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Positive Body Affirmations (and What to Use if You’re Not Ready)

by Dana Bean, RD
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How do we bridge the gap from harsh, negative thoughts about our bodies and get to a place of neutrality and/or love? Positive body affirmations can help!

positive body affirmations (and what to use if you're not ready)

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A body affirmation is a statement about your yourself that challenges a negative thought. These automatic negative thoughts (ANT) are just that – negative thoughts that come automatically and in this case relating to the body. We don’t have as much control over that initial thought, but we can decide how we react to it. Do we believe that negative body thought? Do we let it spiral into other negative thoughts? Or do we correct it and challenge it?

Our inner dialogue matters! We believe what we think and we do what we believe. If we let those negative body thoughts roll in one after the other, how could we believe or feel anything different of ourselves? When we put a stop to the automatic negative body image thoughts, we are telling our minds “this is not what I want to think about myself and does not show body respect“. When talk neutrally or positively about ourselves, it creates new neural pathways. The key here is withholding judgement against ourselves.

There are 4 different types of body affirmations we can give. Positive body affirmations may feel unrealistic or unapproachable to start with if you’ve been very harsh with yourself. You may want to start with some of the other non-appearance based affirmations.

Neutral affirmations about the body are neither positive or negative. They state facts that re-ground the mind and avoid the initial negative thought spiral. This can be a more approachable place to start if you’re struggling with very harsh inner dialogue. Remember that the examples below are in response to that initial negative thought.

  • This is my body (or body part)
  • I am withholding judgement about my body
  • My body is not a bad body
  • I refuse to speak harshly about myself

These non-appearance based affirmations take the focus off of your body entirely and take a look at everything else there is to you. It helps to remind us that our worth and personality is not based on our body, but the countless amazing things that make us who we are.

  • I am a wonderful friend/partner/parent/sibling and I am valued in those relationships
  • I work hard and I am good at what I do
  • I like that I am a good listener
  • I like that I make time for my interests

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, the book More Than a Body (Kite & Kite, 2020) is a wonderful place to start!

Gratitude or function affirmations take the focus off of the appearance of the body (like characteristic affirmations above), but still address the body in its abilities and functions. It offers a different perspective of what is important about the body outside of appearance.

  • My body allows me to walk/swim/run after my kids
  • I am grateful I have a body that is generally healthy
  • I love that my mind has the ability to be creative
  • I am grateful that my hands can hold my partner’s hand, hold a baby, make a meal for someone I love

As is the case with all of these examples, you may not feel that they apply to you which is ok. Especially with function affirmations, people with physical limitations or disabilities may find it best to approach this differently. I would advise focusing on the physical and mental abilities you have and can show gratitude for or focusing on a different category of affirmations.

Positive body affirmations are statements that are no longer neutral to the body, but are positive. They can be appearance related or relating to the way we treat our bodies as a whole!

  • I am beautiful (now, in my current body)
  • I like my eyes (or other body part)
  • My body is worthy of respect
  • My joy adds to my beauty
  • It’s ok to love myself

First, you’ll want to decide which type of affirmations you can use. As mentioned previously, sometimes positive body affirmations feel too difficult if you’re used to very harsh and negative inner dialogue. You may want to start with neutral, characteristic, gratitude/function affirmations, or a combination of these three. There also may be some positive body affirmations that feel comfortable, or maybe you feel ok jumping into these entirely. The point is that you make your own list of approachable affirmations (and adjust as you go on).

After you have a list of affirmations to start with, we want to identify situations when you start to have negative body thoughts. Do these come up most often when you’re on social media? When you are in a social setting and compare to others? When you look in the mirror? This can help identify when to expect to need positive or neutral affirmations.

Then, when you’re faced with a negative body thought, we want to challenge that with at least 3 affirmations. This helps redirect our thoughts and can help prevent that negative body thought image spiral.

You can also use affirmations before having negative body image thoughts. Journal your affirmations in the morning, say them out loud in the mirror, or tape them up and read them to yourself throughout the day!

You can also always ask for help! If you’re struggling with negative body image thoughts please reach out to a therapist that specializes in body image work, eating disorders, or intuitive eating. You’ll want to reach out to a dietitian who specializes in these areas too if your negative body image thoughts are affecting your eating and intake.

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