How to Help Someone with Body Image Issues
Written by: Shruthi Chacko – M. Sc (Psychology)
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It can be hard to love our bodies in the present world we are living in. You might be okay with how you look. But, you are constantly reminded by others how your nose is not straight enough. Maybe, even if your hair is not thick enough. The chatter around the world about the perfect body can cause a lot of unrest and feelings of not being enough. I can assure you that, you are not the only woman/man who feels like this. In fact, most of us go through this sense of insecurity and lack of self-worth now and then. How to help someone who is insecure about their body? Do you want to know how you can help someone with body image issues?
Well, you are in the right place. Continue reading this article to learn how you can help your family member/ friend who is going through this.
Watch Out for the Subtle Signs of Body Image Issues
Self Critical Thoughts About One’s BodySometimes, you may keep these critical thoughts about your body to yourself. You will notice how this self-criticism affects your self-confidence and well being. For example, let’s say that your friends are getting ice cream. You say that you don’t want to eat ice cream. But, in reality, you really wish you could. Deep down you think that you are too fat or do not deserve to have fun.
Comparing Your Body Shape and WeightThis is something that all of us do. It may be something that you do in your head or you may even say it out loud and open. But, sometimes it can go overboard and you are almost comparing yourself with others by default. For example, you watch it in a room. You immediately scan others’ bodies, trying to see if anyone’s body is bigger than yours or thinner than yours. In fact, this act of comparing can become so automatic that you were not even realising that you were doing it. This can turn into body image issues.
Feeling Jealous of Others BodiesYou can get jealous of anyone. If you be a celebrity, a complete stranger, a friend or even a family member. Sometimes, you may even dislike someone, because they are making you feel insecure about your body. Because her/his body meets closely to societal body standards. This may result in you feeling jealous of them.
Signs of Body Image Issues
- They may show some sense of guilt or reistance to eat food
- May avoid social gathering with family or freinds. Anything social situation that involves eating together.
- They are obsesesively thinking about the number of calories that they are consuming.
- Using substances that reduces one’s weight. Substances such as cigarettes, diet pills or even excessive amounts of caffeine.
- They try to hide and eat or making sure that nobody is seeing them eat ” unhealthy” food.
- They go on to eat nothing for long periods of the day or eating a large amoutn of food at a time.
- May constantly keep weighing themselves now and then. Maybe even a couple of times in a day
- Wearing clothes that are baggy and hides their bodies
- Repeatedly, making very self depracatory statements about their bodies.
How Can You Help Someone with Body Image?
Try Not to Talk Negatively About Your BodyHow can you help someone who is insecure about their body? This is a very important thing to be aware of. It can be hard if you are also someone who is struggling and is getting help for body image issues. It might be tempting to talk about your struggle with body image. But, try your best not to. You may go on to think that when you are telling them about their struggles, they might feel at ease. In fact, the conversation becomes into negative self-talk and brings in a lot of negative energy.
Also, remember not to comment on others’ bodies much. When you try to avoid commenting negatively on others’ bodies, it contributes to encouraging body-shaming culture further on.
Compliment on Something Other Than Their BodySo how can you help someone who is insecure about their body? Compliment them on something that is not based on their body. It is very natural for you to go on to say something like ” No, you are perfect” or ” You are beautiful” to a friend who might be feeling unattractive or feel they are ugly. In fact, your intentions might be good when you say all that. But, they may not see it the way you do. Instead, what you can do is help to see other parts of themselves. Talk about things that are not related to their body. Maybe they have a great sense of humour or are very strong and resilient. This can encourage them to see beyond their body and notice that they are worth more than what they think they are.
Help Them to Talk About Their Feelings about their Body ImageHow can you help someone with body image issues? Encourage them to tell you how they are really feeling. Give them a space where they can start to reflect and see their own beliefs and actions. When they are openly talking about how this all might have begun. The answers will come to them gradually. Try asking them very gently,w what caused these feelings in the first place? What triggered it? Did something happen for them to have a poor body image?
Try to Encourage Self CompassionSelf-compassion can improve one’s body image and mental well being. Tell them the importance of having self-love and taking some time out for yourself. It could be anything- maybe you like going for a walk, dancing, doing a skincare routine. Anything that gives you peace of mind is self-care. When you are encouraging them to see within themselves and learnt to love even the not so beautiful sides of them. Hence, with self-compassion and self-care, one can learn to be more kind and loving to themselves.
At Epsychonline we have a few series of self-help courses such as ”Body Image Concerns” that can help you enhance your body image struggles and make you more self-confident. Please visit our Courses page to find understand about it. Perhaps, you may wish to learn more about body image. If yes, then possibly you could attempt reading up a bit more on ” Disturbed body Image: Are you at Risk? ” or ”Stop body shaming- What needs to be done?” to get a better understanding of body image.