Body image goes beyond your weight, size and silhouette. “Body image can change based on what you do each day and how your body functions. It’s important to widen your definition to include more than just your appearance,” writes Ann Kearney-Cooke in her book, Change Your Mind, Change Your Body.

Self-care is important to having a healthy body image (and leading a healthy life). According to Kearney-Cooke, “engaging in activities every day to comfort, soothe, relax, pamper and strengthen your body will help you create a lifestyle that supports and insists on acceptance of your body.”

But, oftentimes, we don’t know where to start, especially if we’ve spent years hating our bodies and feeling that our figures (and we, in general) are unworthy of good care. Kearney-Cooke has an excellent exercise in her book that can slowly help lift even the most deep-seated body dissatisfaction. (We’ve already talked about another unique exercise from Kearney-Cooke that helps you empathize with your body.)

The Exercise

To nurture and promote a positive body image, create a log of your daily self-care activities. You may be saying to yourself that you’re too busy for such an exercise, but it doesn’t have to be time-consuming and it plants the seed for nourishing yourself.

So how does it work?

Either throughout the day or once a day (maybe you carve out 10 minutes every evening), write down in a notebook specific moments when you’ve done something good for yourself and felt good about your body. Your activities don’t have to be grand gestures. Big or small, every moment counts and helps toward improving your body image.

In the book, Kearney-Cooke includes the following examples of activities to log in:

“I taught my husband how to touch my body in a more nurturing way.”

“I bought a form-fitting dress that made me feel sexy.”

“I turned off the TV when a comedian made fun of fat women.”

“I used a creamy lotion on my dry legs. Instead of itching, they felt nourished, sleek and smooth.”

“I looked in the mirror this morning and thought, ‘You look so good today.'”

“I got up and danced at the party. What fun!”

Also, record moments when you’ve listened to your body and focused on your feelings. Kearney-Cooke gives examples of times when you’ve recognized that you were tired and rested or when you’ve tuned into your hunger and ate. Add times when you were frustrated or sad with a loved one and you let them know, instead of letting the emotions churn inside like a terrible stomach ache and then burst (sounding a lot different – i.e., worse – because your emotions were bottled up, stewing and simmering this whole time); times when you realized you were bored, angry or upset and didn’t stuff those feelings with food.

Keeping tabs on your self-care activities helps you to gradually “begin to accept your body as a positive source of feelings, physical needs and information about yourself,” writes Kearney-Cooke. Plus, it’s valuable during stressful situations. It helps you realize that you’ve got plenty of healthy activities you can do instead of bingeing, restricting, insulting your body and so on.

In fact, Kearney-Cooke suggests starting a self-care kit (very similar to the inspiration box). In it, you can put a close friend’s phone number that you can call when you’re upset, literature that inspires you (poems, books or affirmations) and CDs “that feed your soul,” she recommends.

What would you put in your self-care kit? What ways have you felt genuinely good today?

For instance, this weekend, I did yoga; went shopping with my mom and bought cute clothes; looked in the mirror and truly thought I looked pretty; slept in on Sunday because I was exhausted; and enjoyed some reading time with Therese Borchard’s brand-new book, Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes, which she generously sent me (thus far, it’s an incredible read).

Mondays = Body Image-Boosting Days

From now on, every Monday will feature a tip, exercise or inspiring quote to help boost your body image. For many of us, Mondays are tough. We may feel anxious and stressed out, anticipating an arduous week, especially if we didn’t get much rest and relaxation during the weekend. These kinds of feelings don’t create the best environment for improving one’s body image. In fact, you might be harder on yourself and easily frustrated. You might even feel like you’re walking on egg shells – with yourself! I hope by featuring exercises, inspiring quotes and other little tid-bits, you can start having a healthier and happier body image day, that’ll last throughout the week.

Do you have a tip for improving body image? Email me at mtartakovsky@gmail.com, and I’ll be happy to feature it. It can be anything you do that’s healthy and helps boost your body image. I’d love to hear from you!

Hope everyone is having a good Monday!

(Oh, I’ll try to think of a clever name for these posts. 🙂 Therese has Mindful Mondays and Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D, of Mindfulness & Psychotherapy, has Mondays Mindful Quote. But I can’t promise I’ll be equally clever.)