Adapted from The New Sex Bible.
The way you feel about your body is intrinsically related to your experience of sexual pleasure. Research continues to confirm that those who feel most comfortable in their skin report higher levels of sexual functioning and those negative thoughts about your body can impede both sexual desire and response.
Body image is all about how you feel about your body as opposed to what your body actually looks like. Accordingly, changing your shape, size, weight and overall appearance on its own will not amount to a hotter sex life. A positive attitude toward your body, however, may be just what the sex doctor ordered.
Developing a healthy relationship with your body doesn’t mean that you have to idealize every square inch 24/7. Positive body image involves seeing your own value and learning to appreciate your body for its many functions. Some strategies for improving the way you see your body include:
1. Surround yourself with positive friends, family, and peers. Much like happiness, science suggests that attitudes toward our bodies may be contagious. One study of 150 women found that our own body image and emphasis on weight loss is linked to our perception of how our friends feel about their bodies. So avoid commiserating with friends about weight, shape, and size and hang out with people who focus on their strengths as complex beings.
If someone in your life continues to complain about their body or disparage other people’s bodies and it makes you uncomfortable, you have the right to speak up and/or remove yourself from their presence. You have the right to love your body right now — no exceptions and you do not need to subject yourself to negative body talk including criticism of food and exercise habits.
2. Spend more time naked. Research suggests that nudists report greater life satisfaction, higher self-esteem, and more positive body image. The data suggests that seeing others naked (even through life drawing classes) is associated with improved body image, as real-life nudity may help us to appreciate the diversity of human beauty. This leads us to our next strategy…
3. Expose yourself to diverse images. Unfortunately, mainstream popular culture tends to celebrate and showcase one body type that doesn’t account for the diversity of beauty in terms of weight, skin colour, ability and all of our other glorious human qualities. If you’re only exposed to one type of beauty and you don’t see your body reflected in these limited (and heavily filtered) images, it follows that you may not learn to see your body as beautiful. Fortunately, you have some control over the media and images you consume, as you can now select whom you follow online. Some great Insta accounts that feature a range of beautiful bodies online include @Mamacaxx, @BodyPosiPanda, @GabiFresh, @TessHoliday, @NotoriouslyDapper and @iSuperSheng to name a few.
4. Move! Do what you can to let your body perform for you — dance, hike, climb, shake, stretch, explore and more. You don’t have to hit the gym to derive benefits from physical movement, but you will likely find that you have more energy and feel more confident if you allow your body to perform for you.
Physical activity isn’t primarily tied to body image in terms of the impact it can have on your weight, shape, size, and appearance. More importantly, exercise releases feel-good endorphins and research suggests that even short-term exercise can change the way you feel about your body. In one study, both men and women reported feeling fitter, healthier and more satisfied with their bodies after just six 40-minute workout sessions. This shift in attitude occurred in the absence of any weight or shape change over the course of the study.
5. Keep a gratitude journal. Keeping a list of the people, experiences, and things for which you are grateful is a great way to help generate positive affirmations about yourself and others. The benefits of gratitude are many and include greater likability, improved health, more happiness and higher self-esteem. Broad-based self-confidence is essential to positive body image, as the way you feel about yourself as a whole person is intrinsically related to how you feel about your body.
6. Develop healthy stress-coping skills. But what does this have to do with sex and body image? According to experts…everything. Shannon Snapp, body image researcher from the University of Arizona, found that those who have constructive skills to manage stress are less likely to develop poor eating or over-exercising habits that can reinforce negative body image.
7. Masturbate! Self-pleasure and self-esteem are positively correlated, so reach down there and soothe yourself into a frenzy of warm, fuzzy feelings! When your body performs for you, whether through daily tasks, sports or sexual pleasure, you tend to feel better about its appearance and function.
8. And finally…Stop complaining about your body. Try it — for one day, one week and then one month. It’s a life changer. If and when the negative thoughts enter your mind, try visualizing them floating away on a leaf or being locked away in a cabinet. You don’t verbalize every thought you have and you don’t have to put every negative body thought into words. If you break this commitment, don’t be hard on yourself, but try to offset each negative thought or statement with a positive or neutral one. It’s worth the effort.