HOW TO COPE WITH YOUR BODY IMAGE THOUGHTS WITH COMPASSION

body image thoughts

Have you ever experienced your thoughts running away from you?  Maybe you were having a perfectly fine day and suddenly, one thought after the other, you feel like you are spiraling down.

Maybe you’ve experienced your thoughts running away from you in the area of your career, or your relationships, or your self worth.

Or maybe in the area of your food choices, or your body image, or your health.

We’ve all experienced an out of control thought life at one time or the other.  The question is, when we experience those moments, how can we react with compassion?  

Instead of reacting with anger or embarrassment towards our own thoughts?

Let’s get into it!

Why Are Our Thoughts So Important?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “your thoughts are your life”? Weird concept eh?  I remember hearing this for the first time and thinking, “ahhh, nope.  My life is my life…”

I heard the simple example below and it made me think twice… Have you ever been in a super “happy” situation?  Or at least what should’ve been a happy situation?  

Maybe it was your birthday, or your boss congratulated you on a great project at work.  And yet you didn’t FEEL happy.  

Our thoughts are the life we experience.  

If our thought life is happy = we are happy.  

If our thought life is sad = we are sad.  

If our thought life is frustrated = we are frustrated.

Sure, can our life’s experiences add or take away from our lives?  Absolutely!  

Being in a career you hate is for sure going to affect your life. That is a lot more common than you think too, with over 50% of Americans dissatisfied with their jobs according to a Forbes pollIn the same way that finally landing your dream job will most definitely affect your life. 

Our Thoughts Deserve More Credit

The point we are trying to make here is that our thoughts dictate our lives to a greater degree than what’s actually happening within our lives.

We all know that person who makes more money than we could’ve ever dreamt of, lives in a home that is absolutely drool worthy and still, is never happy. Research has shown that as well.

We also all know a person who has been to hell and back, multiple times, and is one of the happiest people we know.  

How is this explainable beyond the fact that our thoughts are our lives.

Our thoughts create our lives, so how can we create “better” thoughts, and particularly with body image?

How do we cope with our thoughts with compassion when they are not the type of thoughts we necessarily want to have to create the life we want? Here’s 4 steps to dealing with your thoughts and turning them into compassion:

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Step 1: Let Your Thoughts Flow Through You

Have you ever been to a personal development retreat where they preached “positive vibes only”?  Or read an influencer’s post that told you to stop thinking so negatively?

How did that work out for you?

When we have a “bad” thought we are told to say NO and change that thought ASAP.  

Why doesn’t this work?

Well, let’s use this in another area of life.  How does that philosophy work with food?  

Want French fries? 


Bad thought.  Change the thought!!  NOW!

“I don’t want French fries.”

“I shouldn’t eat French fries.”

“French fries are bad.”

Did it work?  Oh no?  All you are thinking about is French fries now?  

Ya, me too!

When we resist a thought, we create tension around the thought within our bodies.  

Guess what works much better?  Allowing the thought or feeling to move through you!  

Extending compassion to both yourself, and that thought.

Allow yourself to lean into the thought.

Get curious around the thought.  (More on this below!)

Let the thought move through you.

In the same way that getting the damn French fries and not restricting food allows you to no longer be controlled by French fries, allowing yourself to fully think your thoughts and feel your feelings allows them to no longer control your life! More dieting tips in this related post!

Next time you find yourself quickly moving away from a thought pattern or beginning to beat yourself up for your own thoughts…

Slow down.  

Lean into the discomfort.  

Even if it’s painful.  Give your thought the time to actually BE!

Give yourself the time to actually give life to the thought so that you can get curious around it. Trust me, yelling at yourself in your head to think more positively, will only make the situation more negative. You have the power within to start changing your relationship with food.

change your thoughts

Step 2: Get Curious Around Your Thoughts

The glory of actually thinking our thoughts and feeling our feelings is that suddenly we have the ability to get curious around them!  

I want to give you guys an example of this, so you know what exactly I’m talking about!

Example: You wake up in the morning and the first thing you think of is your big belly.  You saunter over to the bathroom mirror, look yourself up and down and begin to body shame.  “Why is my belly so big?  If only I could be self-controlled around food, enough to lose weight!”  

There are two ways we can go from here.

  1. We can throw some toxic positivity your way and tell yourself to say “I’m beautiful” in front of the mirror 5 times.
  2. Or, we can get curious around your initial thought!

Let’s break down what it would actually look like to get curious around your thought process of your belly being so big.

  • Why do I think my belly is too big?  Where did this thought originate?  Did somebody tell me when I was a kid that my belly was too big?  Were there adults around me saying that their bellies or other people’s bellies were too big?
  • My belly is too big for who?  For me?  Or for other people’s opinions?  For society?  For modern clothing stores?  Where am I getting the message that my belly is too big?
  • Who still loves me even though I have a big belly?  My friends?  My family?  Does their perception change about me because I have a big belly?
  • My husband always says he loves my big belly.  If my husband talked to himself the way that I talked to myself about my belly, how would I feel about that?  
  • Man, I wish I was never taught that big bellies were bad.  I’m going to continue to dismantle the belief that big bellies are bad bellies.

See how I did that?  Think it through!  And the best way to do that, is ask yourself questions.  

Back in nutrition school we would often use this as an aspect of Motivational Interviewing.  The idea is that the answer is already inside us, but most of us spend our lives just skipping over the answer.  

When we learn to ask ourselves questions, we can unlock the truth within us!

This will definitely take more time in the beginning as you aren’t used to getting curious around your thoughts, but over time it will become more natural and easier to do.  

And those thoughts that bring you down will lose their power as you actually take the time to get curious around them and unlock YOUR truth within them!

Step 3: The Power of Redirecting Your Thoughts

redirect your thoughts

Now that we’ve…

  1. Learnt the importance of allowing our thoughts to move through us vs. resisting and ignoring them.
  2. Gotten curious around your thoughts and learnt the importance of asking ourselves questions…

We can move onto learning how to redirect our thoughts!

Note:  I did not say how to ignore your thoughts, nor did I say how to resist your thoughts.  I said how to REDIRECT OUR THOUGHTS!  Very different!!

I left this section for last because I did not want you to mistake redirecting our thoughts with ignoring or resisting them!

Redirecting our thoughts must only be focused on once we’ve understood the importance of not ignoring nor resisting our thoughts as well as the importance of getting curious around our thoughts and questioning them!

I want to lay out an example for you on what exactly getting curious around your thoughts looks like followed by redirecting that initial thought.  

Let’s pull out another section from that thought above!

 “If only I could be self-controlled around food enough to lose weight!”

  1. Get Curious…
  • Where did I gain the idea that being self-controlled around food helps with losing weight?  Where did this belief show up in my childhood?  Did an adult teach me this?  Did the adults around me talk this way about themselves and their relationships with food?
  • When I’ve been “self-controlled” around food, what has happened?  What does self-control around food mean to me?  Which foods do I believe I have to be self-controlled around?
  • Why do I believe I need to lose weight?  When did I first believe that I needed to lose weight?  What did I learn about people’s relationship with their weight growing up?  How did the adults around me feel about their weight?

 2. Redirect Your Thoughts (AKA, drop some truth bombs!!)

  • The truth is being “self-controlled” around food is not all that it’s cut out to be.  When the world says “self-controlled” usually they simply mean “restrict food.”
  • When I restrict food, I binge food.  That’s my lived experience.  
  • Restricting food for me is NOT HEALTHY.  It’s not healthy mentally and it’s not healthy physically either, especially long term!
  • I’m so done with having a yo-yo relationship with food!  One day = restriction.  The next day = binging.  This also often causes me to weight cycle.  Lose weight, gain it all back, gain some more, lose weight etc.
  • Weight cycling and yo-yo dieting is UNHEALTHY.  Period.
  • I know it’s hard to see yourself as beautiful right now.  And that’s ok.  The world screams that beauty means being skinny.  So, it’s going to take time to truly see myself as beautiful.  
  • Today I choose to respect my body and not restrict food or focus on weight loss.

Get it??  Overwhelm yourself with your truth.  

During the curiosity section you uncovered so much about why you are having the thoughts you are having.  

When we redirect we get to pile truth on top of that curiosity!!

Be careful as you begin to play around with redirecting your thoughts that you begin with taking the proper time to get curious around your thoughts.  Trust me, it will make the thought redirection so much easier!

Step 4: Be Patient with Yourself

I think we can all agree that we live in a microwave society.  When we decide we want something, we want it NOW!

The truth is, healing your relationship with food and your body takes time.  I’m not going to lie to you! Research shows it can take 18 to 254 days to form a new habit.

Think about it this way.  How long did it take you to form the beliefs & thought processes you have today?

Likely, your entire life.

Our childhoods play a HUGE role in our beliefs and thoughts today.  We were all surrounded by adults as children and depending on their relationship with food and their bodies, they likely consciously or unconsciously taught you their beliefs in those areas. Here’s some research that shows that as well.

Then of course we have the unending lived experiences that you’ve had as an adult.  That has also contributed greatly to your beliefs and thought processes today when it comes to your relationship with food and your body.

In the same way that it took decades and decades to build your belief system, it’s going to take time to get curious around them and slowly begin redirecting them toward a healthier relationship with food and your body. Healthy mind, healthy body.

The important thing is that you are on this journey.  Remember that this journey of how to have a healthy relationship with food does not have a final destination.  Likely, you will be getting curious around your thoughts and redirecting them for the rest of your life!

Learn to enjoy the journey. Trust me, it’s worth it!  You deserve all the patience and compassion as you seek to cope with your thoughts and beliefs with compassion.  

Remember, healing your relationship with food and your body is SO WORTH IT!  Despite the patience needed on the journey.

Work with a Professional

Did you know that coping with your thoughts with compassion is a teaching found inside of intuitive eating principles?

If this aspect of intuitive eating has grabbed your attention, I encourage you to dive a little more into it!  Maybe that means reading another one of my blogs  on intuitive eating or checking out my favourite podcast on Intuitive Eating called Food Psych by Christy Harrison!  

There are so many incredible free resources when it comes to healing our relationship with food and our bodies.  I link many of my favourites throughout my blogs!

At times though, no matter how many free resources we listen to or read, it doesn’t replace working with a professional.

I get it!  I’ve been there.  When I began my intuitive eating journey, I hired a mentor and worked with her for almost a year.  And I’m so glad I did!

I now use my practice to create and sell affordable resources for those who want to better their relationship with food and their bodies.  If that peaks your curiosity in anyway, click here and see if what I have to offer may be a great fit for you!

I truly wish you all the best as you journey towards healing your relationship with food and your body.

Until next time, happy healing!

  • Ending Question:
    How will you redirect your thoughts when they come to attack you?

Xo,

Terri Lynn

Certified in Intuitive Eating

Licensed Health & Nutrition Counsellor

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