Body Bliss: Turn Every Negative into a Positive

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Your thighs are too big. Those fat rolls on your stomach look disgusting. Your butt is as wide as a house. Your breasts aren't perky enough. Your arms need to be more toned. And since you're wondering, yes, that outfit does make you look fat.

You probably wouldn't dream of saying the things above to your friends, let alone your worst enemies! But you're probably guilty of talking like this to the most important person of all. Yourself.

Comments like these may enter your mind only occasionally if you're lucky. But for those who struggle with negative body image or poor self-esteem, these private thoughts occur dozens or even hundreds of times per day. No matter how often you talk down to yourself, the effect is always the same: It hurts you. And it sabotages your weight-loss efforts, your ability to stick to an exercise program, and your well-being, too.

We're all guilty of putting ourselves down sometimes—whether for your appearance, a mistake you made at work or an embarrassing moment. We would never stand for someone else talking to us the way we speak to ourselves on a regular basis. So what do you do about it?

I'm a pretty happy and confident person, but I'd be lying if I said that I never think negatively about myself. In fact, it happens more often than I'd like to admit. There was a time that I hid in oversized clothes, lamented about my body shape almost constantly, and couldn’t go anywhere without comparing my body to the other women around me. (Am I bigger? Is she thinner? Do my thighs look like hers?) I'm happy to say that I've improved in those areas and rarely think about my body or its size, shape or weight in a negative light anymore. It wasn't an easy thing to accomplish—it really took perseverance. One technique that helped me start down the path of self-love and body acceptance was to stop the negative self-talk dead in its tracks.

I know what you're thinking: That's easier said than done. After all, some people have a body image so low that they can't even think of a single thing they LIKE about themselves. Been there. Now, however, I can tell you lots of things that I like about my body. And at the very least, I know how to nip those negative thoughts in the bud before I let them get the best of me. You can do it, too. Here's how.

  1. Notice the negative. The first step is simply taking note each time a negative thought about your body, weight or appearance pops into your head. Often, we think these things so quickly and so often, that we don't really notice them or realize that they truly do affect us.
  2. Stop the thought. Once you notice that thought, stop it instantly. Don't even complete the sentence once you know where it's going. If the sentence(s) came to fruition, stop there. Don't let one negative thought turn into a laundry list of things you don't like about yourself.
  3. Spin it around. As quickly as you noticed yourself lamenting about your thighs, for example, talk back to yourself. I know that it's not easy to go from saying "I hate my thighs" to "I love my thighs," especially when you don't really feel that way. That's OK. Start by saying positive things that you really DO believe or know to be true.

    Start by being appreciative of your body as a tool for living your life—focusing on all of its amazing functions and strengths. When I start thinking my thighs are too big or not toned enough or whatever it may be, I talk back by focusing on all the positive things about them: "My thighs aren't here to impress others—they're tools for me to use to live my life to the fullest. My thighs are strong. My legs carry me through my day and my life. I'm fortunate to have legs that are able to walk, run, bike and do all the things I enjoy. I should appreciate my legs, including my thighs—for all the reasons that make them great—more often. And I reject the idea that I should change to fit in to some culturally stipulated idea that every person should look a certain way. Just like hair color or height, people's bodies are different sizes and shapes. I'm fine just as I am!"

Notice how I didn't go from "hating" something to "loving" it in a matter of seconds. Instead, I focused on the real facts and accomplishments, reminding myself that there are a variety of sizes and shapes—none of which are "right" or "wrong."

You can follow these steps and spin the negative into a positive for just about anything. Try it next time you put yourself down and I promise that not only will you feel better about yourself—almost instantly—but you'll really begin to believe what you say, think negatively less often, and go further away from "hating" a part of yourself and a lot closer to loving it. That also means that you're more likely to go to the gym to take care of that amazing body of yours; eat healthy because you know you deserve to feel your best; and reach your goals because you know that you're pretty great and that you can do anything you set your mind to!

How often do you say negative things about your body? Are you willing to give this technique a try?

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This was a great reminder for me b/c I had to learn during my teens and 20s to not be so hard and negative on myself. I had to learn that this is my body and be thankful for especialy since it's healthy and functioning properly. I had my moments of comparing myself to other women, but I had look the fact that I gain weight different from them and gain simliar to the women in my family.
The biggest thing I had to struggle with in being negative was/is comparing myself to myself. Such as my thighs. When I gained weight in my teens, it showed in thighs (and glutes) and I pretty much stayed slim everywhere else. Back then I was usually only 10 lbs shy from the weight I needed to be. Whenever I lost some weight, it seemed like my thighs were the same size. Then I just had to learn to accept it (thinking one day, with work, they will get slimmer) as looked pretty much thin anyways and people didn't usually notice my thighs as the rest of my legs which looked slim. But now, with gaining several pounds in the course of a year and a half, my thighs are probably a third larger they were just then, and especially three years ago. And now I compare the small issues I had with my stomach, which was pretty slim but now bigger, and the similar issues I had with my glutes which was already too big to me and now bigger. I went from an ok weight, wanting to lose maybe a few more pounds one day, to not being able to fit any of my clothes and being the heaviest I ever been. I usually have to catch myself comparing starting weight of losing with others b/c some start at my inital weight I struggled with (160-170s), and I gained several pounds beyond that, not thinking I would gain that much. But in the lines of comparing myself to myself, I was extremely upset at myself for gaining all this weight b/c I could fit clothes, even though I just look like I am simply thick in places (and to others outside my family not needing to lose weight) and much of this weight gain was due to depression and stress eating.
I think one of the things I can't say to myself is that my body parts don't have to be a certain size. To me, I'll sound like someone that would have fight within myself not to fuss at them for making such a remark, not knowing a thing about me. Because in my mind it sounds like complacency, and an excuse not to change (even though I know it can be taking differently like the way you said in not comparing to others.) I don't like the size that they are now. What I have to say at time is ok, I am working on that so that they will be the size I want them to be. Nowadays, I'm frustrated b/c I have lost very little weight or inches this year (and I gained back the few I lost). I started to take this weight loss journey seriously in Dec, and just realized a few weeks ago my undereating has preventing me from losing any weight. so, really I have to fight to not be negative, but I know it can be done. Report

It goes both ways. You notice the fat girls in the skimpy clothes because they stand out. You don't notice the thin girls in the baggy clothes, because they are slinking around in the background, trying very hard not to be noticed because they don't want you to see how fat they are. Report

I've been doing something like this for awhile now. Usually when I go running I always feel like people are staring at me and as soon as I feel like I should stop running cause I'm too big, I always, always, always remind myself that I have really nice calf muscles. I focus on that 1 body part that I really like and it forces me to continue on!

It's hard cause I always think that passerby's are thinking "why does she think she can run?" Or I always think that they're thinking "wow, look at that fat girl trying to run" (both of which are really negative and hard to push out of mind) but I've found that each time I focus on a body part of mine I really like (like my legs), it helps me (even for a little while) to keep moving forward. :)

Violet Report
I think that for more women see themselves as NOT fat, that are, than the other way around. Just go to the mall and see women wearing skimpy tops with fat rolls hanging out, and you know they have to be in denial. Report
One time my husband said to me, "I know you have this negative body image thing going on but I just don't see it." It kind of woke me up because I never considered my constant picking on myself as a negative body image. I just thought I was being realistic, honest. But I definitely still struggle with this. I love this blog because it helped to wake me up again. Report
Wish me luck... this is the hardest thing for me to do. Im a realist and can only internalize what I see before me- and its hard to say anything positive about that. I want to turn that around- I want to see beyond my flaws. Report
This is an issue that I have a lot of trouble with, and I'm willing to take on the challenge. Just yesterday I berated myself for having fat, cottage cheese legs and told myself I shouldn't be wearing shorts. I need to remember that those legs are long, strong, and healthy, and that I'm blessed that I have full use of them. I'm eating well and exercising regularly, so they're not only helping me achieve my goals, but they're getting stronger in the process.

Thank you for such an insightful article. It really made me think about my thought processes. Report
I love this article. My husband sometimes tells me I have a disease that makes me see myself two sizes bigger than I really am. I look in the mirror and point out my muffin top and huge thighs and unproportionate arms and he tells me, "I don't know who you are looking at but I don't see any of those get over it." Haha! Report
You know, I'm at a stage right now where I vacillate between happy and content with myself and intense self-loathing. It rears it's ugly head normally after or during an intense period in life - whether exercising when already tired and exhausted or having put myself out there that I'm not used to doing anymore. Normally triggered from noticing how "weak" I am. I had the experience last night to be frank and this post has helped me to realize that you know, at least I am putting myself out there. I'm figuring it out and not hiding, running away or soothing myself with self-destruction. Report
This skill of appreciating ourselves for what we can do, is the most life changing tool that I learned on Spark. Report
Negative self-talk is probably the biggest challenge for me to overcome. I have lost a LOT of weight, but the negative talk still persists. I am trying to look in the mirror and appreciate how much better I look than I used to. It's all about feeling great that I can do things that I couldn't when I was obese. Then, I think of how lucky I am that I CAN do these things, whereas someone who is wheelchair-bound, or otherwise physically incapable of walking, biking, etc. cannot. I feel so lucky that my years of treating my body so poorly has not totally hampered my "recovery." I know of some (women) who lose a lot of weight, but then still have terrible joint and bone issues because of their former obese life. They are limited in what they can do for exercise, and that makes their weight journey even more difficult. I am grateful that I don't have those issues, and I am thankful that I can do whatever I like now that I am healthier. Report
I'm definitely guilty of focusing on my features that aren't just right. Occasionally I'll have a moment of inspiration and be grateful and appreciative of all the great things my body does for me. It's more than an individual problem; it's a cultural problem--we are busy trying to look "perfect" or like models and we don't emphasize enough what's beneath the skin. I'll never be model-thin, but I'm strong and healthy. Report
I complain about my body everyday, thighs and abs being my primary complaint. I am blessed to have the use and activity of my limbs. God blessed me with a healthy body and I am motivated to keep it that way. I will indeed try the techniques. I do love myself. I just wish that I had treated myself better when I was younger because it is a daily struggle. Report
Am generally a positive person and see some good in every person I meet when it comes to my body the negative creeps in and know need to exercise and eat right am trying this time one quarter of a pound at a time and mild exercise and so far it is working Report
Being a cancer survivor has really made me grateful for every day that i get to wake up and live life. I continue to desire a healthier body and lifestyle, but am just thankful to be alive. Report
I am by nature a positive person. I try to always find the good in a situation and that includeds my own body. It is far from perfect but I realized many years ago that I would never be perfect (what ever that means) and to accept what I had. The size of my body does not define me or the person I am. Now I am trying to lose the weight that slowly attached itself to me over the past 20 years, not because I want a "screaming hot body," but because I want to live well into my 80's and prehaps beyond. As I approach my 68th birthday I wish I had started sooner with this process but better late than never. Report
A wonderful article! Isn't it amazing what we can achieve by just using our minds? Report
I am just plain FAT. No 2 ways about it. There is no hope. Report
I am loving me more and more. Tho there are days when I struggle, I get over it quickly and begin loving me all over again.

ThinMeant1205 Report
I used to feel exactly this way. I "couldn't" go swimming because my thighs were too fat and have too much cellulite to be seen in a bathing suit. I "couldn't" join the gym because I jiggle when I exercise. And on and on.

It's been a real struggle to change my thinking, but I have forced myself to do all the things I told myself I "couldn't" do. (Except I still won't wear shirts with really short little sleeves because I hate my upper arms - lol.)

I love the TV show "How to Look Good Naked" because it shows that we ALL have body issues. If I feel self-conscious about something, I try to remind myself that the person next to me has something they dislike about themselves, too. Report
The cool thing is that we control the thoughts we have, even though it make take a little practice...:-)

I read a really good book that addresses this. It's called "What You Say When You Talk to Yourself" by Shad Helmstetter. So good! I'm learning to put a bouncer at the edge of my thoughts and only let the good ones in, lol! Report
Imagine all we could accomplish with our lives if we used all the energy that we use to beat up on ourselves toward a worthwhile goal. Report
I love this idea. Though, can I admit something a little awful? Sometimes I go too far. I used to think everyone looked better than I do. Sometimes, now I catch myself comparing myself favorably to other people. Good self esteem, I guess, but I'd like to just not notice one way or another. Report
The photo here is not from the Dove campaign, although I agree it look similar. It was taken by an independent photographer, purchasable at Report
I've bookmarked this page. Sage advice. I am going to put it into practice on a daily basis until this becomes routine. It's also getting shared with some very special people. Report
And here I thought I was the only one that looked at others trying to figure out who had the biggest body parts. I even asked my daughter a few times if my backside was bigger than someone else's that were passing by. Can't see mine from behind. might be a good thing. I have gotten better at not being as critical, I know I should be happy with my self. Not bad health that I know of, and I did this to myself. I have to correct it myself also. It will take time and hard work. Report
There is a lot of airbrushing going on to alter already beautiful women that I just don't get! Faith Hill was airbrushed in her Redbook cover.. go to this link to see the difference in the picture - specifically look at her ARM.. in the real picture her arm looks "normal" in the airbrushed it looks excessively thin.
I absolutely agree with the message here. We definitely need to stop comparing ourselves to an unrealistic ideal. Butt too fat? Breasts too small? Tummy too lumpy? It's the so-called "imperfections" that make us unique and interesting... and beautiful in our respective ways. But that idea is continually and loudly countered by the models that product makers airbrush to ridiculous heights of unreality.

Thus, too that end: shame on you for including, with this blog entry, a picture from the Dove soap "Real Women" campaign. I thought I originally read about it somewhere here on SparkPeople... but I guess not. At least, I can't find anything on it doing a site search. But those women weren't any more "real" than their professional model counterparts after the airbrusher got done with them. For anyone who hasn't heard the story, here's a link to a capsulated version of it:

C'mon folks: if we're going to celebrate all our different and glorious shapes, then let's stop waffling, and start celebrating for real!!!! Report
Actually one of the first things I noticed that had changed since finding Spark was that my negative self-talk and negative comments about my body to my darling just ceased. I used to think and talk negatively about myself daily - I used to tell my sweetie how FAT I was, and it must have been really annoying.
I just stopped doing that without really thinking about it - I believe it was a result of taking baby steps towards healthier living, making plans, focusing on goals, seeing progress and gaining momentum in my weight loss. Now I'm really proud of myself and what my body can do. It is working so much better these days! Report
I think this may be harder than losing the actual weight. Looking back, I realize that I was thinking negatively about myself when I was much, much smaller. Report
My stomach is very large (I am not imagining this), and I have at least 20 lbs. to lose before I would even consider myself on the upper end of an acceptable weight. However, I really must say that I think the rest of my body is ok. I guess that is a positive. Report
We are our worst critic. I will definitely use your words of advice next time I catch myself thinking of a put down. Report
Mostly to myself do I say negative things about my body. Yes I am definately ready to stop this nasty habit and put these tools into action! Report
This is something I continue to struggle with but have gotten better over the past two years. The first thing that helped me was to think of a good friend of mine who was paralyzed in an accident two years ago. She and I shared similar body shapes, hobbies and family life. To me when I start to feel like I don't want to get on the treadmill or that I think my thighs are bad....I think of her. At least I am able to use those legs and although they aren't like I want them to be...they support me and carry me to the activites of my children and to all the things I love to do.
The second event that helped me was being on the show How to Look Good Naked. This show taught me that I wasn't seeing what everyone else saw....that I am my own worst critic and I should embrace what I have been given. I still have bad days...but I am alot better then I used to be. Report
I have always been very critical of myself. I always thought my belly wasn't flat enough or my arms were too flabby. Becoming overweight has made me even more self-conscious of those things but it has also made me realize how unrealistic I was being about my image when I was thin. I would give anything to look like I did then. But one thing I've realized as I've gotten older is that regardless of the way I look I am a lot healthier than some of my friends who are thin and look good in bikinis. I have several thin friends who have high cholesterol or high blood pressure and some who even have a bit of trouble keeping up when we walk together. It has made me realize that even though I may not look better than others on the outside, I am healthy on the inside. I truly believe that if you feel good on the inside it will show on the outside. Report
There are so many people who have a negative self image about themselves and that can really be a huge obstacle in bettering themselves. This gives great ideas to help people change that way of thinking. Every morning when I get up and look at myself in the mirror, I make it a point to find a positive thing about me. It has been helping me see a better body image of myself. Report
Before I started exercising and eating right I thought those thoughts all the time but with the help of spark people and my work outs I try to think of what I am going to be and focus more on that. Report
All day I have been thinking about how big my thighs are! Thanks for suggesting a positive way to stop the madness of negative thinking. Report
I feel all right about my body. But for those who feel negative about their physical selves, this is definitely something worth trying. Report
Thanks for this heads up-I do this to myself all the time-will try to refocus and learn to appreciate all the blessings that I do have Report
What a wonderful tip. Here's something that help me deal with a negative self-image. I posted this scripture on my bathroom mirror. " I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well (Psalms 139:14). Who greater than God to affirm who and what we are. Report
I have tried this technique. I did it while I was teaching school. I must admit I have very ugly toes and the children use to laugh at them when I wore shoes that exposed them. I would tell them, "Thank God that they get me where I want to go. There are some people with no toes or feet". Report
Oh my I can relate. Report
Being the mother of two girls, this is exactly the approach I need to take to give my girls the tools to deal with their bodies and have positive self image. My daughters are only 4 and 2, but now is the time for them to start to learn about body image. They are built very differently, so the more I can do to help them, the better off we will all be!

I needed this article right now! Report
This was just what I needed to hear!!! I found myself just yesterday looking at a woman and wondering how I could have thighs as small as hers!!

I never give myself credit for the things I have accomplished thanks to the body God gave me, like the fact that it carried 2 beautiful children for 9 months.

Thanks so much for the great post!!1 Report
I have a flabby belly that I'm pretty disgusted with on a daily basis. I just have to remind myself that having a healthy 1 year old is worth it and hopefully with time and patience I can transform it! Report
Thank you for the needed reminder. I am often too hard on myself. Report
I probably think negative things about my body more often than my brain will even allow me to admit! No matter the gains I make, there always seems to be something else to lament about. But you're right, I wouldn't allow a friend of mine to treat herself the way I treat myself! We're just nicer to other people than we are to ourselves! Report
I insert a mantra when I have a negative thought about my body. I stop the thought as quickly as possible (like you suggested) and I insert, "I'm getting there". This has REALLY helped me to feel better about myself and has helped to stop hating that particular body part. Report