5 Ways to Improve Body Image From A Licensed Therapist

improve body image

Written By:


Ryann Nicole

Improving your body image isn’t about learning how to love what your body looks like. Wait, what? I know—hear me out: your body image is about your relationship with your body. In other words, to improve body image, it comes down to how you care for your body, how you respect your body, how you treat your body, and so on. You can have a great body image and not love everything about how you look.

What Makes Up Your Body Image?

  1. Your perception of your body means how you see and think about your physical appearance, like how you look in the mirror, including your size and shape.
  2. Your feelings toward your body are about how you feel and what you think about your physical self, like whether you feel good, comfortable, or not happy with how you look.
  3. Your thoughts about your body involve thinking about your body’s features and deciding if you like them or not.
  4. Your beliefs about your body are the strong opinions you have about your body, which can be influenced by what society thinks, your personal experiences, and your culture.
  5. Actions concerning your body are the things you do because of how you feel about your body, like how you dress, eat, exercise, and interact with others. These actions can show and affect how you see, feel, think, and believe about your body.

Notice how there is absolutely nothing in there about the shape and size of your body. Where do you notice all of these characteristics coming from? Your mind!

What Are the Consequences of Not Working on Body Image?

Let’s be clear about the ramifications of poor body image. It’s not just a harmless struggle and definitely not a struggle that should be shoved under the rug; it can lead to:

  • Emotional distress
  • Low self-esteem
  • Unhealthy dieting habits or eating disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased alcohol/drug use
  • Social withdrawal/isolation
  • Altered sexual behavior or avoidance
  • Engaging in self-harming behaviors
  • Avoiding activities that involve showing your body

Here is the good news: you’re not alone, and your feelings about your body are entirely valid. The silver lining? Your mindset can change without needing to change your body to change how you feel about your body. Meaning, you don’t have to carry this burden forever.

What Are Some Signs You Need To Improve Body Image?

Here are ten common thoughts that show a struggle with body image — how many resonate with you?

  • “If I lose X pounds, I’ll be happy with my body.”
  • “I’m still single because of my appearance; nobody will find this body attractive.”
  • “My life would be better if I could change how I look.”
  • “People notice my appearance first.”
  • “My appearance is responsible for my life’s outcomes.”
  • “If I don’t look my best, people will think my life is a mess.”
  • “Why is my partner with me when there are prettier people out there?”
  • “People would be more interested in me if I looked better.”
  • “I’ll let myself go if I don’t care about my appearance.”
  • “I can only accept my body if I change it.”

The goal here isn’t judgment but curiosity. Question these assumptions. Ask yourself when you first believed them, how long they’ve held you back, and if your life would be different without them.

How Do You Actually Improve Body Image?

A positive body image is built on complete acceptance and positive thoughts about your body. How can we get there? Below are five simple changes that made a world of difference when I struggled with body image:

Focus on What Your Body Does For You

Instead of obsessing over appearances, appreciate what your body can do for you. At the end of each day, reflect on three things your body accomplished, reinforcing the idea that it’s more than just a look.

Wear Clothes That Make You Feel Good

Don’t hang onto ill-fitting or uncomfortable clothes. Get new ones or choose intentionally from your current wardrobe to uplift your mood.

Cleanse Your Social Feed

Be mindful of what you consume on social media. Opt for body-positive content and people who embrace their bodies in all their authenticity.

Distance from Negativity

Cut ties or set boundaries with individuals who perpetuate a negative relationship with their bodies. It’s tough but crucial for your body image journey.

Say No to Body Checking

This one was a game-changer for me. Refuse to evaluate your body repeatedly throughout the day. Walk away from mirrors and reflections, declaring, “Not today.”

Improving Body Image in a Nutshell

Improving your body image doesn’t mean never having a bad body image day. It’s about improving your ability to manage your mind on those days, so they no longer control your happiness. Remember, you’ve got this! Boosting your body image is a journey worth embarking upon, and it all starts with acknowledging if hating your body was the answer to feeling better – you wouldn’t be feeling the way you currently do about your body. What might happen if starting today you began to focus on the relationship you have with your body, rather than what your body looks like?

We don’t know until you try!

Must Read Books To Improve Body Image

Just so you know, I do review everything I recommend. When you buy through links on this page, we may earn a commission.

The Body Is Not An Apology By Sonya Renee Taylor 

The Body Is Not an Apology offers radical self-love as the balm to heal the wounds inflicted by these violent systems. World-renowned activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to reconnect with the radical origins of our minds and bodies and celebrate our collective, enduring strength. As we awaken to our own indoctrinated body shame, we feel inspired to awaken others and to interrupt the systems that perpetuate body shame and oppression against all bodies. When we act from this truth on a global scale, we usher in the transformative opportunity of radical self-love, which is the opportunity for a more just, equitable, and compassionate world–for us all.

What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon

Advancing fat justice and changing prejudicial structures and attitudes will require work from all people. What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat is a crucial tool to create a tectonic shift in the way we see, talk about, and treat our bodies, fat and thin alike.

Body Talk by Katie Sturino

With Body Talk, an illustrated guide-meets-workbook, Sturino is here to help you stop obsessing about your body issues, focus on self-love, and free up space in your brain for creative and productive energy. Complete with empowering affirmations, relatable anecdotes, and actionable takeaways, as well as space to answer prompts and jot down feelings and inspirations, Body Talk encourages you to spend less time thinking about how you look and what you eat and more time discovering your inner fierceness.

More Than A Body by Lindsay and Lexie Kite

From media consumption to health and fitness to self-reflection and self-compassion, Lindsay and Lexie share powerful and practical advice that goes beyond “body positivity” to help readers develop body image resilience—all while cutting through the empty promises sold by media, advertisers, and the beauty and weight-loss industries. In the process, they show how facing your feelings of body shame or embarrassment can become a catalyst for personal growth.

The Body Of Truth by Harriet Brown 

The quest for health and wellness has never been more urgent, yet most of us continue to buy into fad diets and unattainable body ideals, unaware of the damage we’re doing to ourselves. Through interviews, research, and her own experience, Brown not only gives us the real story on weight, health, and beauty, but also offers concrete suggestions for how each of us can sort through the lies and misconceptions and make peace with and for ourselves.

Landwhale by Jes Baker

A deeply personal take, Landwhale is a glimpse at life as a fat woman today, but it’s also a reflection of the unforgiving ways our culture still treats fatness, all with Jes’s biting voice as the guide.

Ryann Nicole

Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach

Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.

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Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.