Feature Archive

Building a Better Body Image

By Michele Bloomquist
WebMD Feature

April 10, 2000 (Portland, Ore.) -- If you could have a magic wand that would change any part of your body, what would it be? Maybe smaller calves, no cellulite, a flatter stomach, a bigger chest? You aren't alone. "Almost all women have something they would like to change," confirms Anne Stoline, MD, a psychiatrist in Baltimore, Md., who specializes in body image and eating disorder issues. Try these techniques to help you stop wishing for that magic wand:

  • Reprogram the tape. If the voice inside your head reminds you of all your faults, try consciously recording over it with positive self-talk. Remind yourself of your many wonderful attributes. Perhaps you have great hair, are a loyal friend, have cute toes, are creative with paints, or have a strong and healthy heart. When negative thoughts creep in, take away their power by countering them immediately with positive ones.
  • Don't pick yourself apart. Do you think of your body in regions rather than as a whole? This just sets you up to focus on whatever you perceive is a fault. Remember that the sum is greater than the parts. You are a fabulous whole person, not a set of disembodied thighs.
  • Indulge in the delightful. Treat yourself right. Splurge on a set of yummy bath products, get a massage or a facial, light some aromatherapy candles and meditate, escape with a manicure or pedicure -- whatever little luxuries you enjoy. These gifts are an expression of love for yourself.
  • Don't compare notes. With all the media images of beauty bombarding us every day, it's hard not to be affected. But remember: those images are not all real! They take hours of work and good lighting, not to mention liberal retouching.
  • Wear clothes that fit. Of course you're going to feel terrible if you are trying to cram into jeans that are two sizes too small. At the other extreme, don't float around in clothes that are baggy and loose. To feel more confident and at ease, wear clothes that fit (and flatter!) your body shape right now.
  • Exercise and eat right. If your diet consists of low-quality processed foods and you're glued to the couch, it's no wonder you feel bad. Proper nutrition and regular moderate exercise can boost your self-esteem naturally.
  • Keep it in perspective. On those days when you think none of your clothes fit right and you'd be happier if only (fill in the blank), remember, in the end, worrying about your body is a small issue compared to many more important things in life.

Michele Bloomquist is a freelance writer in Portland, Ore.

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