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Disordered Self-Image- 4 Steps Towards Body Respect

By: Sarah Kuretzky Rossington MA, M.Ed, LLPC, SCL, CHHC, CIMHP

Many of us have been taught our bodies are flawed and somehow not good enough as
they are. I know personally, I have struggled with this for the majority of my life. Comparing
myself to other people, wondering when I was going to feel enough. Oftentimes, I would
think “I would like myself better when I lost 10 lbs.” or “ I need to work out harder today to make
up for what I ate yesterday.” Loving every inch of my body seemed like a long shot so I started
with body respect instead of body love. I have worked with countless clients on being more body
positive and understanding different ways to respect their bodies and came up with four steps
that help.

Step 1: Wear Clothes That Fit
Wearing clothes and undergarments that are too tight makes you uncomfortable and
does show your body respect. Tight clothes make you feel restricted and trapped. I have had
clients explain that they would wear clothes that would make it difficult to breathe and all they
could think about was getting home and getting into their favorite sweats so they were finally
comfortable. They would feel so closed in that all they could think about was how their clothes
felt that they couldn’t be in the moment. I can not stress enough how freeing it is to box up and
donate those old “diet” clothes that bum you out when you see them or try to wear them. A
closet full of clothes that don’t fit can make you anxious about being in social situations and
dread going out. Having a closet full of clothes that fit will bring you joy and ease your decision-making.

Step 2: Stop Body Checking
For many of my clients, this one is really difficult, checking mirrors, elevators, dressing
rooms, and reflections of a window, or a car as they walk by. While doing this negative thoughts and
talk start creeping in. This checking only continues to perpetuate the judgment we hold about
measuring up to the illusion of the perfect ideal body. So I ask clients to stop and pause before
they body check. This will send positive neurotransmitters to the brain and regulate behaviors
and anxiety. Cortisol decreases when a person is practicing body respect and the body
produces serotonin in response to positive self-talk. This will ensure a person is treating
themselves with care and love regardless of their size or weight.

Step 3: Filter Your Feed on Social Media
We internalize the images we see in the media. I ask clients to scroll through their social
media and ask them to journal what they see and what ads come up. If they are exposing
themselves to triggering images like “fitness influencers” or “Instagram models” with specific
body types that they have been trying to attain, would they be willing to unfollow accounts or
hashtags that impact them in a negative way? Accounts that are wrapped up in diet culture with
before and after pictures can be damaging to some people. When we compare ourselves with
these social media accounts it has the potential to affect the valuation of ourselves. Many
adolescents have been developing disordered eating due to the filters and images on social
media. And according to the National Eating Disorders Association, societal norms and ideals
place LGBTQ+ populations at a greater risk of developing a negative body image and
disordered eating patterns.

Step 4: Start a Practice of Gratitude
I have a daily gratitude practice and I ask my clients and students to start a daily
gratitude journal . Depending on the age of the student and client I may use prompts to get them
started but this practice has been shown to decrease leaves of stress and anxiety. Body
dissatisfaction can increase cortisol which increases stress levels in the body. When working
with clients that have disordered eating and or body dissatisfaction, I ask them to find things
they appreciate about their body. For example; arms to hug my partner or my legs that can carry
me through my day. By focusing on these positive aspects to foster appreciation for everything
your body does for you daily is a great step into body respect.

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