How to Stay Body Positive When Everyone’s Talking About Weight Loss

By Stacey L. Nash
February 02, 2023

There’s nothing wrong with using the new year as a starting point for self-improvement. But adopting healthier habits and practicing self-care doesn’t have to mean changing our bodies, despite what popular culture and social media might have us believe.

Advertisements this time of year often come with messaging that subtly (or not so subtly) tells us that our bodies aren’t enough in their current form. It can feel like every conversation, from Twitter threads and TikTok trends to discussions with family and friends, is centered around losing weight or changing some aspect of how we look.

This can make practicing body positivity a challenge. But research suggests that changing our attitudes around dieting and eating in general, rather than actually losing weight, may lead to more lasting, positive changes to our psychological well‑being.

Tips for Staying Body Positive

If you’re struggling to stay positive amid an onslaught of weight loss messaging, these tips may help you practice acceptance, tune out negative voices, and ultimately put your own needs first.

Remind Yourself That Societal Ideals Change Constantly

If you take a closer look at physical health and appearance trends, you’ll quickly realize we’re constantly getting mixed messaging. What’s trendy or fashionable one day is out of style the next.

In the face of these shifting goal posts, something becomes abundantly clear: There's no universal truth when it comes to what’s beautiful or acceptable. What matters—and what’s actually beautiful—is being true to ourselves and what’s good for our individual minds and bodies.

Surround Yourself with Supportive Voices

Falling down a social media rabbit hole of diet culture content that encourages unhealthy behavior is a sure way to feed negativity. And with weight loss ads and too-good-to-be-true posts from celebrities that have been airbrushed and filtered to the utmost degree, it makes it easier to develop unrealistic standards for ourselves, too.

In fact, a 2018 study published in the journal Media Psychology suggests that Instagram users who compared themselves to edited images on the platform saw negative changes in their body image.

Carefully curating your social media feeds can help counteract these messages. “If you notice particular accounts or people make you feel bad about yourself, mute them or unfollow them altogether,” suggests Alexa Shank, L.P.C., a certified eating disorder specialist based in Houston.

Fill those gaps with content creators who encourage acceptance and body positivity (or at the very least, body neutrality). You may also fill your timeline with content that’s completely unrelated to weight loss and, instead, focuses on your favorite hobby, sports, or other things you enjoy.

This same advice can hold true in your in-person interactions. “I surrounded myself with positive people who remind me that what matters is feeling good in my skin,” says Mark Joseph, a St. Louis–based blogger who strives to practice body positivity.

To do that, you may need to set stricter boundaries and cut down on the time you devote to people who feed a negative view of your body or whose own views on body image and diet culture bring you down.

Practice Self-Care—with an Emphasis on Self

Practices like yoga and meditation, or even listening to music or taking a relaxing bath, can help you put your focus on your well‑being instead of your weight or body size. The important thing is that you do something that makes you feel calm and comfortable in your own skin—not necessarily something that’s trending on TikTok.

Swap Comparison for Compassion and a Focus on “Can Do”

In an effort to work on her body image, Aleah M., a mother and competitive powerlifter from Washington, has worked on gradually shifting her mindset toward self-acceptance. “I try to find at least one positive thing about my body and remind myself that I am more than my body—that my value is also in my strength, kind heart, and intelligence.”

Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in eating pathology, recommends taking time to appreciate all the wonderful aspects of your body and what it can do.

For example, your body may get you out of bed in the morning, allow you to wrestle and run around with your rambunctious kids, or participate in that intramural volleyball league that brings you joy. Like Aleah, you can also try identifying positive elements of your personality or character that have nothing to do with the way you look.

“Be intentional about practicing self-compassion,” Shank says. “Try to give yourself kindness and talk to yourself like you would your best friend.”

Wear What Feels Good

If you’re embarking on a New Year’s effort to declutter, consider donating clothes that don’t fit or diminish your confidence. “I decided to work on my body image issues by focusing on things that made me feel empowered instead of insecure,” Joseph says. “I began to dress in comfortable, flattering clothes for my body type rather than ones I felt pressured to wear.”

Fashion trends come and go. Wear what makes you feel like your best self, and let go of any items that make you long for a former version of you or are reserved for a future, “better” you (because present you is great, just as you are).

Set Goals That Focus on Health

Warren suggests focusing on health, not weight, when setting goals. “The journey of life is a long one,” she says. ”The goal really is to be as healthy as possible.”

You might challenge yourself to stay active to increase your flexibility, boost your heart health, or simply make it easier to do things around the house. You can push yourself to get more fiber for better digestive health or go vegetarian for the planet. When you move beyond what you look like and choose to focus on how you feel, you open yourself up to body positivity and many more possibilities for healthy self-improvement.

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