How Do I Support A Friend With Body Image Issues?

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Everyone has insecurities. Issues with body image can take those insecurities to the extreme and a cause issues with mental even physical health.

Eliminate Self-Criticizing Conversations

We don’t often realize how much self-criticizing talk we integrate into our conversations when we are together in numbers. It’s an effort to try and make each other less poorly by pointing out our own flaws. Then to make us feel less poorly, someone else chimes in or raises the stakes of how horrible their body and appearance is. As the cycle continues, nobody feels better about themselves and everyone feels a little bit worse, having exposed their most critical thoughts about themselves.

When a loved one enters treatment with a body image issue, it is important to put an end to self-criticizing conversations. For body image issues which can be severe as in an eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder, self-criticizing talk is fuel for the fire. If they bring up a problem they are having with their image or start talking negatively about themselves, you can respond with a light hearted statement like “Hey, that’s my friend you’re talking about!”. It is easy to get disconnected from the true self when one is so disconnected from their body. Change the subject, remind them that they are working hard to restore their self-esteem, and that you love them the way that they are. Avoid statements about looking fine, being able to improve, or anything which might inadvertently support their claims.

Encourage Non-Body Focused Activities

Old workout routines, going shopping, and other activities might not be the best ways to spend time together for a while. Pampering activities like massage, body work, and spa treatments are a great way to bond while encouraging a mind-body connection. Receiving healing touch can be transformative in recovery from body image issues. For outside activities, go on walks and spend time in nature. Gyms include a lot of mirrors, which can be triggering. Spending time in nature means spending time away from urban environments where there are advertisements, mannequins, beauty ads, glass, and mirrors. In nature, they can only focus on the beautiful world around them, while getting in touch with the beautiful world within them.

Be Aware Of Harmful Behaviors

Body image issues can come up in different ways. During treatment, your loved one is learning tools and techniques for developing positive self-esteem and becoming aware of negative thought processes. Some behaviors to watch out for includes:

  • Fat-checking: looking in the mirror obsessively, spending time shut up in their room or the bathroom, “feeling” their body in their designated “problem areas”
  • Extreme dieting: starting new diets, looking for “quick fix” diets and detoxes
  • Extreme exercising: spending time at the gym, in classes, or finding a way to work out more
  • Comparison: looking at magazines, making comments on how “perfect” or “beautiful” other people’s bodies are, feeling uncomfortable around others they perceive to be “better” than they are

Recovery helps you come to love, accept, and embrace the unique individual that you are. At Lakehouse Recovery Center, we incorporate recovery and non-recovery activities to help clients develop a loving relationship with themselves and their new life in recovery. For more information on our residential programs, call us today at (877) 762-3707.