Trigger warning: mentions of weight, weight loss, and eating disorders.
Poor body image days are entirely normal and completely human. For many of us, it is simply unreasonable to expect to love our bodies or maintain good body image all the time in a society that is constantly telling us what we need to change about them.
When our feeds are constantly cluttered with “what I eat in a day” and “that girl” TikToks, body-checking videos, dieting tips and overt body shaming, it can feel near impossible to escape the grip of diet culture. On days when you’re finding it hard to accept and appreciate your own body, it is important to acknowledge those feelings.
Journaling is an incredibly useful tool for processing your emotions and finding relief when you need it. In the last year, I have adopted journaling as a regular habit, and I simply cannot recommend it enough! Keeping a journal is a stellar way to create a safe space for yourself — a place to process those uncomfortable emotions and devise ways to tackle them. Whether you are brain-dumping into a notebook or maintaining a video diary, getting those thoughts out instead of letting them pile up is incredibly important.
Here are ten body image-related journal prompts to help you get started.
- Who in your life has shaped your relationship with your body?
I have found it helpful to try to understand the influences in my personal life that have contributed to my thought patterns surrounding my body.
I might write about my experience in health education classes growing up. I remember being fed the ideas that “thin = healthy” and weight loss is something to be celebrated by my teachers as a middle schooler. I could also explore how the discussion of calories and negative comments about weight/weight gain from my family members as a child shaped my perception of health.
In contrast to that, I might choose to journal about how my younger sibling introduced me to the idea that the human body — all of its shapes, forms and perceived “flaws” — is a beautiful thing.
It is important to understand where our perceptions and misconceptions about our bodies come from. Why should you take harmful rhetoric that often leads to eating disorders and mental illness as fact, especially when it was fed to you at such a young, impressionable age? How have those in your life projected their own insecurities — which have nothing to do with you — onto you? Who in your life has had a positive impact on your self-perception?
- What can you do right now to validate the way you are feeling about your body?
Your feelings are valid and important! What do you need at this moment, both emotionally and physically? What affirmations are beneficial to you? Reflect on ways you have handled these moments in the past.
- what mindsets do you need to unlearn? what can you do right now to challenge them?
What specific thought patterns are limiting you? How are they limiting you? What steps can you take at this moment to combat them?
For example, I might write about my experiences with body checking. Needing to constantly feel aware of how others perceive me prevents me from truly being present in the moment. I could reflect on the temporary relief and false sense of security and control that body checking gives me. Challenging this mindset could be as simple as reminding myself that our bodies don’t change drastically over the span of a few hours!
- Take a step back — what other stressors are weighing on you? what can you do to find relief?
Take a second to reflect on what else in your life right now is causing stress or anxiety. When other areas of your life feel out of control, it is easy for that anxiety to turn inward and contribute to negative self-perception. Are you sleep-deprived? Drowning in homework? Having relationship issues?
What are your emotional needs at this moment? What action can you take, big or small, to address these problems?
- What makes you feel beautiful?
There is a big difference between thinking you look beautiful and feeling beautiful. I might write about dancing under streetlights with my best friends or not being able to get through telling a funny story because I’m laughing so hard at it.
What makes you light up? What specific moments can you think of where you felt truly yourself?
- What feeling do you think having your “ideal body” will give you? where else can you find that feeling?
It is so easy to get caught up in the assumptions that once you look a certain way, reach your “goal weight,” fit into a certain article of clothing or any other thought along those lines, your problems or insecurities will be resolved.
For me personally, sometimes I think that fixing the perceived “flaws” my body has will make me feel confident. What else could give me that feeling? Maybe it’s reducing negative self-talk or working on a passion project. How can you find that feeling you are chasing in a more meaningful way?
- Think of a moment when you were truly happy. what is it that stands out to you about that memory?
What is a memory that makes you smile every time you think about it? What specifically makes it a good memory? Does it have anything to do with how you looked or what you ate (or didn’t eat)? Why are you grateful for it?
- who is someone you really admire? what is it that you admire about them?
I admire my best friend because she is one of the kindest people I know, quick-witted and usually the funniest person in the room. I also think she is stunning, but that is not why I love and think so highly of her.
Who is someone you love? What makes them magnetic? What draws you to them? Why do you value them?
- Name five reasons why you are grateful for your body.
Our bodies do so much for us every day. The love that they show us extends far beyond the confines of societal beauty standards.
I am grateful for my arms because I can hug the people I love with them. I am grateful that my body can turn the food I eat into the energy I need to get through the day. What are some reasons why you cherish your body? How can you show your body the same respect that it shows you?
- Write a letter to your younger self. What do they need to hear?
What advice do you wish you heard when you were younger? Why are you proud of your younger self? What would they be proud of you for?
Let your inner child know that you love them and will promise to do your best to take care of them!
Poor body image days are nothing to be embarrassed about. Even just acknowledging how you are feeling is one of the most important steps you can take, and you deserve the time to process and validate your emotions.
There is so much inside of you— happy journaling!