10 Ways to Navigate Difficult Body Image Days

January 12, 2023

I’m Erin
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Hello, Raw Beauties!

We’re currently in the second week of January, and I’m curious how you’re feeling. Does the new year feel like an exciting time to set new goals, or are you wanting more rest? Do you feel like dreaming big, or do you feel like ‘being’ more? Perhaps you feel the call to do a bit of both? 

However you’re feeling this January, I want to remind you that you can make space for all of your feelings surrounding the new year. While this season can add a layer of pressure, whichever way you’re showing up is completely welcome. 

For many people, this time of year can be challenging — especially since the post-holiday indulgences can bring negative body image thoughts to the forefront. If you’re in it right now with your body image, I want to assure you that you’re not alone. Whatever season you’re in, it’s going to get better. What you’re experiencing is real, but it’s not forever. Keep moving forward!

Today, I’m sharing some practical tips and tools to navigate difficult body image days. (P.S., if you want to listen to the podcast version of this blog, click here).

Original image from @cydneythelight

There may be a few different reasons why you’re struggling with your body image; maybe your body is changing as you become a mother, maybe you’re going through hormonal changes that have caused you to lose or gain weight, or maybe you’re in a period of grief and negative thoughts towards your body are coming to the surface. Whatever the reason, this blog post is for you. 

I want you to know that I’ve been there; I’ve experienced debilitating body image thoughts that have prevented me from doing so many things in my life. For me, when negative body image is triggered, it’s like a dark cloud falls over me — like I’m stuck in this body that I can’t seem to get on the same page with. Through healing work, I no longer derive so much worth from my body, and negative body image no longer impacts me on a daily basis. Over the past few years, I’ve been able to cultivate a lot of gratitude for my body, instead; I respect it and want to care for it. 

Disclaimer: I don’t think you have to love your body every single day, but I would love for you to get to a place where you feel respect and gratitude for your body and it’s no longer the primary focus of your life. 

Original image from @thebirdspapaya

Here are a few tools to navigate those difficult body image days:

1. Schedule in self-care 

I’ve noticed in myself and others that negative body image days happen when self-care has left the building. 

For example, maybe you had a deadline at work that caused you to spend more time on the computer, eat food that didn’t feel nourishing, not prioritize sleep, and lack time to get outside. When all of this adds up, it can leave us feeling poorly. And when we feel poorly, it’s usually reflected in the way we view our bodies. 

Allowing space for self-care is a game changer. If we reverse-engineer things and get back on a sleep schedule, create space for movement, and nourish ourselves with fueling foods, I can guarantee you that your body image will start to improve. 

To get back on track, I’d recommend getting yourself to a grocery store, picking out some nourishing foods, and starting to integrate them into your meals. Then, I want you to go for a ten-minute walk outside and breathe in the fresh air; research shows that movement can improve mood, combat stress, and help you feel better about yourself. Just doing those little things will make a big improvement in how you feel in your body.

2. Practice mindfulness

It’s important to remember that you are not your thoughts. The thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing aren’t you; rather, you’re the awareness behind them. 

I want you to Imagine yourself zooming out and watching yourself like you would watch a movie. Notice the thoughts and the emotions that are there, and see how you can create separation between yourself and them. This will allow you to access that calm, grounded, and rational self that can make decisions about what thoughts you allow in and let drift past. 

3. Wear clothing that actually fits

Wearing clothing that doesn’t fit can feel incredibly triggering. But it’s important to remember that your body is meant to change many times over the course of your life.

Our bodies are constantly evolving; when a baby grows into a toddler and then a toddler grows into a child, we don’t shame them for that. We just accept that the changing body is part of evolving. Yet when somebody becomes an adult and they stop growing in height, we expect that the rest of their body will stay as it was as a 19 year-old, which isn’t realistic. 

I would recommend that you avoid wearing clothing that used to fit you, or that will one day fit once you lose weight. Instead, wear clothing that fits your body now. Remember: clothing is meant to fit your body, not the other way around. Get a couple of items to wear that you feel great in —  I promise you’ll feel better!

4. Put away the scale 

How often have you stepped on a scale and felt triggered?

The number on the scale is one of the biggest things to throw off women in regards to how they feel in their body. 

The thing is, the scale provides an external number that weighs the mass of our fat, muscles, hair, and bones. It cannot tell you whether or not you’re healthy, nor can it tell you if you’re building a better relationship with food, if you’ve been in a period of grief, or if you’re carrying a baby. It’s just measuring the mass of your body, and it has no idea what else is going on in your life.

The problem with the scale is that when we look at the number — which is external to us — we can fall into the habit of using it to guide our choices around food and exercise. This then pulls us away from our internal cues. 

I always recommend that people put the scale away so that they can tune into the messages that their body is giving them and use those as a guide instead. Try not weighing yourself for a month and see how you feel. Seriously, hide the scale or throw it away. Deal?

5. Curate your social media feed

On those difficult body image days, it can be easy to fall into the self-comparison trap — especially after mindlessly scrolling through social media. 

Remember that you are the curator of your feed, and you get to decide what you see. Be ruthless about who you follow; follow accounts that help you feel good, and unfollow accounts that don’t. Keep curating your feed based on what you need. 

If you want to go a step further, consider taking a break from social media altogether. 

Delete the apps off of your phone (you can re-download them later). When you’re highly triggered, it’s important to reduce inflammation caused by stress and screen time. 

6. Share your body image thoughts with a friend

In my coaching practice, I often hear people say, “I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I’m not happy with my body.

Oftentimes, we can feel a lot of shame around our bodies and the way that we feel about them. We can also feel shame about the fact that we feel shame. 

When you share your shame with someone else, it helps to alleviate it; it’s like shining a giant light in an area of shadow, and all of sudden you realize that that darker place isn’t so scary. Consider sharing how you feel with a friend, family member, therapist, or coach who can lend a compassionate ear. 

7. Identify body image triggers 

It’s important to bring mindfulness to what is throwing you off. 

Some of the most common body image triggers are people seeing pictures of themselves, the scale (you’re going to toss it, remember?), doctors appointments (if you’re asked to be weighed, know that you can tell your doctor that you’re trying to work on a healthy relationship with your body and ask them to not tell you the number), and trying to fit into clothing that doesn’t fit. Knowing the things that trigger you can allow you to set yourself up for success. 

8. Set boundaries around body talk

A lot of people have fallen into patterns where the body (ours, our friends’, or our family members’) is a hot topic of discussion. 

Get clear about how often you talk about the body, and feel free to set boundaries with people about what you’re comfortable talking about, and what you’re not. 

For example, if someone says, “you look like you’ve lost weight!” you can respond by saying, “I appreciate you commenting, but I’m actually not comfortable talking about my body” and change the subject. This may be uncomfortable at first, since many of us are so used to people-pleasing, but we have to be brave in setting boundaries. 

9. Recognize that your value extends far beyond your body image

If you struggle with your body image, it’s not your fault; you were raised in a society that values looks above all-else — and that tells us that we lose value as we age. 

But your value extends far beyond your body image.  In fact, you are more than your body, and you are valued and worthy no matter what you look like. 

To remember your value, try spending more time engaging in activities that you feel passionate about. Better yet, look for ways that you can serve and support others to feel more connected. 

10. Be aware of your self-talk.  

On those difficult body image days, practice self-compassion and speak to yourself like a friend. 

If you’re putting on something that’s tight and uncomfortable, or you’re looking in the mirror and you don’t like what you see, pause. Notice if you’re leaning into a pattern of negative thinking. Then, choose kind words to tell yourself; it’s amazing how speaking to yourself in this way can shift your internal state. 

If there’s an affirmation that resonates with you, feel free to write it down and put it somewhere where you can see it everyday. 

Original image from @cydneythelight

The last thing I want to remind you of is that you can’t hate yourself into loving your body; learning to love your body starts from within. 

We will likely experience difficult days over and over again as we navigate different chapters of our lives. This isn’t easy work, but it’s important work. And when we do this work, we impact those around us and increase our capacity to change the world. Let’s keep reminding each other that we are more than our bodies until the dialogue begins to change. 

I recommend picking one of the above tips and diving into it over the next week. If you want a printable PDF version, you can download it here.  And, if you want to go deeper into creating a healthier relationship with your body, join The Raw Beauty Reset, happening Jan. 31. Learn more and sign up here. 

Have a great week!

xo – Erin

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