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The 4 Types of Body Image

Do you ever feel like your body image journey is going nowhere, no matter how hard you try? Throughout my career, I’ve heard so many women repeat the same thing: “I wish I didn’t think about my body so much, and I want to see it in a more positive light.” If that’s you right now, this episode is most certainly for you, friend. Today, I’m going to show you the #1 reason your body image might not be improving, the 4 different types of body image that you might struggle with, and action steps you can take to break free from negative body image. 

First, A Lesson From My Teenage Driving Mistake 🚗:

Back when I was a brand-new driver in high school, I made a HUGE mistake that could have gotten me into a ton of trouble. Being an efficiency-loving 15-year-old, I tried to drive my new champagne-gold Camry with both feet. (Have you ever tried to drive like that?) Here's what happened...

One day, I was sitting in my car in a nearly-empty church parking lot. I began to pull forward out of the parking space, and my car let out a horrible sound that caused my mother, who was standing outside the church, to give me a cold death stare. I had tried to drive my car with my right foot on the gas and my left on the brakes. 

I wonder -- Have you been trying to do the same thing with your body image? Do you pour energy into your body image but proceed to go nowhere? It might be because your left foot is still on the brakes. That’s why I’m going to show you where you might be working against yourself in your body image journey so that you can learn to drive with one foot again. When we start to gain traction, it doesn’t only improve body image; it can change the way we see food and our health. 

The #1 Mistake Women Make When It Comes To Body Image 

One of the biggest mistakes I see women making in their efforts to improve their body image is following a rigid set of food or body rules. Food or body rules are sets of self-imposed standards that tell you what you should or should not do with food or your body. Examples include: 

  • I can only have dessert if I’ve exercised enough.
  • I have to weigh myself daily so I can stay in control.
  • I need to track all the calories I eat. 

The problem is that we believe these rules will give us safety in control. However, control is often an illusion. In reality, our rules start to control us. Food and body rules start to weigh us down the moment we create them, but their burdens are unnecessary. I have a question for you: do your rules keep you from wearing certain sizes, styles, or colors of clothing that you actually like and fit your body well because you think your body doesn’t deserve to wear them yet? This is why we have to start breaking these rules! You have the ability to change and erase the rules that are weighing you down. They might make you feel safe right now, but they really only provide a false sense of security, friend. There is something so much better!

Man-made rules can never provide more security than God-breathed words. So,...

How Can You Break The Rules To Find Security?

  1. Change your focus.

Better body image requires spending less time thinking about your body, not more! When you reduce body-focus and increase the intentionality around caring for yourself and your body, body-related thoughts become less of a constant distraction. To explain this, I often use my Body Focus x Intentionality Framework. This resource helps you to see where you are in body intentionality vs. body focus. 

2. Get Super Intentional.

This is where this episode comes in. When you can identify where you’re struggling, you can finally target the problem and deal with it. So, let’s jump in to the 4 types of body image:

#1: Perceptual Body Image🪞

Perceptual body image is how you see your body. If you struggle with this type of negative body image, when you look in the mirror, you see yourself as a different body size or shape than you really are. Is anyone here a Wizard of Oz fan?

When Dorothy first meets the wizard, she’s terrified! He has a booming voice and an enormous green, floating head. But, wait, it was all an illusion. It turns out the wizard was just a normal man. Sometimes, this is what happens when we look in the mirror, and it can lead to disordered behaviors like restriction and over-exercising. If you struggle with this, you might:

  • Frequently check the mirror
  • Take a super long time to get ready (maybe you try on virtually every outfit in you closet before walking out the door)

#2: Affective Body Image 😕

This type of body image is how you feel about your body. How do you feel about your body?? Does the concept of feeling better about your body feel like a distant possibility? I’m going to let you in on a secret: sometimes, our feelings lie to us.

To know if your feelings are lying to you, you have to analyze where your feelings are coming from and who is influencing them; are you listening to Jesus or the Enemy? If you have a hard time discerning between the voices, here are some characteristics of Jesus’ voice and the Enemy’s:

Jesus’ voice:

  • Brings conviction, comfort and clarity
  • Is always true because Jesus is the truth (John 1:1-5, 14)

Satan’s voice:

  • Prompts chaos, confusion, and control
  • Cannot tell the truth: ”[Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.“ (‭‭John‬ ‭8‬:‭44‬ ‭ESV‬‬, emphasis mine)

This means that if he says that your body isn’t good enough, your body is invaluable; when he says that you’re inadequate, you’re capable; when he says you’ll always be alone, Jesus never left you for a second; and when he says you’ll never recover from negative body image, it means that change is just around the corner. Your body image journey is not over yet. 

#3: Cognitive Body Image 💭

Cognitive body image is how you think about your body. If you struggle with this type of body image, you're probably focused on your body weight and shape. Are you seeing past the enemy’s lies that are meant to keep you distracted, or are you laser-focused on the prize?

The peace of God is promised to fill your mind. 

#4: Behavioral Body Image

Behavioral body image is when you take action on your negative thoughts and feelings toward your body. Behaviors can include:

  • Isolation
  • Self-harm
  • Restriction
  • Exercise abuse or avoidance
  • Body-checking

So, how can you change your behaviors long-term? You can only change your behaviors by changing your beliefs.

Take Noah, for example. He was essentially told to build a giant floating zoo to prepare for a catastrophic flood at a time when it might not have even rained before, yet he built the ark because he believed God. You might feel like Noah when you are faced with changing your beliefs; you may have been listening to diet culture’s voice for years, and it all makes sense to you. But when you step out in faith in the truths about your body and that God is who he says he is, that is when you can finally change your disordered behaviors. What do your actions say about what you believe: about your body and Jesus? 

Time to Take Action!

  • Write down the answer to this question: What are your food and body rules that negatively impact the way you see food and your body?
  • Seek out a trusted friend, family member, or clinical provider to help you start challenging your beliefs and create new, recovery-focused ones.
  • Pray and ask the Lord to ask who, specifically, you can ask to give you accountability in your body-image and food-freedom journey. Remember, effective accountability possesses both grace and truth. 

Want More Resources? Got you Covered!

  • Join me in Beyond You Body: this is my own Biblical body image course that I created to help equip you and change the way you see and relate to your body. Your body is inherently valuable and worthy of care, friend!

  • Get the Body Image Cheat Sheet! This is a compact resource that walks you through the 4 types of body image, tips and strategies to eliminate your body checking behaviors, and more!

Well, friend, until next time, may you be filled with joy and abound in hope,

Brittany ❤️

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