tied to your weight.

 

You criticise your appearance (in your head and/or out loud)

Does your inner voice berate you for how you look, what you weigh, or tell you that you need to change how you look?  Does looking in a mirror or at a photo turn into a scathing commentary of what’s wrong and what needs ‘work’?  Do you tell others what’s ‘wrong’ with your appearance, or find yourself in a self-deprecating battle with friends that’s reminiscent of Mean Girls?  A highly active inner critic is a sign that your self-worth (and self-compassion) could be improved.

 

You freak out when you see ‘bad’ photos of yourself on social media

Have you banned friends from sharing photos of you, or have you shut down the ability for others to tag you in photos on Facebook out of fear that many will see a ‘bad’ photo?  Do you spend a lot of time inspecting photos of yourself to find the flaws?  Do you try to avoid being in photos unless you have complete control over editing and sharing?  Such behaviours are common when you’re trying to tightly control the impression others have of your appearance.

 

You struggle to take time off exercise

Are you wracked with guilt every time you have a day without exercise?  Or are you thinking “A day off exercise?! What’s that?!”?  If taking time off physical activity makes you scared your body will change size or shape, then your body image distress is high.  Exercise dependence has many risks, and is often driven by body dissatisfaction or eating disorders.

 

You fantasise regularly about looking ‘better’ or like someone else

Do you spend a lot of time imagining how you’d like to look?  Do you start eating or exercise plans imagining how your ‘new body’ will soon look?  Do you fixate on cosmetic surgery options?  Do you spend time analysing the appearance and body parts of others and imagine looking like that?  Striving to look like someone else is so ingrained into our culture now that many people would think it normal.

 

You think your appearance needs to change before you…(do something)

It might be dating, looking for a new job, contacting an old friend, starting a new class, buying a swimsuit, or going on holidays… Do you think “I’ll do that when I’ve lost weight”?  If you’re putting your life on hold because of your appearance, you have significant body dissatisfaction.

 

You may have recognised yourself in one or more of the above points.  It is so important to offer yourself compassion.  We are bombarded with daily constant messages that there is an ideal way to look, and reminded just how far we are from this ideal.  The thing is, if our bodies are seen as a problem, then there are many industries ready to sell us a ‘solution’.  These industries are built on our body dissatisfaction.  Fat phobia is rampant; weight stigma is everywhere.  So you are not alone if you are experiencing body image distress, and you are not to blame. 

The good news is that you CAN find relief.  You can improve your relationship with your body so that the above points no longer relate to you.  There is great relief in calling a truce with your body.  Please reach out if you’d like to work with me on this.

 

by Jodie Arnot

Jodie is a registered counsellor with a Masters in Counselling from Monash University.  She provides counselling via telephone, Skype, and in person, and is passionate about helping women to improve their relationship with their body.

 

Body imageJodie Arnot