5 ways to practise positive body image

Self-compassion and digging deeper than physical appearance are key to overcoming female body image issues.


Whether we like to admit it or not, women have to cope with the fact their bodies are judged every day.

But focusing on a positive body image and practising self-compassion can go a long way in helping women reach a level of self-acceptance, according to two researchers with the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation.

Amber Mosewich conducts research and works with the university’s Green & Gold Sport System and Golden Bears and Pandas varsity teams.

“Along with performance issues and stressors, many women athletes also experience body dissatisfaction and often need to manage evaluation—by themselves and others—surrounding their bodies," she said.

She encourages them to practise self-compassion, which, she said, is showing promise as a personal resource to help athletes manage emotionally difficult sport experiences.

She added that these principles of both positive body image and self-compassion can be used by all women from all walks of life.

Mosewich listed five ways to practise positive body image and self-compassion:

  1. Surround yourself with supportive, positive, like-minded people.
  2. Focus on and embrace your body’s abilities and functionalities.
  3. Find positive outlets to keep thoughts and feelings in balance, such as meditation, yoga, exercise classes and journaling.
  4. Be kind to yourself and to others, keeping in mind you and everyone else are much more than just your bodies.
  5. Practise healthy coping mechanisms often. Check in with yourself to see how you are feeling and remind yourself of positives to help you through insecurities and struggles.

Researcher Tara-Leigh McHugh said it’s important for women to learn to appreciate and accept the functionality of their bodies and to have a mindful connection with them.

To gain a better understanding of the contexts and environments in which a positive body image may be experienced, one of McHugh's graduate students explored the positive body image experiences of women actively involved in pole fitness.

“By listening to the voices of women, we gained a deeper understanding of how this specific fitness environment can facilitate positive body images and body acceptance experiences,” explained McHugh.

“For example, women shared how the focus on skill development may promote body appreciation, and how the pole fitness environment allowed for women to observe the diversity of body shapes and sizes, which may not align with current ideals."