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Losing, gaining and accepting yourself at every weight

Two woman hugging in field
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No matter what your gender and age, it’s normal to take pride in how you look and be concerned about staying in shape. However, for lots of us, this concern can tip over into a dislike of our appearance. In fact, according to one survey by the Mental Health Foundation, almost 1 in 3 adults say they feel overwhelmed by stressful thoughts about their body image.

There’s no denying that our society puts a lot of emphasis on looks – and in particular, being thin. This means that people who are overweight often feel pressured to slim down, and not just for the sake of their health. At the same time, lots of thin people who tick the boxes for “conventional” beauty feel just as uncomfortable with their appearance.

The truth is that all bodies are different, and weight or BMI alone isn’t always a good indicator of a healthy lifestyle. That’s why we should all try to be more accepting of the way we look.

Why good body confidence is vital

Feeling unhappy with your body can have a big impact on your self-esteem, which can in turn lead to anxiety and depression. It can also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like overeating, smoking and avoiding social occasions.

If you can find ways to feel more positive about your body, you should see a big improvement in your general mental health and happiness.

How you can boost your body confidence

If you’re someone who has struggled with negative body image, finding joy in your body isn’t something that happens overnight. However, there are some small changes you can make that will kickstart the process.

Exercise

Exercise isn’t just good for your physical health, it’s also brilliant for your brain. Whether or not you’re trying to lose weight, getting active on a regular basis can do wonders for your self-esteem and mood, not to mention your energy levels and sleep.

You might be worried that exercise isn’t right for you, or you might feel self-conscious about exercising in front of other people but just remember, there are lots of different ways to get active. You could join a dance class, go wild swimming, take up hiking, cycle instead of getting the bus, or just do some workout videos at home. No matter what your age and ability level, there will be something that suits you!

Don’t focus on numbers

If you find that regularly stepping on the scales is getting you down or preventing you from enjoying life, try to do it less – ideally no more than once a week. Instead, focus on following a healthy lifestyle that incorporates exercise, time for hobbies, and a good balanced diet.

Tailor your social media

If you’re struggling with self-esteem, make life easier by being more discerning about the accounts you follow on social media. Any that put too much emphasis on physical appearance, unrealistic beauty standards, and restrictive dieting may be damaging to your mental health, so consider unfollowing them.

Remember there’s more to you than your looks

If you’re struggling to love yourself because of the way you look, it’s important to remember that there’s so much more to you than the external.

Take some time each week to revisit interests and skills that have nothing to do with your physical appearance. You could organise weekly craft or cooking projects, join a sports team, volunteer for a local charity, or simply make more time to spend with your friends and family.

What to do if you think you have an eating disorder

For some people, feeling uncomfortable or unhappy about how they look could lead to unhealthy eating behaviours. If you think you might be suffering with this, or if you know someone who is displaying the signs, information about how to get help is available.

References

www.mentalhealth.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/body-image
www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/tips-and-support/raise-low-self-esteem
www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits
www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/managing-your-weight/keep-weight-off
www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/behaviours/eating-disorders/overview