Having tougher body image days is perfectly normal. Yes, even when you’re actively working on your mental and physical health. Yes, even when you’re strength training every day. Let’s look at how we can start being kinder to ourselves when these thoughts happen.
Click play to listen right on this page, no app needed:
Have you enrolled in the free Strength Workout Mini-Course yet? Click here to get started!
How to Work Through Negative Body Thoughts
- Journal it Out: Mentally backtrack in your day, or the day before, to see what, if anything, influenced that event.
- Check-in with Yourself: Is there a basic need you’re not meeting for yourself?
- Understand your Menstrual Cycle: Your cycle can impact your mood and how you feel about your body
- Practice Gratitude: Especially when you’re feeling challenging ways about your body
Body Image Challenges and Strength Training
Challenging and negative thoughts about your body are perfectly normal. They’re not pleasant or productive, but please let me reassure you that they’re absolutely normal. We all experience them, even when we’re actively working on our positive mental and physical health.
It’s not realistic to never have a negative thought about your body. And that’s okay. Working towards some form of body neutrality is a journey, not a destination.
Working Through a Negative Body Image
When you do have negative or challenging thoughts about your body, it’s important to try to get to the root cause of these thoughts. First, take some time to journal out what might have influenced these thoughts throughout the last day or two.
You might also be neglecting one of your basic needs. When was the last time you ate or drank water? Are you getting enough sleep?
For longer-term solutions, start tracking your menstrual cycle as your cycle has an impact on how you feel mentally and towards yourself. Finally, take up a daily gratitude practice to help shift your entire perspective.
How do you currently feel about your own body image? What struggles have you gone through? Share your experiences with me in the comments below.
In This Episode
- Why it’s normal to have challenging thoughts about your body [6:00]
- Why it’s not realistic to expect to never have a challenging thought about your body [7:45]
- The importance of body neutrality [13:00]
- You deserve to eat. Make sure you’re eating regularly [33:30]
- Why you should track your menstrual cycle [24:00]
- How challenging yourself with practicing gratitude can help shift your perspective [27:45]
“It is still normal to have challenging thoughts about your body. You’re not failing or doing this wrong if you still have those doubts, negative self-talk, or aren’t at body neutrality or beyond to body liberation, or wherever you are on that spectrum.” [6:28]
“By thinking or expecting that we’re never going to have the negative thought or the challenging feeling ever again, we’re actually setting ourselves up for not being as adept or experienced with getting through those challenging thoughts or feelings.” [9:45]
“You need to eat. We need to eat. When you’re running on low energy, your blood sugar is really low, and you’re hangry, your mood is affected. You’re feeling mentally foggy, more anxious, and on edge. Food is essential.” [20:03]
“Gratitude is a muscle that you have to practice. Yes, you can feel these ways about yourself, you can feel down, sad, grief. All of those emotions are normal. At the same time, you can challenge yourself to give even a little bit of gratitude, just a little bit. It can be both – and.” [27:18]
“It’s okay for those negative body thoughts to pop up, even at positive times in our life. They probably will. Working on that resilience, instead of walking around on eggshells, is ultimately what makes you more resilient, more able to unlearn the things that aren’t serving you, and lean into what it’s like to be on this journey. It’s never going to be perfect but it is so worthwhile.” [31:31]
Featured on the Show
Strength Training & Tough Body Image Days FULL TRANSCRIPT
Do tough thoughts about your body ever go away completely? This is a question that I recently received via direct message on Instagram. And it’s one that I’ve received many, many times over the years as a strength nutrition coach, and somebody who works with people, one on one in groups. And of course, in the larger community. body image is something that is so closely interwoven with topics of getting stronger and seeing what your body can do. While I can’t promise to have the one single definitive answer to this question, I am going to be sharing with you some personal and professional experience, as well as things that I personally do when I noticed tough thoughts about my body creeping in. The next evolution of Harder To Kill Radio is here. Welcome to the Listen To Your Body podcast. on this show, we’ll explore the intersection of body, mind, and soul health, and help you reclaim your abilities to eat and move more intuitively. Hear Your body’s signals, and trust yourself more deeply. I’m Steph Gaudreau, a certified intuitive eating counselor, nutritional therapy practitioner, and strength coach. On this podcast, you can expect to hear expert guest interviews and solo chats that will help you deepen your trust with food movement, and your body. Remember to hit the subscribe button and share this podcast with your friends and loved ones. Now, on to the show.
Hello, and thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. Today we’re going to be diving into a bit of a meaty question about tough thoughts about your body. And when you are focusing on strength and seeing what your body can do, what happens when these thoughts creep in. Before we hop into that, I want to invite you to join the waitlist for my upcoming brand new group program. It’s all about strength nutrition, and you can do that at bit.ly/GroupWaitlist. So that’s bit.ly/GroupWaitlist, group with a capital G, waitlist with a capital W. So that’s bit.ly/GroupWaitlist., both of those words are capitalized. And you can also get that by going to my Instagram, LinkedIn profile, and you can find the waitlist for this upcoming program. I don’t have a specific date yet in terms of when we’re launching. But if you’ve been thinking about how you can fuel your strength workouts, get stronger, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym. Without having to obsess about food, and be super strict or any of that then you’re definitely going to want to get on the waitlist so that you can find out more information from me as I released it in terms of dates and all of that good, magical, magical stuff.
Okay, hopping into today’s question. Do tough body thoughts ever go away completely? There’s a few reasons why I wanted to talk about this on the show. Number one. It’s a question that people often have when they start down this path, this journey of learning more about their bodies, finding a kinder way to relate to their bodies, looking at movement and exercise, not as something punitive to make up for what you ate. But something that helps you get stronger, or helps you just enjoy life more. And nutrition being something about really nourishing your body fueling your body, and not something to be afraid of food, right. And we’ve talked about so many issues with food and exercise on this podcast. But I think that there’s oftentimes a hesitancy because the outside world can make it seem like, especially people who teach about this, they coach about this, this is their business, this is what they’re helping other people with. The outside world can make it seem like those, those negative self-talk moments about your body, tough thoughts and feelings about your body, that they just go away. And that can paint the picture that if you are still experiencing those that you’re doing wrong, you’re failing, you’re not doing good enough. You need to push harder. There’s something deficient in you. And I want to address that on this show, which is why I’m doing the whole topic in the first place.
So I think it’s very nuanced. And I try to be as nuanced as possible knowing that even for myself being in this space, having gone on a very important transformation myself from somebody who was very self, very negative all the time about my body, and my internal self-talk, to be more body neutral, I don’t have everybody’s lived experience. And so I just, I always want to be really mindful of that. So I’m going to be sharing some thoughts today that are sort of from what I see from what I observe from, you know, an amalgamation of my coaching clients, and my personal journey as well, knowing that I don’t have all the answers. And it’s still really important for you to get curious about what resonates for you What makes sense for you. So here’s the challenge is that you probably know, after listening to this podcast, that I’m a huge advocate for building strength, lifting weights, discovering a different way of relating to your body, like what your body can do, knowing that it’s not the be-all end-all.
But when you’re doing all of those things, and you’re like, Okay, I’m relating to myself in a different way, I’m taking up space, instead of only trying to shrink, I’m giving myself something to focus on besides the scale, I am experiencing a lot of growth, it is still normal, to have challenging thoughts about your body. In other words, you’re not failing or doing this wrong. If you still have those doubts, or you still have the negative self-talk, or you’re still not quite at body neutrality, or beyond to body liberation, or wherever you are on that spectrum. And yes, social media feeds into this because sometimes it just looks like everybody else has their shit together, and you’re the only one who doesn’t, which can make it feel even worse. But I think it’s unrealistic to believe that if you’ve had a lifetime of challenge with your body, in whatever way that shows up for you, thoughts, feelings, experiences, because of the body that you’re in. I think it’s unrealistic to believe that magically, or because you’ve figured out some secret sauce, or the key that no one else, you know, you’re trying to find the key to unlocking all of this, and so that you’ll never have to have a negative thought about your body ever again. It just isn’t, in my opinion, realistic that you’ll never have a challenging thought or feeling ever again, especially if you’ve been experiencing this for the majority of your life. Now, I realized that that sounds like a downer, possibly, of like, well, what am I doing all this stuff for? You know, I’m growing in new ways. I’m challenging myself to do new things. I’m getting outside my comfort zone. I’m building new habits. I’m learning I’m unlearning. What’s the fucking point. And I’ll say this much that I do believe that the intensity and the frequency of those challenging thoughts, those challenging emotions can subside or decrease.
But expecting yourself not to have thought to cross your mind from time to time, or for that thought to generate a feeling inside of you. It’s almost like expecting yourself to walk on eggshells. And I really love what my friends at beauty redefined. Talk about which is body image resilience. And they are the experts on this. You can listen to their podcast episode on this podcast. They’re wonderful. And they have built their whole entire careers around body image resilience. But they’re on to a really great point and I wanted to weave that into the experience of, Hey, I’m starting to lift weights or strength train now and wow, I feel so much freer in my focus. And then it’s like, bam, a thought will come along and totally throw you off. And it can feel like shit, I’m not doing this good enough, or what am I What have I not figured out the secret to so by thinking or expecting that we’re never going to have the negative thought the challenging feeling ever again, we’re actually kind of setting ourselves up for not being as adept or experienced. With, Well, okay, how do I get through this challenging thought or feeling that I’m having. So I think that’s what throws people off. And that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to address this is thinking, Well, hey, instead of restricting all of my food and focusing only on weight, or only on getting smaller, look at this new world that I’m putting myself in, that I’m experiencing, there’s new ways I’m learning to relate to myself in my body. And yet, even when all of those things feel like they’re moving in a forward direction, it’s still possible to have those thoughts and feelings about your body not being good enough, or thinking like, oh, gosh, this would just be so much easier. If I was lighter, smaller, whatever the thought might be, as to expect that that’s probably actually going to happen.
And building the skills and the resilience to make your way through it, when those things happen, and realize that it doesn’t mean you’re failing or doing it poorly. Or you’ve somehow missed the secret that everybody else knows because you still have negative thoughts about yourself. So here’s the thing, you know, I’ll give you some kind of personal thoughts. And then some, I guess, you could call them tips and things that I do when I feel these thoughts creep in. As somebody who has, yes, used strength training as a portal, as I call it, kind of like a portal or a catalyst to explore this new way of relating to myself. Over the years, the amount of time that I spend in a really negative spot about my body has diminished. And as I mentioned earlier, I tend to spend most of my time in body neutrality, which is really not thinking about my body in terms of being good or bad. But it just is right to exist, I’m existing my body, yes, I’m grateful for so many things, how it shows up for me, etc, etc. But I, I spend more time in that neutral zone than I do anything else. And I think that’s okay. When I first kind of figured out that I could be in that space that to me felt regulatory at the time. And I know for many people who listened to this podcast, maybe the first time you ever heard about body neutrality was here, or somewhere else on Instagram or something like that. And I’ve heard so many times the amount of surprise of I didn’t even know that was a possibility. Because sometimes the world tends to encourage us like toxic positivity as being the antithesis to negative self-talk, right? We just had to be super positive all the time. And I don’t think that’s realistic, either. Somebody neutrality is a really important place for a lot of people to be. And I think it’s okay if you hang out there a lot.
Don’t feel like you have to, you know, Oh, I should have made it out of body neutrality. By now you’re not on a timeline. This doesn’t have to last a certain amount of time before you’re allowed to go to the next level. Or it means that you’re doing it wrong. If you’re like why notice I’m still just kind of hanging out here and body positivity or embodying neutrality, not going to some kind of toxic positivity. Of course, that is different from the body positivity movement. So let’s not confuse those two things. But sometimes I still don’t like what I see. Or I wish things about my body were different. And I think that that’s just being human, and it doesn’t betray, having those thoughts. I don’t think that betrays all the work. All the experiences and the ways I’ve transformed and the ways I’ve challenged myself to learn and unlearn. I don’t feel like that’s a betrayal of all of that transformation, all of that growth if you will. And so I hope that you also as you’re listening to this can think, okay, I do relate to myself really, you know, in a new way or I’m growing in certain areas, or Yes, I started strength training and Gosh, being able to focus on something different other than how many pounds I weigh, wow, has just so freeing. I don’t think it’s a betrayal of that if you still have thoughts of like, wow, things would be way easier if I was this size or I still don’t like what this body part looks like. I think the difference is, is if you stay stuck in that place, and I’m not saying that that’s always a choice. So just to be clear on that. Sometimes we need support to get past those things, I don’t think it’s always a choice to end up feeling stuck. But there’s a huge difference to me. And I hope what you’re going to get out of this podcast is thinking, yeah, I can still have times where I don’t like what I see or things I wish I were different about myself. But I’m able to lean back on these tools that I’ve learned or implement some resilience techniques, or just gain an extra awareness that I didn’t have before. And that’s I’ve still grown, it doesn’t mean I’ve done it wrong.
Or that I have to do this perfectly in order for it to be worthwhile. So over time, through all the shifts that I’ve made, there have been a few things that have helped me along the way, when I notice that I do have those thoughts about my body, that kind of unkind, you can call them negative, you can call them bad, I don’t think there are any bad emotions, all emotions are normal and human. So all those words can be used interchangeably. But when I noticed these thoughts or feelings creeping in, there are four things that I tend to do. And these are just suggestions. I’m not saying these will work for everyone. But perhaps something here that I mentioned will pique your, your interest. Or you might think, oh, I’ve never thought of that. So here we go. Number one, I really like this activity, this kind of mental activity. And you can do this even on paper in a journal. If I’m noticing I’m feeling some particular way about my body, which is unkind, or I’m starting to get a little bit stuck on some of those thoughts. What I like to do is mentally backtrack in my day, perhaps even to the day before, to see what if anything, influenced that event. Especially if I notice, there were other events in my day, that had me feeling insecure, uncertain about myself, anxious, fearful, etc. Because I tend to notice, when I’m already feeling a little bit drained or on edge, or have had some of those challenging feelings, it is oftentimes more likely that I will then have challenging thoughts about my body. It’s kind of like, Where’s the chain, and follow the chain backward, to get some insight about how that state of mind or those feelings and emotions potentially have affected how I’m now feeling about myself, my body.
So follow the chain, get curious, you might notice that there’s a particular person at your work that you butt heads with. And by the end of the day, you’re just feeling really down or really on edge, or whatever it is, and then it’s just kind of there it is, right? start feeling or thinking, some challenging stuff about your body. So follow the chain and get curious. You might be surprised at what you notice. Is it always directly actionable? Maybe, maybe not. I wouldn’t say it’s always direction directly actionable, in terms of, well, I’m just going to go and solve this. But over time, you might start to notice patterns that give you more information. Okay, number two, is to check in with me and ask, Is there a bit of a basic need that I have to meet for myself? And a few examples that can really impact me are rest. So am I pushing myself too hard? Have I you know, by making sure I’m taking time off from work? Do I need to eat? This is such a huge one. I cannot. I cannot impress this one on you enough. And you know, if you’ve listened to this podcast for long enough that I wouldn’t be harping on this and I will die on this hill that we need to eat. I know that’s the most obvious thing, somebody He’s probably ever said, but I need to keep saying it is you need to eat, we need to eat. When you’re running on low energy, or your blood sugar is really low, you’re hangry, your mood is affected, you’re feeling mentally foggy, you’re feeling more anxious. on edge. Food is oftentimes if you think back when’s the last time I ate something, if you’re, you’ll be, you’ll be amazed, you might think, well, I just got really focused on work, I haven’t eaten anything for eight hours. And yes, our bodies have failsafe mechanisms for being able to create energy from the different stores that we have. But at the same time, if you notice that every time we use to extend your eating window to like six hours or longer that you feel on edge, you’re starting to get really anxious, you’re not feeling very good in your body.
And that can make that can sort of cause this cascade of thoughts as well, is to notice that I can’t tell you how many people in my community how many clients I have, who are not eating on a regular basis. There’s a lot of meal skipping, a lot of I’m very busy at work and art, some of those things are valid, yes. And some of them are like we need to learn a new way. But at the same time, the food situation is really, really, really important. And yes, you deserve to eat, I don’t care how much exercise you’ve done on that day, I don’t care if you haven’t done any exercise on that day. You have to eat, you need energy. Okay, and then another one for me is kind of alone time or downtime. And I kind of mentioned downtime earlier with rest, but I mean, like, alone time to just be quiet. Obviously. Maybe it’s not obvious, an introverted person. And so for me having downtime is important. So I can kind of mentally recharge, having enough sleep. I know not always the easiest thing, but getting enough actual sleep time or rest time. So so important. So what are some of these basic needs? And is there something you need right now? Do you need some water? I know that sounds really silly. But sometimes when we start to get in those really kind of dehydrated low energy states, we become much more vulnerable, at least in my personal experience. And what I’ve experienced with working with my clients would become so much more vulnerable to our are the thoughts that we have, and being able to either just kind of let them pass by and think, oh, that was really interesting, or latching on to them and then kind of ending up in this negative spiral. Okay, the third thing that I do is remember where I’m at in my menstrual cycle. Of course, not everybody has a cycle or has a cycle that occurs on a quote, unquote, regular basis. And that’s okay.
But I noticed for myself that during the luteal phase, which is the second half of the menstrual cycle, I am much more prone personally to feel like a potato. What I use is like, you know, I think, like, 80% of the time, I feel like I spend and kind of body neutral 10% of the time, I’m like, dang, like, I’m, I’m, I’m feeling myself today. And then 10% of the time, I feel like a potato. Although, like just like a lump, I’m like, like, just not just in that state of mind right? Now, don’t get hung up on those numbers, that’s just me throwing that out there and being a little bit silly about it. But I notice that, yes, I feel oftentimes more emotional, more low energy less resilient in that second half of the cycle, particularly the very last week in the premenstrual sort of one-week window. And here’s the important part, I think, is that even if you are not regular, or you currently don’t have much of a nap, you know, quote-unquote, natural cycle is still being able to track things like your mood, your energy, your cravings. Because it can provide a wealth of personalized data from which you can observe patterns.
And so I’m a huge advocate for at least tracking some of those things. If you can track your cycles specifically, that can give you a lot of data, a lot of insight, I should say. And then note knowing that those changes tend to be cyclical. Of course, you might need more support for your cycle if you currently have a cycle. So Please don’t mistake that there, you know, there are times where you need to get help figuring out what is really not working for you. But there is some variability. And I feel like, we just need that for anybody that has a cycle, I feel like we just need that validation that no, not every day is going to feel the same. Your body is hormonally shifting the whole month, or the whole cycle. And you might feel more energy, less energy, you might be thinking more about carbs, sometimes and less about carbs at other times, and like, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. So I feel like the more n equals one insight you have about your body. And that doesn’t have to be some kind of external tracking device, but it can just be in the noticing. So that’s very important, at least for me personally. And then the last thing to talk about here is gratitude. And I know you’re, it’s so easy to roll your eyes and rely only on gratitude. Yeah, okay, I’m grateful, especially when you’re feeling challenging ways about your body, or your body’s changing, and not in a way that you expected. Or you are injured, or you have a chronic illness, or whatever else has changed in your life. Especially with your body, I totally understand how it can feel like, why, why now great gratitude for this.
Fuck off Steph. And at the same time, there’s a lot of research about gratitude and the power of gratitude. But at the same time, when I’m feeling particularly in a mood about my body, I try to come back to the gratitude that I have for how my body shows up for me, even if it’s not showing up for me in other ways. And so again, I don’t think this is the same thing as toxic positivity, which is just like, everything is great. And it’s fine. And I have no issues or any of that, or I should just love everything about myself. But rather remembering and it’s like a muscle, you have to practice it, you have to nudge yourself a little bit. That Yes, we can feel these ways about ourselves, you can feel down feel sad, feel grief, feel uncertainty, and those are all normal disappointment, as all of those emotions. And at the same time, we can challenge ourselves to give even a little bit of gratitude. Just a little bit, not in a bypass the kind of way or glossing over kind of way or you know, hey, your emotions aren’t valid kind of way. But a both and right. Feel the feelings, talk it out, get support, move through it, and challenge yourself with gratitude. Just a little, and see how it shifts your perspective. There was a time where things in my life were really in an upheaval state as all I can probably describe it is a lot of transition. And even though in that time, there were still a lot of good things happening. I had so much uncertainty, I felt so scared about everything. I was leaving my job, I was considering moving to another country to be with z. And then I did and I was like, What am I doing? Like, am I really gonna give up all this stuff here? You know, am I just being impulsive?
There were so many doubts that I had. So even though there was good stuff happening, I was really scared and uncertain. And for me, I started this daily gratitude journal, where every night I made myself think about what I was grateful for. And it really helped. It really, really helped. So maybe it’s just kind of pausing in the morning and thinking about what’s the one thing you’re grateful for? In terms of your body? How is it showing up for you today? I’m like, Wow, my body digested my food without me thinking about it. Gosh, what a fucking miracle. Or my body allowed me to walk around the block today. And gosh, you know, I’m getting over this injury. Not me personally, but I’ve heard this from a lot of people. You know, I’m getting over this injury, I’m healing and wow, to be able to walk a block is so much further than I could do last week. I could only walk you know, to the corner before I was in pain. So just really thinking about what are you grateful for in terms of how your body is showing Because especially when it’s there are things challenging you about your body, it can be so easy to let that be the dominant thing. And so it’s trying to provide a little bit of counter perspective. So that’s kind of this podcast episode thinking about, you know, is it realistic? That tough body thought will ever go away? I don’t think so.
That’s been my personal experience. From all the people I’ve ever talked to who are experts in body image from all the humans, like yourself and all the other listeners who are on this journey, it’s almost like, can we kind of expect that those tough body thoughts will linger, they’re going to pop up, sometimes they’re going to be that whack a mole, where, you know, we thought it was going really good. And then oh, it’s there it is rearing its head again. Or that we’re going to have those moments that are unexpected, or we’re feeling tender or vulnerable about something else. And it is that place that we’re just feeling a little bit more raw still. And even if we are choosing to lift weights and discover all the incredible things that we can do, aside from being defined by weight on a scale, and we’re taking up more space, and we’re using our voices, and we are setting a different example for children or the people that we care about, or whatever it is, even when we’re doing all of that. It’s still okay, for those body thoughts to pop up, and they probably will.
But working on that resilience, and some of the things that I share today are just things that have helped me personally. But working on that resilience, instead of trying to walk around on eggshells, or assume that it will never strike again, is ultimately what makes you more resilient, more able to unlearn the things that aren’t serving you. And really lean into what it’s like to be on this journey, knowing that it’s never going to be perfect, but gosh, it is so worthwhile.
Thanks so much for tuning into the show today. I really enjoyed this time to be able to hang out with you and share some of these thoughts. Of course, I would love to hear what you think, on Instagram, so you can either DM me or better yet, take a screenshot of this podcast and share it out and tag me. I would love to see that the show resonated with you in some way. Make sure you subscribe to this podcast on your favorite podcast app, share it out with a friend or a loved one. And if you’re ready to start working on fueling yourself, so you’ve got stronger from your strength workouts, you have more energy and you perform better in and outside the gym. Then go ahead and get on the waitlist for my new group program which is coming sometime this summer. no exact date quite yet but you can get on the waitlist by going to my Instagram link in bio, you’ll see a link for the waitlist, you can go ahead and click on that put in your name and email address. I will notify you when more details are here. Or you can go directly to the URL bit.ly/GroupWaitlist. G is capital and W is capital. So group capital G, program capital W. I know that’s just how Bitly works these days. And we will put that link also in the show notes which live on my website StephGaudreau.com. That’s it for today. Thanks so much for being here. Stay tuned next week. I have really cool guests coming to join me on the podcast. Until then, stay strong and have a great week.