Upset that you don’t have abs like Joe Manganiello? Or the butt of a Kardashian? Or Jessica Biel’s post-baby bod? Even if you don’t compare yourself to celebrities, have you ever struggled with accepting your stretch marks, loose skin, or your overall shape? Let’s face it, there probably isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t have a feature they would like to “improve.”
However, focusing on what you don’t like about your body leads nowhere, fast. Not only does a negative self-image get you down—it can also be a drag on your health, suggests new research in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
Researchers at Bucknell University evaluated the level of body shame undergraduate women had based on how they rated different questions on a questionnaire. These questions included: “When I’m not the size I think I should be, I feel ashamed.” “I often wish I had a better body,” and “Looking through fashion magazines makes me wish I had a better body.” (Click here to download the PDF and see all the questions).
They then asked the women to describe how many infections they’d had, how often they felt ill, and how healthy they thought they were. The verdict? Women with higher levels of body shame also reported more infections.
So the next time you want to disparage your thighs or your lack of a six-pack, cut yourself some slack. A 2014 study published in the journal Mindfulness found that those who practiced self-compassion exercises (not surprisingly) felt less body shame and more body satisfaction.
If you’re in the process of getting fit, remember, it’s a journey. Getting frustrated with yourself along the way isn’t going to help the process. In fact, it might slow it down.