Within moments of waking up, you can feel it: today is going to be one of those days, a day where your mind floods with negative thoughts about your body, where you can’t seem to move past the thoughts that people are looking at your body, thinking about it, judging it, talking about it. If you find yourself having a bad body image day, you’re not alone. It is likely that all of us will experience days like this at some point. It can be quite discouraging, though, especially if it seems to come out of nowhere. So, what can you do when you feel like you are on the brink of or in the midst of a bad body image day?

6 Quick and Practical Tips to Help

1. Try Not to be Hard on Yourself

First of all, it’s important to note that all of us will have a bad body image day form time-to -tome, even if you have done a lot of internal work in this area. Know and remember that this does not mean that you have lost progress, that you are doomed to weeks, months, and years of struggling with your body image. Having a bad body image day here and there is normal, so try your best to give yourself some grace when you experience one.

2. Check In with Your Physical Body

  1. Sometimes I notice that I have a bad body image day when I am physically uncomfortable. This discomfort is not necessarily indicative of anything that needs to change about my body, but it may be a sensation that I notice that I’m struggling with. For instance, I am much more likely to have a bad body image day when I am hot. I loathe being hot – being sweaty, uncomfortable, and unable to cool down without immersing myself in an ice bath or blasting the AC is not my jam. 

Since I know this about myself, I am easily able to identify when my bad body image days are sources from the heat. Or maybe you are feeling uncomfortable as a result of something you ate, being hungry, getting sick, or benign sleep-deprived. So, what can you do? Tune into your physical body and address the source of the physical discomfort. Take a cold shower, eat a snack, get some much needed R & R if you can; listen to your body’s signals.

3. Resist the Urge to Body Check

Notice that doing a physical body check-in to take inventory of anything that may be causing discomfort is not the same as body checking. While we want to notice anything that may be causing our physical body to be uncomfortable, it is best to avoid body checking (especially on a bad body image day). Let’s be honest, though: this can be a challenge. I still struggle with this even on days when I am not particularly struggling with my body image.

Of course it is normal to look at yourself in a mirror when you are getting ready, to glance in a window and notice your reflection when you walk by, but if you are having a bad body image day, do your best to avoid sitting in front of a mirror (or window) for the purpose of “noticing flaws” or assessing “problem areas.” We sometimes do this in an attempt to make ourselves feel better, but it almost always has the opposite effect. 

4. Check in With Your Emotions

It’s possible that the source or trigger of your bad body image day is embedded within some emotional discomfort. There are several emotions that can manifest themselves in a struggle with our body image: sadness, grief, loneliness, anxiety, jealousy, just to name a few. Consider journaling, listening to your favorite music, going for a walk to help process the emotion that may be making today a particularly challenging body image day.

Hear directly from Dr. Colleen Reichmann below on some of these tips and more:

5.Try “Opposite Action”

  1. There is a skill called “opposite action” that is used in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) that can be a quick and practical tool for you to access during a bad body image day. The three steps are:

One: Become aware of the emotion we’re feeling

Two: Notice what behavior that emotion is causing us to want to do.

Three: Do the opposite to help reduce the discomfort the emotion is causing us. 

For example, you may be having a bad body image day because you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work, homework, or other tasks you have to do that are piling up. This may make you want to mindlessly scroll on your phone, which can increase anxiety and negative thoughts about your body image. So, instead of scrolling, pick one of the tasks you want to get down, and knock it off your list. This can a) distract you from your body image thoughts for the time being and b) aid in increasing feelings of accomplishment, which can be an overall mood booster. 🙂

6. Take Note

Make a note (potentially a literal one) in your phone to bring this up in your next counseling session if you are currently in therapy. This can give you an opportunity to better identify and verbally process the contributing factors to help you build your repertoire of tools to combat another bad body image day in the future. Over time,  jotting down notes to bring to therapy helped me notice patterns in what may have caused or contributed to these bad body image days that I may not have otherwise noticed.

Remember that having a bad body image day is a common experience and does not diminish the progress you’ve made in improving your relationship with your body. It’s normal for us to have these days from time-to-time, but we can limit their frequency by remembering that we do not have to succumb to these thoughts about our bodies. Use these practical tips to shift your focus in moments of struggle, redirect your thoughts, and, ultimately, help to lessen bad body image days.

By: Erika Muller, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC

All images via Unsplash

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If you’re looking for someone to come alongside you to help you unpack and approach the the complex set of emotions you may experience while on your eating disorder recovery journey and/or struggles with your body image, our therapists in Pennsylvania are honored to help!  In fact, you can get to know a little bit more about them here and book a free consultation here.

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