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Counselling For Body Image Issues

What is a Negative Body Image?

Body Image Issues and Therapy

Counselling for Body Image Issues

Your body is a vessel that is yours to use throughout your life. It is completely up to you in how you use it. Body image is made up of how you think and feel about your body. Your perception of your body can also have a dramatic impact in how you experience the 'self'. Common negative perceptions of Body Image are body’s size, shape and weight, or individual body parts. Sometimes body image may not be directly related to reality, or your actual appearance. Counselling and therapy can help you talk through, and work out thinking errors and personal boundaries that can help you to experience yourself in a different light.

Societal norms also form a proportional amount of our external locus of evaluation:

  • size zero, youthful and blonde,

  • the ideal shape – hour glass or curvy, flat stomach.

  • the ideal male shape – athletic or ‘V’ shaped, broad shoulders, a ‘6 pack’


These norms form how we fit in, or feel adequate/inadequate with in social groups, which informs our internal dialogue and evaluation of self, promoting dysphoria and an in-balance of reality. Of course, most of us try to fit in to the conditioning set out by popular and cultural norms which for most are unrealistic demands on the individual. This can lead to a spiral of self loathing and self critical language.

In this unrealistic way we as a society get stuck in unhealthy attitudes and norms such as dieting and over use of the gym, or even more extreme having cosmetic surgery to enhance our shape. These negative behaviours are an attempt to change who we are and live in a completely unrealistic way, to the detriment of ourselves, friendships, family relationships and interpersonal relationships..

Body image issues affect people of all ages, genders and across all cultures. Recent research suggests that 83% of UK women are dissatisfied with their bodies to some degree. A negative body image can lead to dieting and disordered eating behaviours.

Dieting is a strong risk factor for developing an eating disorder. Research shows that even ‘moderate’ dieting increases the risk of developing an eating disorder in teenage girls. While dieting is normalised in society, it can lead to serious physical health complications and, for most people who lose weight through dieting, the weight lost is gained back over time. Dieting is not sustainable. Instead, focus on eating a wide variety of foods for nourishment and enjoyment, and try to be flexible with your eating.

How Therapy for Negative Body Image Helps

There is a way forward, this is to realise and accept that this negative body image is not about body size or shape, rather it is a way of blaming ourselves for what is not right in our lives.

If you hate your body and would like to stop feeling this way therapy can help.

During our counselling sessions we will work on gradually noticing how you speak to yourself and how damaging this can be. With support and practice, you will begin to choose a different way to speak to yourself and build on this to create a happier, more comfortable self image.

Imagine a seven year old child whose parent wakes her in the morning and tells her how ugly or fat she is, imagine how miserable she feels that day at school and how she blames herself. Now instead imagine a child whose parent wakes her and tells her how lovely she is and how much she is loved. How different will her day be?

That is the difference it makes to an adult too! We can learn to be that kind parent to ourselves and speak kindly to ourselves so that we feel good (or at least happier) about our bodies instead of hating them.

Improving Your Body Image

Your body image develops over the course of your life, so changing a negative body image can take time and effort. Suggestions for improving your body image include:

  • Reflect on your experiences and try to unravel the development of your body image over the course of your life.

  • Talk about feelings and experiences with other women who have similar concerns.

  • Make a pact with yourself to treat your body with respect, which includes giving it enough food and rest.

  • Avoid negative body talk – about your own body and that of others. Instead, focus on what you appreciate about your body – what your body can do rather than how it looks.

  • Celebrate those positive qualities, skills, interests that you have as a person, rather than focusing on appearance-related qualities.

  • Give yourself a break from women’s magazines and the mass media (including social media). Filter your social media feed so you can avoid interacting with messages that are appearance-focused.

  • Try some form of physical activity purely for the fun of it or for enjoyment, not as a means of weight loss.

  • Stop weighing yourself.

  • Change your eating and physical activity goals from weight loss to improving your health.

  • Get informed by reading up on body image issues.

  • Get professional counselling help for improving your body image.

If you're dissatisfied or unhappy with your body, feel like your body image gets in the way of being able to live your life or do the things you would like to, or you are engaging in restrictive eating or other unhealthy eating or exercise behaviours, then seeking professional help is important. Psychologists, Counsellors, Dieticians and other health professionals trained in body image and eating disorders can assist you to improve your body image and relationship with food and physical activity.

Book your 15 minute FREE telephone consultation - Get in touch

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