Bathing suits and beyond: 7 tips to improve your body image
DESIRÉE GONZALES PHILLIPS
Desirée Gonzales Phillips is a senior health education specialist in the Patient Education Office and has worked at MD Anderson 10 years.
Bathing suit season is over, thank goodness! Time to put the suit and cover-up back in the drawer until next season's magazine cover says "10 Tips to Get Bathing Suit Ready." When summer rolls around again -- no pun intended -- I will need 25 tips.
Like most people, I often complain or criticize my body or want to change something about it. But for many of our patients, body image can go much deeper. It can be a lifetime concern.
Are you placing unrealistic demands on your body to look the way it did before cancer?
Learn to like yourself
MD Anderson's Body Image Therapy Service offers these suggestions to improve your relationship with your body.
Be kind to yourself. It's OK not to like the way you look sometimes.
Be accepting. Know what you like and dislike, but be willing to accept yourself "as is."
Replace critical thoughts about your body with neutral ones. Ask yourself, "How can I be more accurate?" For example, instead of saying, "My breast looks strange," you could say, "I have scars on my breasts from surgery. One breast is smaller, but no one can tell. I notice changes more than other people do."
Exercise to manage stress and improve your mood. Find fun activities that make you feel good. If you can't do certain things because of treatment or recovery, do things that are easy. For example, try light stretching, beginners' yoga or walking.
Enhance your senses. For example, have a massage, enjoy nature, take a bath or wear soft clothing.
If it's fun for you, spend time on your clothing, hair, make-up or jewelry. (If this takes up too much time or causes you stress, then do something else you enjoy.)
Praise your efforts and compliment yourself for being more accepting of yourself.