Mental health expert shares five tips to beat body shaming

With the recent accusations surrounding Lizzo for body shaming, Google searches for the term “body shame” have increased 310% over the past week.

On TiKTok though, the hashtag #bodyshaming has over 2 billion views overall, and 1 million of them are within the last 7 days in the United States, presenting a clear view of the body image struggles at the forefront of people’s lives. 

Combating these issues and improving an our self-body image and self-esteem is difficult. Dr Paula Freedman, founder of HumanKind Psychological Services, offers some valuable tips we can all implement in our daily lives to combat feelings of inadequacy, comparison, and, most importantly, shame. 

1) Embrace the “And”

We can allow ourselves to feel more than one thing towards ourselves. For example, our brain might give us critical thoughts about our stomach, but noticing that thought can help us zoom out and recognize “What else can I say about myself?”

By adding something positive, or even neutral, about yourself (whether about your looks or personality and actions), you can recognize that everyone has things they like and dislike about themselves. 

This is different for everyone, but for example, when you get thoughts about not liking your stomach, remind yourself of something you DO like about yourself, maybe another part of your body or a deeper quality, like your sense of humour or kindness. This allows you to eventually start seeing yourself as a whole person, not just a body, and not just a list of flaws.

2) Aim for body neutrality

Loving your body is a process that takes time, and while it doesn’t happen overnight, there are tools you can implement to help change your mindset, such as observing your body in a more neutral way.

Rather than using words that might present judgement such as “love” or “hate,” try looking in the mirror and saying “This is what my body looks like today.” Your body doesn’t have to be categorised as good or bad, but rather can be accepted as it is.

3) Widen your lens

Surrounding ourselves with individuals who differ in body types and diversity allows us to expand our views. Rather than only following social media accounts that fit one narrow, rigid beauty standard or accounts that promote harmful messages telling us to diet or change our bodies, we can follow a wide variety of people. 

For example, it can be helpful to know that between 80-90% of women who have gone through puberty will probably experience cellulite. And a search for body positivity campaigners will give you far more honest and realistic inspiration and role models.

Once you start seeing examples of the beautiful and natural diversity across our species, it gets easier to see yourself, and your body, as belonging. When you’re only exposed to one type of body in the media, it can be tough to realise that your body is acceptable as it is.

When you see the reality, which is that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, it gets easier to stop comparing yourself to a particular image.

4) Take care of yourself 

We can implement changes to care for ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically and focus on our quality of life instead of fixating on our appearance. 

When you focus on living a meaningful life and doing things you enjoy, the way you look starts to take up less space in your mind. Focus on taking care of yourself, nourish your body with foods you enjoy, do activities that you find fulfilling, and spend quality time with people you love.

The more you actively participate in your life, the less important your looks become. You’re a whole person, not just a body to be looked at!

5) Practise gratitude

We can learn to appreciate our body for what it is; a vessel for life. While it might not always look like we want it to, our bodies do their best to keep us living and moving. 

Remind yourself regularly that our body is doing its best to help you through all of life’s adventures and challenges, even if it doesn’t look the way you wish it did or even function the way you want it to.

All bodies deserve love and respect

It helps to remember that all bodies deserve love and respect just as they are. There are plenty of resources to help navigate body struggles, so we can aim to find a support system that can help us overcome our challenges.