Move your body in a way that feels good
Instead of forcing yourself up super early for boot camp because “you have to,” think about how moving actually makes you feel. “Exercise can be great, but not if you’re using it as punishment,” says Bishop. “Try to divorce movement from changing the size and shape of your body, and do things that make you feel joyful.” If it’s been a while since exercise and joy were in the same sentence, think back to what you liked as a kid. Riding bikes? Go to a spin class. Swimming? Head to the nearest pool.
Take a Break
Whether you notice it or not, you’re inundated with messages in your daily life that shape how you feel about your body. To recalibrate, Lindsay Kite, PhD, co-director of Beauty Redefined in New York City, recommends a social media fast for at least three days. “This can resensitize yourself to the messages you’re allowing to permeate your body image.”
Do a social media audit
Once you’re back on the grid, purge all your social feeds of any images that make you feel bad. Fill it with images that inspire you instead of making you feel like you have to aspire to something. Once you’ve cleared the things that feel triggering, experts recommend creating an inspiration board of things you find beautiful—in all sizes. “Start a Pinterest board or a saved collection on Instagram of people who are your size or larger,” says Bishop. “When you see yourself represented in this way, it can be really healing.”
It’s hard to feel at peace when your coworkers at lunch are telling you they “can’t” eat that, or your best friend texts you that she can’t find an outfit for the weekend because she feels fat. “Be honest about how hard it is for you to listen to people’s comments abusing their own bodies,” says Bauer. “Boundaries are important. Think about the length of time you spend with someone—you might love your best friend, but if she’s constantly berating herself, is she the right person to shop with?”
Stop negativity in its tracks
When you’re shooting for a peaceful coexistence with your body, the goal isn’t to eradicate all of your negative thoughts at once—it’s to recognize them so that you can start to make some headway. So when you feel them coming on, Bishop recommends picturing a white flag waving, and saying, “We are not at war today. We’re not doing this today.” Then replace your negativity with a mantra that makes you feel good, like “I am enough,” or “My body is an instrument, not an ornament.”
Take in the sights
If you’re hypercritical of your stomach and you go to the beach, you’re going to be laser-focused on all the women on the beach who have defined abs. So experts recommend making a practice of noticing all of the people you see—not just those who make you feel inferior. “This exercise trains you to notice that there are people of all shapes out there, and they wear all sorts of different things,” says Bishop. “It creates insulation around you so that you don’t feel so fragile in the world.”
Make a three-outfit maximum
If you tend to battle with your body the most when you’re getting dressed, create boundaries. “Set a limit for how long you can stand there and check yourself out,” says Bauer. Let yourself try three outfits, and then you have to go with one of them so that you don’t get bogged down obsessing.
Negativity is usually a symptom of something bigger. “Ask yourself, ‘What do I need?’ when you notice you’re feeling nasty to yourself,” says Bauer. “Often, our bodies are the easiest things to take our anxiety and frustration out on, so identifying what the real issue is can divert the emotions in a healthier way.”