Body Bliss: Turn Every Negative into a Positive


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Your thighs are too big. Those fat rolls on your stomach look disgusting. Your butt is as wide as a house. Your breasts aren't perky enough. Your arms need to be more toned. And since you're wondering, yes, that outfit does make you look fat.

You probably wouldn't dream of saying the things above to your friends, let alone your worst enemies! But you're probably guilty of talking like this to the most important person of all. Yourself.

Comments like these may enter your mind only occasionally if you're lucky. But for those who struggle with negative body image or poor self-esteem, these private thoughts occur dozens or even hundreds of times per day. No matter how often you talk down to yourself, the effect is always the same: It hurts you. And it sabotages your weight-loss efforts, your ability to stick to an exercise program, and your well-being, too.

We're all guilty of putting ourselves down sometimes—whether for your appearance, a mistake you made at work or an embarrassing moment. We would never stand for someone else talking to us the way we speak to ourselves on a regular basis. So what do you do about it?

I'm a pretty happy and confident person, but I'd be lying if I said that I never think negatively about myself. In fact, it happens more often than I'd like to admit. There was a time that I hid in oversized clothes, lamented about my body shape almost constantly, and couldn’t go anywhere without comparing my body to the other women around me. (Am I bigger? Is she thinner? Do my thighs look like hers?) I'm happy to say that I've improved in those areas and rarely think about my body or its size, shape or weight in a negative light anymore. It wasn't an easy thing to accomplish—it really took perseverance. One technique that helped me start down the path of self-love and body acceptance was to stop the negative self-talk dead in its tracks.

I know what you're thinking: That's easier said than done. After all, some people have a body image so low that they can't even think of a single thing they LIKE about themselves. Been there. Now, however, I can tell you lots of things that I like about my body. And at the very least, I know how to nip those negative thoughts in the bud before I let them get the best of me. You can do it, too. Here's how.

  1. Notice the negative. The first step is simply taking note each time a negative thought about your body, weight or appearance pops into your head. Often, we think these things so quickly and so often, that we don't really notice them or realize that they truly do affect us.
  2. Stop the thought. Once you notice that thought, stop it instantly. Don't even complete the sentence once you know where it's going. If the sentence(s) came to fruition, stop there. Don't let one negative thought turn into a laundry list of things you don't like about yourself.
  3. Spin it around. As quickly as you noticed yourself lamenting about your thighs, for example, talk back to yourself. I know that it's not easy to go from saying "I hate my thighs" to "I love my thighs," especially when you don't really feel that way. That's OK. Start by saying positive things that you really DO believe or know to be true.

    Start by being appreciative of your body as a tool for living your life—focusing on all of its amazing functions and strengths. When I start thinking my thighs are too big or not toned enough or whatever it may be, I talk back by focusing on all the positive things about them: "My thighs aren't here to impress others—they're tools for me to use to live my life to the fullest. My thighs are strong. My legs carry me through my day and my life. I'm fortunate to have legs that are able to walk, run, bike and do all the things I enjoy. I should appreciate my legs, including my thighs—for all the reasons that make them great—more often. And I reject the idea that I should change to fit in to some culturally stipulated idea that every person should look a certain way. Just like hair color or height, people's bodies are different sizes and shapes. I'm fine just as I am!"

Notice how I didn't go from "hating" something to "loving" it in a matter of seconds. Instead, I focused on the real facts and accomplishments, reminding myself that there are a variety of sizes and shapes—none of which are "right" or "wrong."

You can follow these steps and spin the negative into a positive for just about anything. Try it next time you put yourself down and I promise that not only will you feel better about yourself—almost instantly—but you'll really begin to believe what you say, think negatively less often, and go further away from "hating" a part of yourself and a lot closer to loving it. That also means that you're more likely to go to the gym to take care of that amazing body of yours; eat healthy because you know you deserve to feel your best; and reach your goals because you know that you're pretty great and that you can do anything you set your mind to!

How often do you say negative things about your body? Are you willing to give this technique a try?

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  • MADGAN14
    I say how fat and gross I am at least 30 times a day. First thing I say in the morning and my 14 year-old daughter is so sick and tired of it. And she should be. But it's how I feel and I can't control it. I constantly put myself down on a daily basis. It's actually more like self loathing at this point. I feel stuck. - 9/18/2015   5:01:52 PM
    Wow that was such a great article!!! I know exactly how it feels.. I have a negative talker inside of me too.. I talk worst about myself, than other people would ever do. I actually have problems with men, as they think I am okay the way I am.. They think I am attractive and tell me so, but I still have something to complain about it. And then I feel so bad about myself, that I stuff some "emotion healers" in me. And after that I regret it. I need to tell this voice to talk positive or to be quiet :-)) -- Thanks for the article!! Even it's a little late to leave a comment on it, but I have just started today :-)) - 4/25/2015   4:36:09 PM
  • 147
    I'm 54 years old & just now realize that I don't have to look the way others think I should! I have hated my body for my whole life. I am now at my highest weight...and my moto now is: WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK OF ME IS NONE OF MY BUSINESS! - 2/21/2013   3:53:40 PM
  • 146
    Great blog! I definitely need to do this! I have been thankful that I am able to exercise, especially when I was 50 lbs heavier, and I try to find the positives in myself a lot lately, but I don't look for positives in my body image. I like my butt now, but I criticize the rest. I'll be working on this beginning now! - 2/7/2012   12:03:52 PM
  • 145
    My self-image was always so bad that my husband finally exploded and said, "If you don't think you're beautiful enough then what does that say about me and what I think?" By telling me to look at it from his point of view, I finally got it. I'm slowly seeing myself as the beautiful woman God created and not the nasty images in my head. - 2/23/2011   10:03:33 AM
    I will try this technique but I have two questions......(1)Why is it that I don't see pictures of people who have body types like me? I never see women in pictures like the one above, with large (2) how can I be content with me if the rest of the world isn't? - 12/15/2009   11:13:04 AM
  • 143
    one good way of manipulating your thought process is to notice what you are blessed with that others are not.

    if you have a huge thigh remind yourself of people who do but cant use them often due to sickness. if you have a huge belly think of those who dont but because they r not blessed with enough food to eat. it will really feel like a blessing once you realize what it is to be without them

    as for what people think of you..i believe people who are happy with themselves actually do look much beautiful than those who r too conscious of themselves..think about that - 12/9/2009   2:28:53 AM
  • 142
    one good way of manipulating your thought process is to notice what you are blessed with that others are not.

    if you have a huge thigh remind yourself of people who do but cant use them often due to sickness. if you have a huge belly think of those who dont but because they r not blessed with enough food to eat. it will really feel like a blessing once you realize what it is to be without them

    as for what people think of you..i believe people who are happy with themselves actually do look much beautiful than those who r too conscious of themselves..think about that - 12/9/2009   2:25:18 AM
    Every time I start to say a negative to myself, I stop and remind myself that I am God's beautiful child and He loves me - no matter what - so I should, too!!! - 10/5/2009   4:28:13 PM
  • 140
    I like the picture attached to this article. - 8/10/2009   3:40:05 PM
  • 139
    I read the article again most days. It's that important. For some reason women often seem to have an attitude it's not ok to take care of themselves and appreciate themselves.

    - 6/19/2009   8:58:30 AM
  • 46A39P
    Sometimes I get to feeling defeated and give in to those remarks to myself, then I say to myself, Love the skin your in, because it's not going to change overnight. - 6/11/2009   4:14:22 PM
  • 137
    This was a very good article,.I will try to turn the neg into the positive! - 6/10/2009   2:19:08 PM
  • 136
    This blog is a lot how i see myself and it will help me in the long run. I do believe externally that every time you have to use constructive criticism with another person start or end with a compliment of that person. However when it comes to myself I don't just stop with picking at body parts, I attack my thought process and everything in between. I do believe I can leave the behind with finding the good amongst the bad - 6/2/2009   10:01:16 AM
  • 135
    My problem is the opposite. I am so happy just being me that I don't work that hard to change. I know I have gained a lot of weight, am flabby and really need to lose 40 lbs just to be Healthy. But I love who I am no matter and I justify what ever I do , eat, not exercise, etc as hey, that is who I am. I could use a bit of negative in my life to prod me into doing better!
    odd problem, eh? - 6/1/2009   9:20:22 AM
    I am always amazed by how much time some women spend worrying about how they look. Worry about how this part of them doesn't match up with what the media says is perfect. Or not doing something because some one they do not know might think they have a big butt or something. They panic about swimsuits which to me are exercise equipment, if I am in one I am swimming and who can see me in the water. Or they worry about what people at the gym might think. Guess what. At most gyms people are so into their workouts 5 mins after getting off the machine they could not tell you anything about the people working out around them.
    Why are women especially so obsesses with their bodies that they allow a male media to dictate what they do or do not do. Give me a break. There are far more important things in life that sitting around worrying about how big your butt is , or how big your feet are, or heaven forbid what people might think if they saw you without makeup.
    And no I am not a single number size women. Just one who has had a life to life instead of worrying about what people think of the way I look. - 6/1/2009   8:44:11 AM
  • 133
    Great blog! Good food for thought. Goes right along with my new spark goal of complimenting myself at least once a day. I think I can incorporate this in with that. Thanks for the inspiration! - 5/31/2009   6:05:45 PM
  • 132
    Wow what an article. I do have poor self esteem and poor body image. So that is tough for me. I try to focus on the good things about my body. it ain't easy. I also remind myself that I can do things like walking that others in a wheel chair or with out legs can't. - 5/31/2009   11:21:33 AM
  • 131
    I watch What Not To Wear and have learned a lot about how to look at what I have and how to make the best of my body shape changes, I'm encouraged by the clothing choices if I follow the "rules" that Stacy and Clinton preach. It makes looking in the mirror a pleasant experience! - 5/30/2009   5:21:17 PM
  • 130
    I try to control my negative thinking, but it is hard. A lot of the times I won't say "I love how my stomach is huge"... or even "I love my stomach"... but rather "It looks like I need to improve on my stomach. That's okay, I'm working on it." - 5/30/2009   2:09:07 PM
    I fight negative thoughts often though I have improved since joing SP. Thanks for the article; I will use this information to control negative self-talk. - 5/30/2009   12:26:14 AM
  • 128
    Just today at Old Navy, I tried on a short, youthful skirt, looked at myself in the mirror, and thought, "Who are you kidding? Those matronly way you're getting away with that!"

    But then I tried on a slinky summer dress at the Dress Barn, and looked, I think, pretty hot. In a curvy, voluptuous way.

    I'm not sure what the lesson is here. Something about finding flattering clothes and feeling good in them, I suppose. But I'd still like to be able to wear a kicky, short skirt!

    Maybe I'm just feeling middle-aged today. - 5/29/2009   10:56:41 PM
  • 127
    I have negative thoughts of myself most of the time. I feel that I am very big. I do not like what I see in the mirror, but I still keep looking hoping for a qiuck change or just a change that I can see. I clicked on this article and read it just as I was have a miniature meltdown. I will try to get better with turning my thoughts around, may take a minute, will try. I believe the change will come when I see a big difference in my body. The article was very helpful and maybe, kind of got me to thinking a little differently, but I know that this will take time. - 5/29/2009   10:48:27 PM
    This was a very good article...I will try to turn the neg into the positive. - 5/29/2009   8:08:15 PM
  • REDB544
    The older I get the worse I seem to be at this comparison game. I wish it weren't like this, but other's comments are always there - nagging 'you'd look so much better if you could just lose that stomach'. And, yes, I would look much slimmer if I could, and I am working on it (as I have been most of my life).
    Like most things in a lot of our lives, we focus on the negative and not the positive. At least after reading this I don't feel so alone in the game.
    I think it would be a good (or at least interesting) thing if you could walk up to a stranger(s) and ask them what they think about your body to get a more honest answer than we give ourselves.
    So anyway, I guess I'll give this whirl - until I get the nerve to ask a total stranger ...
    Thanks Nicole and SparkPeople - I hope to find some other folks like me here. - 5/29/2009   4:15:05 PM
  • 124
    I do find myself saying negative things about my body often... especially when my friends are around. Sometimes I feel like I'm the biggest girl in the group, so that plays a negative role on my thoughts. But after reading this article, I vow to try to think more positively. I love how you said to focus on "the real facts and accomplishments." I will start right there, right now...

    Real Fact: I am heavier than I'd like (or am suppose to be) because I do not exercise enough.
    Accomplisment: I have begun to drink more water and watch the types of foods that I eat.

    See... on my way to positive thinking! - 5/29/2009   3:56:23 PM
  • JCH955
    Thank you for this article. I looked at the picture and, although I'm taller, my figure is much like the black woman on the right. My first thought was how pretty she was and how comfortable she looked just standing there for a photo in her undies. Then, when I realized that her body looked like mine...only a different was a bit of a wake up. - 5/29/2009   3:55:59 PM
  • 122
    I always thought other people indulged in negative self-talk, but I had no idea other people compared their bodies to others. I often look at other overweight women and wonder "do I look like her?". Sometimes I ask my husband, but he always says no, and I can't tell if I just have a completely messed up view of my own body (thinking that I'm much bigger than I really am), or if he's just being nice. I know it's an unfair question to ask him in the first place! - 5/29/2009   3:19:20 PM
  • 121
    I like the idea of being grateful that the parts we have work as well as they do. I'm lucky that my legs, arms, stomach, etc. work well, even if they're not as toned as I wish they were. I need to remind myself of that more often. - 5/29/2009   3:13:26 AM
  • 120
    Coach_Nicole: Apologies again -- most contrite ones. I'm looking at the picture again, and it was either changed here, or more likely, I did get things confused. You're right -- the two look very similar, but I'm embarrassed that I couldn't keep them straight. I couldn't find an exact match of the picture shown above with any of the Dove campaign photos.

    Mea culpa. Forgive me?

    -- Jeannette - 5/28/2009   11:59:31 PM
  • 119
    I am critical of myself; from time to time; but I know that is not going to get me to where I want to be healthwise. A lot of what I tell myself about me is really stuff others have said to me. I appreciate my body right now. I am strong and I am able. Yes, I would use the above techniques. - 5/28/2009   11:45:49 PM
  • 118
    Coach Nicole: I apologize if I've made an error regarding my criticism of the picture used with this article. But I've found it associated in several places on the 'Net that discuss the Dove "Real Women" campaign. Here's one example link; note the caption underneath, attributing the photo to that campaign:

    If the copy of this photo that was available on was NOT actually taken from the Dove campaign, then the folks at istockphoto may want to be alerted to its misrepresentational use.

    -- Jeannette

    - 5/28/2009   10:00:04 PM
  • 117
    Wonderful blog!! No, this isn't easy... but it is something that we can all do. It takes time, it does take presence of mind... but it gets easier as you go.

    I am not all the way to self love yet, but I don't hate my body any more, and I got there pretty much the way Coach Nicole describes here. - 5/28/2009   6:59:16 PM
  • 116
    Thanks, Nicole! I needed to hear this ... not because of any body image issue, but because I was unconsciously thinking negatively about something else, and just realized I was perpetuating the problem from a mental perspective! Duh! You'd think I might know better "at my age" LOL ... but applying what we've learned is a lifelong task, I guess, as new situations are always presenting themselves. - 5/28/2009   6:38:50 PM
  • 115
    I think that this may work for me! - 5/28/2009   6:32:49 PM
  • 114
    I am constantly comparing myself to the way other women around me look. I have been doing it since I was a little kid. I used to be really thin, and my mom is too, so whenever we would go somewhere and see someone fat, she would say, "Aren't you glad you aren't fat?" So comparing myself to other women has always been a part of my life. I am happy with myself when the women around me are larger than I am, and very uncomfortable, intimidated and jealous when the women around me have better bodies. It is an all-consuming thing!! I hate it. - 5/28/2009   4:21:41 PM
    I have to tell you... this is so hard for us all. I grew up being compared to my three sisters and, therefor, I constantly compared myself to others. Bad idea! I am an individual, thank God! I can do what I do best. At 43 (!!!), I'm finally accepting that at 5' 7", I will always be bigger than my 5', 5'2", and 5'3" sisters. They're shrimps! Because of height alone, not to mention different body shapes; I'll be at least 25# heavier. But, I'm stronger than them and have more endurance. Three of us are going to do a triathalon together - I always have to do the swim portion because they just can't get it done... not enough strentgh. ( at least that's the story they're feeding me, probably just don't want to get their hair wet!) - 5/28/2009   3:30:58 PM
    I have used a similar technique, and it worked really well. Luckily I didn't do it very often which made it less overwhelming. - 5/28/2009   3:18:39 PM
  • 111
    Great turnaround talk!

    Even when my legs gave way when I tried to stand on them and couldn't, they were taking care of me. They gave me a message. That got me to the doctor and the treatment I needed, which has already gotten me back to being able to walk around the house.

    It might even improve my overall health in the end!

    Really great turnaround talk! - 5/28/2009   3:05:08 PM
  • 110
    Thanks Nicole for this article. I will work on this!

    I agree with a previous poster who said it is maybe the hardest part of losing weight...because I did talk negatively to myself when I was fit, thin and strong. Now that I am regaining health I have to watch my thoughts.

    - 5/28/2009   2:25:37 PM
  • 109
    I love these ideas. When I was in my 20s, I put myself down and now I look back and wish I would have been willing to be in more photos with my kids, etc. Plus, I looked great - I just was shooting for perfection. I'll try and apply these lessons to my life now that I'm in my 40s.

    Thanks! - 5/28/2009   1:37:24 PM
  • 108
    Thanks so much, Nicole. I have lost weight slowly, but now have some wrinkles in my arms and chin where I lost weight. I keep telling myself that being healthy and strong outweighs being fat and unhealthy and, even if fat, I will eventually get wrinkles. Some people tell me now that I am too thin, but I feel good and am not being excessive in my diet/exercise. I just follow my clean living plan and I am the weight I am. So I have to tell myself I am not either too fat or too thin, but at a healthy weight. - 5/28/2009   12:59:01 PM
    Negative thoughts about your body can creep into your mind at any time....My 14 year old daughter came to mind when I read this blog more than me..I do not have a mirror in my room that I can easily look at every day...I only look into it on special occasions when I get dressed up...I do find myself looking at someone and thinking I wish I looked like that...Good reminder to focus on the positive and not the negative...I think I will use some of these ideas for myself and also teach my daughter to think this way...It is never too early or too late to start changing the way you think especially about your body....It can only lead to better things for the both of us! - 5/28/2009   12:36:57 PM
  • 106
    I can totally relate to this. For YEARS I was terrified to go outside in public because I thought everyone was pointing at me and laughing. The thought of actually taking a walk outside made me want to pass out. For the past 5 months I have been walking every day at a public park and that's been a HUGE step for me. In the winter while I wore a coat, I didn't feel too odd. But now that it's warmer, oh I have grown!! I sweat like crazy and I KNOW people are looking at me, but I honestly don't care. I just think to myself, "who should be out here sweating her butt off (literally) but me? I need to be in better shape and lose weight, so why shouldn't I get out here and walk just like everybody else?" Now I walk with my head up and I make it a point to say hi to every single person I see on the path and make direct eye contact. My face might be bright red with sweat trickling down it--but it's my face they are now seeing, instead of the top of my down-turned head. - 5/28/2009   12:33:43 PM
  • 105
    I'm glad you brought this up. Just the other day, I asked my doctor(the one who repeated insist I lose weight) to refer me to a good plastic surgeon. He asked why I needed it and showed him my stomach, breasts and wing flaps called arms. He told me to keep exercising and forget about the plastic surgery. I'd still like a flat stomach. No matter how much I crunch and twist, it's not getting any flatter or tighter! - 5/28/2009   12:29:14 PM
  • 104
    Nicole - Your body also allows you to create easily accessibly, easy to follow Spark Workout Videos for others to use to gain a greater self-image!

    You'll probably never know the number of people you have inspired, motivated and encouraged.

    THANK YOU from one of your "fans" who loves you just the way you are! - 5/28/2009   11:57:16 AM
  • 103
    This was a great reminder for me b/c I had to learn during my teens and 20s to not be so hard and negative on myself. I had to learn that this is my body and be thankful for especialy since it's healthy and functioning properly. I had my moments of comparing myself to other women, but I had look the fact that I gain weight different from them and gain simliar to the women in my family.
    The biggest thing I had to struggle with in being negative was/is comparing myself to myself. Such as my thighs. When I gained weight in my teens, it showed in thighs (and glutes) and I pretty much stayed slim everywhere else. Back then I was usually only 10 lbs shy from the weight I needed to be. Whenever I lost some weight, it seemed like my thighs were the same size. Then I just had to learn to accept it (thinking one day, with work, they will get slimmer) as looked pretty much thin anyways and people didn't usually notice my thighs as the rest of my legs which looked slim. But now, with gaining several pounds in the course of a year and a half, my thighs are probably a third larger they were just then, and especially three years ago. And now I compare the small issues I had with my stomach, which was pretty slim but now bigger, and the similar issues I had with my glutes which was already too big to me and now bigger. I went from an ok weight, wanting to lose maybe a few more pounds one day, to not being able to fit any of my clothes and being the heaviest I ever been. I usually have to catch myself comparing starting weight of losing with others b/c some start at my inital weight I struggled with (160-170s), and I gained several pounds beyond that, not thinking I would gain that much. But in the lines of comparing myself to myself, I was extremely upset at myself for gaining all this weight b/c I could fit clothes, even though I just look like I am simply thick in places (and to others outside my family not needing to lose weight) and much of this weight gain was due to depression and stress eating.
    I think one of the things I can't say to myself is that my body parts don't have to be a certain size. To me, I'll sound like someone that would have fight within myself not to fuss at them for making such a remark, not knowing a thing about me. Because in my mind it sounds like complacency, and an excuse not to change (even though I know it can be taking differently like the way you said in not comparing to others.) I don't like the size that they are now. What I have to say at time is ok, I am working on that so that they will be the size I want them to be. Nowadays, I'm frustrated b/c I have lost very little weight or inches this year (and I gained back the few I lost). I started to take this weight loss journey seriously in Dec, and just realized a few weeks ago my undereating has preventing me from losing any weight. so, really I have to fight to not be negative, but I know it can be done. - 5/28/2009   11:48:38 AM
  • 102

    It goes both ways. You notice the fat girls in the skimpy clothes because they stand out. You don't notice the thin girls in the baggy clothes, because they are slinking around in the background, trying very hard not to be noticed because they don't want you to see how fat they are. - 5/28/2009   11:44:09 AM
  • 101

    I've been doing something like this for awhile now. Usually when I go running I always feel like people are staring at me and as soon as I feel like I should stop running cause I'm too big, I always, always, always remind myself that I have really nice calf muscles. I focus on that 1 body part that I really like and it forces me to continue on!

    It's hard cause I always think that passerby's are thinking "why does she think she can run?" Or I always think that they're thinking "wow, look at that fat girl trying to run" (both of which are really negative and hard to push out of mind) but I've found that each time I focus on a body part of mine I really like (like my legs), it helps me (even for a little while) to keep moving forward. :)

    Violet - 5/28/2009   11:25:24 AM
  • 100
    I think that for more women see themselves as NOT fat, that are, than the other way around. Just go to the mall and see women wearing skimpy tops with fat rolls hanging out, and you know they have to be in denial. - 5/28/2009   10:58:10 AM

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