Without using mantras, inspirational quotes, or BS of any kind
Having a “bad body image day” is part of life, with or without an eating disorder. It is also a normal part of recovery. Whether you’ve had a million in a row, or it pops up seemingly out of nowhere, a bad body image day doesn’t have to send you into a tailspin or derail your recovery. Here’s how to deal.
1. Observe without judgement.
If loving yourself today is not realistic, you don’t have to force yourself to repeat mantras or platitudes that don’t resonate. Looking in the mirror and telling yourself you’re just perfect isn’t going to cut it on a day like today. It’s OK to take a neutral stance, instead. Notice the negative thoughts that come up and let them pass without judging them.
Take a step back and be an observer of your thoughts. See a thought for what it is: just a thought. Get curious about where the thought is coming from. What is the thought REALLY about? Is it distracting you from something even harder to deal with? Remember that having an uncomfortable thought does not make you a bad person. Instead of acting on the thought, use the next steps to move on.
2. Opposite Action
On a bad body image day, your first instinct may be to engage in eating disorder behaviors. Your “all or nothing” thinking may kick up, causing you to believe that nothing will ever get better, so why try? Thinking and behaving in this way will surely not help, as you’ve probably discovered over and over in the past. Taking action that is opposite to your urges and emotions can be a life-saving step.
So what exactly does that mean? Exactly as it sounds. If your urge is to self destruct, act with self love and self compassion instead. Be gentle with yourself. Make time for self care. Get a massage (or ask a friend for a back rub), take good care of your body by eating and resting, use that nice lotion or shower gel you’ve been saving for something special, or just get out of the house for a bit instead of isolating. It could make all the difference.
3. Act according to your values
There are two sides to every argument. The voice in your head that gets really loud on a bad body image day is just one side. Your healthy self with values and goals are the other side. Strengthen your healthy self by identifying and acting on your values rather than your urges.
You can start by making a list of the top 5 things that are most important to you in life, from a healthy standpoint. For many, those values may include family, freedom, equality, religious or spiritual values, or even recovery itself. Next, make a list of 5 actions you can take today (or throughout this week) that align with those values. So that may be: doing something nice for someone else, making and keeping an appointment, connecting with someone important to you, reading from a sacred text, participating in a charitable or advocacy effort, enforcing a boundary that is important to you, or just focusing on yourself.
4. Keep It moving
This is both the simplest and most difficult step of all. Don’t dwell. Don’t wallow. Don’t let it dictate your day. Don’t get sucked into the mirror. This is not who you are or what you are here for. Get up, get out, keep going. When it’s hard, ask someone to help you carry your burden, just for today. And most of all, never, ever give up.
Christine Knorr is a therapist and Certified Eating Disorders Specialist in Rockland County, NY. She provides individual and group therapy for children, teens, and adults of all shapes, sizes, colors, and walks of life. For more information, or to book a therapy appointment or speaking engagement, visit Christine’s website at www.christineknorrlcsw.com