Every Monday features a tip, activity, inspiring quote or some other tidbit that helps boost your body image, whether directly or indirectly — and hopefully kick-starts 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!

For some of us, negative thoughts are as natural and automatic as breathing or brushing our teeth. They’re part of our daily routine. They’re with us when we wake up, when we have lunch, when we go to bed.

My critical thoughts would roll off my tongue oh-so easily. I’ve mentioned before that my friends in grad school picked up on it right away, and it really bothered them. They didn’t understand how I could be so critical.

I used to say that I was simply being realistic. That I was realistically assessing myself.

But that’s not true. I was judging myself — and very harshly at that. Saying things I’d never say to someone else.

And those thoughts kept generating more negative thoughts that just kept breaking me down. That kept dimming a light. That kept spreading negativity.

The chatter that plays in our heads plays a big role in our body image. In how we see ourselves. The more we berate our bodies, the more negative our perspectives become, the more our mood sinks, the more gray clouds surround us. The more we think that changing ourselves will fix everything.

The good thing is that once we can recognize these damaging thoughts and cycles, we can make significant changes. We can work toward a more positive body image, a more positive view of ourselves as a whole.

As Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel write in their must-read book The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care, “When you realize that your negative thoughts are persistent and cause you harm, you are in a position to stop them. Imagine yourself speaking to your best friend. Would you ever call her such names? If not, why is it okay to speak to yourself in that manner?”

Working through negative thoughts can seem incredibly overwhelming. This is how you’ve spoken to yourself for many months or countless years, so how do you override that? Where do you start? That’s why I love Matz and Frankel’s activity on navigating negative thoughts. It gives you a practical way to get started.

And that’s the key here: Just start.

  • Over the next twenty-four hours, pay attention to the negative comments you tell yourself about your body and write them down.
  • Spend time the following day reading your list. Be gentle with yourself as you take in the words you used to judge yourself.
  • Take a few comments from your list, and like a computer, “delete” these messages. Then, “insert” a compassionate alternative.

The authors give the following example:

Delete: My fat arms are disgusting. I hate how flabby they are.

Insert: My arms are big. They allow me to carry things, to reach out, and to hug my loved ones.

I know this might seem tough at first, especially if many of these thoughts are especially deeply entrenched. But remember Matz and Frankel’s words: Would you ever say these things to your best friend?

If it helps, put yourself in your best friend’s shoes, or in anyone’s shoes that you really care for. What kinds of thoughts would you like to go through their heads? Probably not the nasty ones you’ve been thinking.

Matz and Frankel feature a powerful quote from Mother Theresa that speaks volumes:

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.

What’s helped you in navigating negative thoughts? Will you try the above activity? Do you find it helpful?