You might have heard, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” You might also find it really hard not to compare. Body image comparisons in this appearance obsessed society is natural but is not very helpful. Body image dissatisfaction impairs our quality of life and is associated with depression, unhealthy diet and exercise behaviors, and eating disorders.
There are many factors that can influence an individual’s body image, but one that tends to be consistent are appearance based social comparisons. We live in a society that bombards us with unrealistic standards of beauty and the thin ideal.
It’s estimated that the average American is exposed to around 3,000 food and body image-related advertisements per day. These ads tell us that we are not enough, that we need to buy a product or lifestyle to measure up. In addition to advertising and media, we also might compare our bodies to friends and family, people we follow on social media, or versions of our past self.
How do these comparisons affect us? Well, body image comparisons tend to increase body dissatisfaction, poor self esteem, perfectionism and black and white thinking, all of which are characteristics we see in those with eating disorders. After spending time on popular social media platforms, individuals report increased negative thoughts about their own bodies. And recent studies are looking at the effect of social media in the development of disordered eating patterns. SO, what can we do? Here are a few action steps to help you move away from negative comparison patterns and towards a kinder relationship with your body.
5 Ways to Cope With Comparison
1. clean up your social media feed
Did you know you can block ads related to weight loss on your Instagram & Facebook feeds? Here’s how you do it.
- On your Instagram profile page, click the ‘Settings’ tab
- Select the feature “Accounts Center”
- Under Account Settings, select “Ad Preferences”
- Click on “Ad Topics”
- Type “Weight loss” or “Body Weight Control” into the search bar
- Toggle the option to ‘show less ads about this topic’
Now that you have removed triggering ads, scroll through the list of accounts you follow. Hit that
“Unfollow” button on any accounts that make you want to go on a diet or engage in disordered eating and encourage negative thoughts about yourself and your body.
Ok, now we are cleaned up. Now, let’s add in some positivity! Follow body positivity accounts and accounts that highlight diverse bodies.
Here are a few accounts we love:
And of course, feel free to give us a follow at @nourishrx for regular encouragement and support in your food and body relationships!
2. Practice body gratitude
When you find yourself focusing on how your body looks, work on cultivating gratitude by focusing on what your body does for you. Your body is working for you every single day! Reframe negative thoughts like “My legs are too big” to “My legs carry me to all the places I need to go every day.” Take out a journal and make a list of all the reasons you are grateful for your body.
3. Celebrate body differences versus body comparison
Diversity is beauty. Imagine if you went to an art museum and every painting was an exact copy of each other. That would get pretty boring pretty quick! Look at nature and the diversity of sizes, colors, and shapes that exist among flowers and trees and animals. Human bodies are also each individually unique and different. When we start to see this as natural and good, we can begin to appreciate the beauty of others without it detracting from our own beauty and worth. You don’t look like that social media influencer because you are not her - you are you! And you have value and beauty, just as you are.
4. Nurture parts of you that have nothing to do with your body
Ultimately, you are more than your body. Your body is the least interesting thing about you! A helpful way to increase self esteem is to invest in and nurture the things that make you special and unique, that have nothing to do with your appearance. What do you love? What makes you smile? Lean in to those things. Pick up a new hobby or learn a new skill. Ask your friends and family: “What makes me special to you?” Most likely, the way you look won’t make their list.
5. Get appropriate support
Building body image resilience is a process and can be really hard work. Don’t do it alone. A specialized team of a therapist and dietitian can be so impactful in providing a space and resources to break free of the comparison trap. We at NourishRX are here to provide one on one support or self-paced resources.
Using external measures to assess our body’s value often leads to us feeling discouraged, inadequate, and unhappy. Instead, learning to shed these standards and live at peace in our own skin is a way of reclaiming our joy.
Please reach out to our team to see how we can best support you on your road to challenging comparison.