Who among us hasn't spent a few too many minutes scrutinizing our bodies in the mirror? Or spent an excessive amount of time in the gym because a beach day or class reunion is on the horizon and we don't look "good enough" yet?
We all want to look our best, but it's so easy for normal, healthy attention on appearance to turn into a body image issue that can impact many other areas of your life. So we turned to psychotherapist, lifestyle coach and author Stacy Kaiser, who you may have seen counseling contestants on the reality shows DietTribe and Celebrity Fit Club, to share her tips to get over body hang-ups.
Can you pinpoint the main influences on someone's body image?
Two main factors play a role:
- Your upbringing: family, peers and community. Were they active, supporting and encouraging?
- Your personal belief system: values, beliefs and desires. What is most important for you and your happiness levels?
How do you know if your desire to look good has turned into something more serious?
The average person does pay attention to her appearance. But if it starts to be a constant focus or you find yourself thinking about, talking about or ruminating over your looks often throughout the day, it may be a signal that something is wrong. Another signal: If you can't find a state of peace or worry in advance about how you'll look at upcoming events. Those that struggle with a negative body image find that it impacts everything they do. After they wake up, they're not thinking about the present, they're thinking about when they will exercise, what they'll eat throughout the day, what they'll wear and how they'll look.
So what are your top tips to improve a less-than-perfect body image?
- Ditch all-or-nothing diet and exercise plans. Create a lifestyle that integrates moderation, healthy eating and regular exercise in a way that you can stick with long-term.
- Surround yourself with accepting people—it will be easier to accept yourself. And make friends who are healthy themselves. It will be easier to maintain your healthy lifestyle if your pal wants to grab a salad and take a walk than if she prefers to pick up a burger and veg on the couch.
- Treat yourself to a new haircut, paint your nails or pick out a new outfit that highlights your best features. You'll shift the focus to the parts of yourself that you do like, and the pampering will improve your mood.
- Shine a spotlight on your other traits and skills. Are you smart? Funny? A great parent, friend or sister? You shouldn't just be defined by your exterior.
- Plan to be the best you today, rather than waiting to enjoy life at the time that you look "better."