11 Ways You Can Improve Your Self-Image — Without Dieting

While we’re ditching the diet, let’s also ditch food stigma. Food is not good or bad.

TW: dieting, weight loss

Look, the temptation is real. I know. I’ve been on every diet ever known to man. When the negative feelings start creeping in the first answer has always been, “Just go on a diet, Joni! Size 4 skinny jeans will cure it all.”

That’s a lie my brain told me for a lot of years.

In fact, dieting has never made my self-image any better really. The improved self-image was just a facade for the torture I put myself through to fit in those size 4s. It’s taken me a long time to get to the emotional place where all roads don’t end in disordered eating.

But I’m here. I’d like you to be here, too.

Here are 11 Ways You Can Improve Your Self-Image, Without Dieting:

Toss your scale.

This is number one because it might be the hardest. The temptation to weigh yourself everyday, every time you’re in the bathroom, is real. The only real way to remove the temptation is to, well, remove the temptation. Here’s the thing about scales: They don’t tell you anything about your health or your happiness or your well-being. They are a number that is rooted in gravity, in space you’d weigh zero. So throw it away.

Buy/wear clothes… that fit.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before but I’m here to remind you. Clothes that are too big/small are stupid. Buy some clothing that fits. Get shoes, too. If you can’t afford/do not want to buy new clothes, at least wear things that fit. If you do not want to wear things that fit, go naked. The size 6 jeans you’ve had for five years that you can barely get your thigh in (oh, is that just me?), get rid of them. Look, even if you were a size 6, even if you may someday again be a size 6, if you’re a size 12 now, get rid of them. They are taking up space and making you feel shitty.

Eat food. Whatever kind you want.

While we’re ditching the diet, let’s also ditch food stigma. Food is not good or bad. There is no worth (or lack of) in any food. When we give food the power — ie Oreos are bad, salmon is good — we create a system in which our behavior around our eating habits are also good/bad. This is a hard notion to release. You can do it. Eat what feels good to eat. Sometimes before bed I eat four Oreos with milk, sometimes I eat a big apple, sometimes I don’t eat anything. Food is not good or bad. You are not good or bad. See my girl Isabel for more on this.

Face the music (and the mirror).

Quit hiding from yourself. Not looking at your body is not going to make it change. It’s tough love time, friends. Get naked. Get in front of your mirror. Look at your wrinkles, your rolls, your stretch marks. You don’t have to love it. It’s ok. But you can learn to accept it. You can. I’m the biggest I’ve ever been in my life, by like a whole toddler (can’t be sure though, because no scale). I love my body more now than I did when I was 120 pounds. It wasn’t a shift in my physique that freed me from self-loathing, it was a shift in my focus.

Find a lover who looks at you like magic. OR masturbate.

No, seriously. Frida Khalo said so (editor's note: This quote was wrongly attributed to Frida. It's actually from a poem written by Marty McConnell. The corrected image is below.) While our self-image is our responsibility at the end of the day, it is really really helpful to have a lover who is into you and into you hard. My husband is into me and I’m into him like crazy business. BUT if I didn’t have a partner who shared my, uh, enthusiasm, I’d give that energy to myself. Buy yourself a hitachi and get your self-love on. There’s no better gift to give yourself. Light candles. Get naked. Take a bubble bath. Do it up. Get ur freak on (or any other Missy Elliot song, for that matter).

Treat yo’self.

This is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Go to a place like Curvy Girl (if you’re size 14 or greater) or herroom.com, buy yourself something nice, have them gift wrap it, and write yourself a nice note while you’re at it. Something like, “You are HOT.” Or, “I’d do you.” Do it. Today.

Move your body. But only in ways that feel good.

I’m not talking about running 35 miles a week, that’s just madness (I mean if you want to do that, go for it, but I’m not doing that). I’m talking about finding a thing that feels good and doing it. Pilates? Yoga? Walking? Rolling around on your floor eating Ben and Jerry’s? Whatever.

Read up/Hook up.

Did you see my post about the best body love books? Now would be a great time to ponder that list. Don't forget, there are other humans who fight this battle. They have wounds they are willing to talk about with you. They are out there: Lindsey AverillMelissa Fabello, Isabel Foxen Duke (again), Sam Dylan Finch, Virgie (see below), Whitney Way ThoreAdiba Nelson, Sonya Renee Taylor and TBINAA, Valerie, Caroline Dooner and that is just the tiny list. Solidarity is real. See (one of the best things that's ever happened to me), Jes Baker:

Speak up.

Change your language to change your life. Change your self-talk and the way you talk to others and also change what you allow folks to discuss in your presence. Tell the people around you what language you will tolerate. This can include things like, “You know, I’m not talking about my weight anymore.” Or, “I don't want to talk about your diet.” Or, “I’ve worked really hard to get to a place where I don’t think about my weight and food every minute of the day. Thanks for supporting me by doing the same.” OR, “Shut up.”

Wheel of awesome.

Take a lesson from the beloved Virgie Tovar, make a Wheel Of Awesome. All you really need is paper and a pencil (or crayons if you wanna be extra fancy). The act of writing all of the things that are great about you, to serve as a reminder on the days you can’t remember, is an act of self-love on its own. Virgie is a fierce force for self-love. What she says can be trusted.


Be photographed, boudoir or otherwise.

The idea of having someone photograph you nude (or even a little tiny bit nude) can be, well, terrifying. BUT (BUTT. Whatever.), there is something about seeing yourself through someone else's lens that is freeing. It may be hard to look at these images, but do it. And let other people look, too. I promise you the people around you don’t see all the things you dislike, they just see you. I participated in the 4th Trimester Body Project with Ashlee and Laura. When I saw my images did I see fat? Cellulite? Stretch marks? My back roll? Yes. To all of that. What did Ashlee see when she photographed me? "An amazingly gorgeous, charismatic, inspiring, witty woman and mother of six who uses her voice and experience as a powerful gift to women of the world." See. Not what I saw. 

Detach yourself from the person you think you are and allow yourself to be the person you actually are.

photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jackson


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