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Body Image Booster: Say Cheese!

Mondays can be rough for many of us, and this doesn’t create the ideal environment for building a better body image. To help you turn that around, every Monday features a tip, activity, inspiring quote or some other tidbit to help boost your body image – and kick-start the week on a positive note.

Got a tip for improving body image? Email me at mtartakovsky at gmail dot com, and I’ll be happy to feature it. I’d love to hear from you!

{Kim Brittingham, taken by Jeffrey Seeds}

A few weeks ago, we talked about the importance of finding beauty in our photos. For many of us, regardless of where we’re at with our body image, taking pictures and looking at our pictures can still be tough.

We naturally nit-pick, berate a part of our bodies or just hate taking pictures in general.

As Kim Brittingham, writer, blogger and author of Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting and Live Large, says, “If you’re battling body image issues, a photograph of yourself can become a weapon in your arsenal of low self-esteem.”

Photos can actually play another pivotal part in our body image. As Kim says:

“In fact, it’s commonplace for most women to maintain an image in their mind’s eye of the single most unflattering photograph they’ve ever seen of themselves.  Sometimes this is referred to as her ‘fat picture,’ a picture she’ll never forget.

Sometimes it’s a photograph a woman will keep tucked away as a reminder to herself of where she never wants to be again.  Other times, it’s a snap shot she laid eyes on just once before she tore it up in horror – but the image remains burned on her brain forever.”

Whether you have an image like this burned on your brain or not, Kim believes that the answer to a better body image still resides in your camera.

In order to view her body and beauty in a different light, Kim decided to take to her camera and create her own self-photography session. She talks about this in Read My Hips (by the way, I’m awaiting my copy and will be interviewing Kim soon!). In the book, she writes:

“Alone in my apartment one afternoon, I decided to look at myself  – see myself as I actually was. I pulled the blinds and stripped…then erected the tripod at the end of the hallway…I…stood, hands-on-hips, letting the camera’s flash shower me in white.”

After looking at herself, she said: “Yep.  I was fat.  And at the same time, something about my body pleased me – the milky fullness, the inviting topography of its curves.”

The problem with a negative body image boils down to perception. How we see ourselves, of course, determines how we feel about our bodies. Something seemingly negative can become positive or at least neutral when we take a different stance.

When we adjust our vision…

What would happen if you stopped judging your body, even for just a bit, while you take your own photos?

“Do it completely alone, and suspend all judgment,” Brittingham advises.  “Even if you absolutely detest the appearance of your body, let yourself relax for that hour or so that you’re photographing yourself.  Pretend if you have to.  Pretend that you don’t hate your body.  If you’re convinced that other people hate the appearance of your body, pretend that they don’t.  Let that private photo session be a fantasy world where your body is the beauty ideal.  You might be surprised how some of that suspended judgment follows you back into the real world.”

But what if the skin you’ve got is dimpled and wrinkly, dotted by cellulite and stamped with stretch marks?

For starters, welcome to the normal human body.

And, secondly, again try a different perspective. According to Kim in her book:

“We survey lush landscapes with variations not dissimilar to an ‘imperfect’ female body with absolute pleasure — say, an expanse of Irish countryside with grassy rolling hills…Do these wide swaths of earth nauseate us?  Is it really so much uglier when it’s made of flesh instead of soil?

In her book, Kim also refers to her own cellulite as “a dappling of fairy fingerprints on my skin” and to stretch marks as “translucent tiger stripes.”

Here are more tips from Kim about trying a self-photo session (the second to last is my favorite!):

  • Be sure of your privacy.  Make sure no one will come home and interrupt you.
  • Most digital cameras today have a timer function.  Learn to use it so you have time to move away from the camera and pose.
  • Tripods are very affordable.  Consider getting one so you can stand the camera anywhere, at any height.
  • Try photographing yourself with and without flash.  Your body will look different in different kinds of light.
  • Don’t pose in ill-fitting clothing or underwear.  Not only is it uncomfortable, but binding clothing can force your body into an inaccurate shape.
  • When something about your body strikes you as ugly, ask yourself what beautiful things share that same texture or shape.  A fruit?  A type of flower or tree?  A bird or animal?  A body of water?
  • Give yourself credit for having the courage to look at yourself as you are.  Courage is always beautiful!

Have you ever taken your own pictures? What did it feel like? What did you learn? What advice do you have for not nit-picking and berating your body? Please share!

Giveaway Winners: First of all, I want to thank everyone so much for their comments. I know it’s not easy to basically share your hearts on a blog, so I think that each of you is incredibly brave. Thank you!

I seriously wish I could give everyone a book, but I’ll definitely have more giveaways in the future!

And the winners are: Kate @ Walking in the Rain & another Aimee L, Aimee Levesque! Please email me with your address to claim your prize! 🙂

Body Image Booster: Say Cheese!

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2011). Body Image Booster: Say Cheese!. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 May 2011
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