Changing Your Body Image

Changing Your Body Image

For most of my life, my happiness depended on the reflection I saw in the mirror.

I was convinced that the way I looked and the number I saw on the scale determined my worthiness as a daughter, sister, girlfriend and later a wife.

This completely ridiculous notion led to more than 2 decades of misery. During those years I felt trapped inside my body, without any hope to ever be able to find relief or a way to free myself. I lived in a state of oppression and despised everything about myself and my appearance.

When I looked in the mirror, I saw anything but beauty. While I was short, compact with a round face and thin hair, I did not spend a single day without wishing to look the exact opposite. I wanted to be tall, have lean arms, long legs, sharp features and thick, long hair.

This hatred for the body I was given was part of the reason why I developed anorexia nervosa at the age of 10. During the years of my eating disorder, I was at war with myself. My body was my enemy and I tried to destroy it step by step.

When I committed to recovery about a year ago, I faced a lot of challenges regarding my body image. Not only did I have to gain a significant amount of weight, but I also needed to come to terms with a completely new body. And I needed to learn to love it for the very first time in my life.

It was a hard road to take and I shed many tears wanting my deprived, skeleton-like body back. But I had made a promise to myself and I wanted to live instead of dying slowly, but certainly.

So, I drastically changed the way I viewed myself and my body. I began a journey of soul-searching and I reevaluated who I was as a person and who I actually wanted to be.

Since that moment of clarity, my life has changed in ways that I could not have imagined before. I have transformed in many aspects and I have grown to be more confident, happy and today I am deeply in love with my body.

How did I come to this point? I am not going to lie, it takes a lot of work and a willingness to adept and alter many prejudices you may have about yourself.

However, if you decide to make a few changes, the rewards will weave themselves into your relationships, your career, your character and your soul.

Here are 3 ways that will help you make a drastic change today.

Confront the mirror

When my mind was still occupied by my eating disorder, I was obsessed with mirrors and checked my reflection in every window in order to see if I had magically grown fat in the last 20 seconds.

However, when I gained the weight that saved my life, I started to avoid mirrors altogether since I hated what I saw and thought that not confronting myself with reality was best.

But, it is not. By avoiding to look at yourself in the mirror, you start to completely disconnect from your body and that is the last thing you want.

In order to create a strong body and mind connection, you need to face your reflection.

So, how can you look at yourself in the mirror without experiencing the feelings of shame and loathing that way too many people know?

Stop focusing on the parts you don’t like and start focusing on the parts you like. At the beginning, it really is as simple as that. You don’t need to ruin your day by zoning in on body parts that somehow don’t live up to your standards.

Nourish the love for those parts you already like and you will move forward towards loving the entire you.

Stop wanting to feel bad about yourself

We all tend to want to feel bad for ourselves, we even like to pity our circumstances from time to time, don’t we? The same is true for the way we feel about our body, but I want you to stop insisting on feeling bad about your appearance.

In order to break this vicious circle of loathing your body and thereby loathing yourself, you simply need to change your thoughts. Think about yourself in positive terms and your entire mindset will change.

If you tell yourself that you love your body, no matter which shape or form it currently has, then you will be able to love your body for real. If you tell yourself that your thighs are perfect just the way they are, then they are.

Throughout your day, tell yourself how much you like certain body parts, even if you can’t yet fully stand behind your words. You will see a massive change in the way you appreciate yourself.

Stop letting numbers define you

You have probably heard that statement before, right? But have you really ever thought about it? Have you really thought about what it is that you are implying when you freak out over a certain number on your scale?

I can tell you that before changing my mindset, I did not give this notion a second thought. I needed to always lose weight, it was a law of nature and that was it.

But when I threw away my scale and stopped weighing myself obsessively, I suddenly experienced a level freedom, I had never known before.

Now, I realize that it does not matter which size of jeans I wear or which number an appliance displays, I am a whole person. My question for you is, who are you?

Does your answer involve a certain weight or a certain size? Or did you come up with descriptions like loving mother or best friend?

Now, ask your loved ones who they think you are and listen closely if their answers revolves around numbers. I highly doubt it.

By focusing on numbers, you put yourself down. But not only that, you also limit your real potential in massive ways.

When you define yourself by how much you weigh, you won’t ever be able to achieve amazing goals because you simply don’t believe in your true value. You will never live up to the great person you are supposed to be by limiting your belief system in those drastic ways.

Changing your body image is an essential step in creating the best life for yourself, a life you truly deserve.

Photo by Scarleth White

Anne - Sophie Reinhardt

Anne-Sophie Reinhardt is a body-love expert, self-love advocate and the author of The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Body Image. Join her newsletter and receive your free 3-part video series empowering you to accept yourself wholeheartedly.

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26 Comments

  1. It is a picture forced upon us by society mechanisms that emerged over the years. We all try and desperately strive for something that is imaginary, instead of celebrating what we already have in life. And the looks are the most exploited among this.
    If we think about this we can clearly see that exactly that wrong mindset is forced upon us nowadays, and that it’s up to us to change it for good. Don’t eat healthy because of others; don’t exercise because the society passes you that picture; Do these things for yourself, your health, your lifestyle. That’s what counts.

    Great article:)

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment, Slavko. You are absolutely right, the media and society focus way too much on appearance and it is up to us to change our mindset.
      Taking care of ourselves is our job and we should do it for nobody but ourselves. Otherwise we are doomed to live a super miserable life.

      Reply
  2. Hi Anne-Sophie,

    Thank you for sharing your story so bravely. Congratulations to fighting off your demons and for sharing your journey with the rest of us.

    I’d like to add one thing on improving your body image. Touch. What does your body feel like? Can you appreciate how it functions, works, whatever it looks like? You might not be happy with what it looks like but you still have a perfect body – it works. You can feel hunger, sleepiness, joy. Your body can tingle, it can dance, it can move. For me, that’s beautiful and that helped me appreciate my own body more.

    Isabelle

    Reply
    • Thanks, Isabelle. I love your suggestion and I have to admit, I hadn’t even thought of it.
      Touch is such an important aspect and if we do it consciously and without immediately judging ourselves, we can learn a lot about the body we were given.
      I do believe that it is good to appreciate our body for functioning and for letting us live. Realizing this will help everybody see their bodies differently.

      Reply
  3. For just a moment, I want to play the role of “Reality Jane.” Sure, we’re all aware that there’s a point when we must declare, “I am enough.” However, who amongst us does not want to be accepted and loved by others? It may sound shallow but, we’ll alter our dress, our conversation, our demeanor, and even find ourselves ‘sucking in our gut’ within certain circles. All, in an effort to be accepted and/or appreciated. We know that, in principle, we should not allow others to dictate what’s acceptable but, underneath it all (and whether we’re willing to admit it or not), it matters.
    As a child, I was so petite that even my newest pants needed to be pinned in order for me to wear them. As a teen (and totally due to genetics), I was taller and larger than most. Since I wasn’t “tiny” I endured many lonely moments. The boys didn’t want a girlfriend that they’d have to look up to see and they chose, rather, to call me names like Big Bird. So, I became a “class clown” of sorts and used my gift to sing in order to gain friends. Now, 20 years and 3 children later, I’m overweight, struggling, and wishing that I’d truly appreciated my teen-self. I would have nurtured her and assured her that “this too will pass” rather than just giving up and setting myself up for future heartache. Now, I find myself avoiding mirrors and defeating myself in every weight loss effort.
    My heart and mind acknowledge my worth. I know that “under all of this” I am a phenomenal human being. I recognize that I’m smart, loving (and loved), and gifted. But, I’m fighting to make my body comply with what my heart believes! This disconnect is horrible but, realistic and I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

    Reply
    • Kimberly, I can absolutely relate to your feelings. And it is true, we all want to be loved and nobody wants to be judged. However, is your weight really what you want to be known for or do you rather want others to admire you because of your strength, you courage, your wit or your intelligence?

      Being disconnected form your body is painful and horrible, just like you said. I have felt that way for most of my life, but you can turn it around. There are many ways in which you can change your mindset. I wrote an entire guide about that in order to help others achieve what I did without losing any weight.

      I often find it said that we put ourselves down so easily because of how much or little we weigh and from my own experience, I know that we often stand in our own way of feeling great about ourselves. We think we don’t deserve to love our body because it doesn’t look like the ones you see in the magazine or because you have an extra few pounds. But we do deserve to love our bodies right now. We all do, no matter if you’re tall or short, round or skinny.

      I’d love to challenge you to stand in front of your mirror and tell yourself nice things. Do this over and over and over again and you will not avoid in anymore. It takes work, yes, but it is worth it. :)

      Reply
  4. Very insightful post. I get obsessed with the number on the scale from time to time. It’s hard to stop focusing on something so meaningless. Really, what’s important is how I feel, how my clothes fit, etc.

    I gained a lot of body confidence after I took a risk and became a nude model for art students (which I wrote about on my blog today). I was able to accept a lot of my imperfections by looking at the finished sketches–I was flawed, but beautiful.

    Reply
    • Wow, Sage, being a nude model takes tremendous courage. I am impressed! :) I used to be obsessed with the number on the scale too. It can be so devastating and has such a huge power over you, doesn’t it?
      There is an easy fix for that though: simply throw it away. You don’t need it.
      I know it is easier said than done, but once you get rid of it, you will feel enormously better.

      Reply
  5. Hi Anne,
    It’s such a shame what we put ourselves through when it comes to our body image. I know it is not always easy but once we accept the way that we look it becomes so much easier to change the things we want to.

    Even if are body is not in perfect shape there are always key places that tend to stand out so why not emphasize those areas instead.

    take care…

    Reply
    • Justin, I love what you say here. This is such an important message that we need to focus more on. Yes, we are all flawed, but this is what makes us who we are.
      Just like you, I am always sad to see people really hate their bodies (well, I used to be one of them) and I really hope that the more we talk about it, the more people will wake up and start changing their thoughts.

      Reply
  6. Anne,

    I wish there wasn’t so much faulty information floating about the health world. Although I believe happiness should come from within, being able to look at yourself in the mirror and be happy does bring about a thought of freedom.

    I don’t know why – it just does.

    I’m currently trying to find this at the moment, after having it and losing it through my mindset. Nice article.

    Reply
    • Fin, thanks for the comment. I agree with you, there is tons of faulty information out there and, unfortunately, many people simply believe everything they read.
      I think that the freedom comes from accepting you the way you are and not always criticizing yourself and your appearance. Is there anything more freeing than exhilarating than loving yourself? I don’t think so.
      Hope you will find your way back to a healthy mindset soon.

      Reply
  7. Wanting to make a change is a major step. The hardest thing to do is to know why you want to make that change. I believe the reason has to be in the process so we enjoy the journey going through the actual change. What helped me in the past was to define what I was going to do with the end result. The answer can be surprising but also provided direction when I was going at it the wrong way.
    Good luck in your journey!

    Reply
    • Hi Antonia, thanks for the comment. Yes, having a reason and an end goal in mind is super important in order to make you stay on the course.

      When I started my recovery from anorexia, I knew exactly why I wanted to recover and this helped me through many dark days. The best thing you can do is to write down how you will feel once you have reached your end goal and how your life will ideally look like. This will help you to envision the result.

      Reply
  8. I too have had a nasty tango with ED. Thankfully, by the grace of God, I have nearly 15 years of sobriety under my belt (Yay!). Your post hit very close to home and it made me think of the things I have had to do to stay positive, sane, and sober. They all come so natural to me now but it took years of work to get me that way. I still cut the tags out of my pants and weigh backwards at the doctor’s office. I have thrown out all scales in my house and kept it that way. I force myself to look in the mirror and say I’m important even if I don’t believe it at the time. Any time I catch myself saying anything negative about myself I make sure and back it up with something positive (sometimes two things positive, it just depends on the violation). There are so many ways to fight this revolting disease we just need to keep reminding each other what those ways are so that we are armed for battle. Thank you so much for this post I think I needed a reminder to let me recall how I survive day to day, in order for me to help others. I recently started my own blog http://www.withoutalabel.me and I will definitely be using this topic. Here is one of my favorite poems to help remind me to love me!

    My New Best Friend

    Today I met a great new friend
    Who knew me right away
    It was funny how she understood
    All I had to say

    She listened to my problems
    She listened to my dreams
    We talked about love and life
    She’d been there, too, it seems

    I never once felt judged by her
    She knew just how I felt
    She seemed to just accept me
    And all the problems I’d been dealt

    She didn’t interrupt me
    Or need to have her say
    She just listened very patiently
    And didn’t go away

    I wanted her to understand
    How much this meant to me
    But as I went to hug her
    Something startled me

    I put my arms in front of me
    And went to pull her nearer
    And realized that my new best friend
    Was nothing but a mirror

    Reply
    • Hi Kim, thank you so much for the comment and for being so brave in your recovery. Congrats on 15 years of being strong! That is a major achievement. I love everything you say and it shows that you have a very good and healthy system in place in order to keep you from relapsing.

      I think that knowing your triggers and eliminating them out of your life is vital in recovery and having great habits like positive affirmations in place saves many dangerous situations. I hope you will stay strong and I will definitely check out your blog.

      Love the poem, by the way.

      Reply
  9. Hi Anne Sophie

    Thanks for sharing your story here too. I love hearing your experience and the different things you’ve learnt from it. Kudos to you for coming such a long way!

    Stay cool my friend!

    Noch Noch

    Reply
    • Hi Noch Noch,

      thanks for stopping by. I think it is my obligation to share what I have learned in the hopes of helping others with it. I think we all can love ourselves and I want to spread the word as wide as possible. :)

      Reply
  10. I recently read about some brain research that shows that the part of the brain that handles physical pain is the same part of the brain that handles social pain. In other words, physical and social pain feel the same and are the same to our brains.

    We live in a world that is in huge denial about pain – both physical and social pain. So when we feel it and acknowledge it we often experience new rejection from the people around us. When we are young it is particularly debilitating because we usually have no recourse and often end up becoming depressed and angry with ourselves for being the “wrong” kind of person. We blame ourselves to protect ourselves from the painful rejection of others since we need them to survive.

    We end up with pain piled upon pain and no way to solve the problem. If no one protects us and we cannot protect ourselves we will create a way to handle to problem. Eating disorders are a “solution”. Eating disorders as well as other addictions are a way to relieve ourselves of pain and distract ourselves from it. It feels like we are doing something about it even if we are only hurting ourselves.

    It is important to recognize that these problems are epidemic because our cultural system has serious issues, ones that we are only starting to address. The more you can find a way to be kind to that hurt child inside and become a part of the change the better you will be able to feel.

    We all deserve to be cared about and loved.

    Reply
    • Maria,

      every single world you just said hit home for me. Yes, we engage in eating disordered behavior because we want to stop feeling the pain and we are helpless and don’t know what else to do.

      However, the more you engage in these toxic behaviors, the more you hurt yourself.

      You are so very right, we all deserve to be cared about, loved and helped. No matter which problems you have, there is always a way out and there is always hope.

      If there’s one message I want to spread than it is this.

      Thanks so much for your insight.

      Reply
      • I am glad it hit home. I just posted an article on my blog based on some research that shows that people process social pain in the same parts of the brain as physical pain. To us humans it all the same thing.

        Reply
        • Maria,

          that is very, very interesting and I will check out the post.

          Reply
  11. Hi Sophie,

    Wow, that must be horrifying to have to check your weight ever few seconds. Body Image is very important to your overall self image. If you don’t feel good about your body, I don’t think it’s possible to fell good about yourself. Thanks for the story!

    Reply
    • Hi Vic,

      It certainly wasn’t fun, but that’s in the past now and I am happy I could leave it behind. I agree with you, body image plays a vital role in how you feel as a person and even in how worthy a person you think you are.
      It’s the first step towards self-love and freedom.

      Reply
  12. Anne,

    I love the article. I think finding this blog was supposed to happen.

    I believe that your journey to overcome the way that you feel about your body is amazing. The mental clarity you must feel now knowing that you love yourself. How much conscious energy do we spend looking for things that we don’t like in ourselves? Take that same energy and apply it to looking for things we do like in ourselves and miracles happen.

    I’d just like to say that I love your blog. Awesome article. :)

    Reply
    • Hi Brian,

      I am so glad to hear you enjoyed the article. You are so very right. We spend hours upon hours on negative thoughts and once we are able to turn them around, we can apply them towards changing our lives and maybe even the world a tiny little bit.

      You’re very kind, thanks so much. :)

      Reply

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