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Taking care of how we feel about our bodies is an important part of mental health for women. Sometimes, we worry about how we look and what others might think. We might compare ourselves to others and only think about our flaws. This can make us feel sad and lonely.

Have you ever thought about why two women who look so similar can feel so different about their bodies? One might feel confident and happy at the beach in a swimsuit, while the other might cover up everything. Even though their bodies are almost the same, they feel very differently. So, what makes this difference?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) says that our thoughts about our bodies make us feel good or bad, not the shape or size of our bodies themselves. This means anyone can have positive thoughts about their body, no matter how it looks. It’s all about how we think.

When we feel bad about our bodies, we focus on what we don’t like about them. We might avoid playing sports or going swimming. We might feel ashamed and avoid looking at ourselves in the mirror or having our picture taken. We try to change our bodies by exercising a lot and eating healthy foods.

But when we feel good about our bodies, we think about what our bodies can do. We enjoy doing activities like fitness or sports. We feel happy when we look in the mirror wearing our favorite outfit. We like the way our bodies help us do things we love. We take care of our bodies with exercise and healthy foods because we want to keep them healthy.

To feel better about our bodies, CBT for women has some ideas for us. We can “inspect” our thoughts by asking ourselves questions like, “Do I need to look perfect to be attractive or valuable?” or “Have I seen any examples of happy women with bodies that look like mine?”

We can also “Find Out for Myself” by doing things that make us uncomfortable on purpose, like wearing shorts or a swimsuit in public. We look around and notice if anyone is staring or judging. Often, people don’t actually pay much attention to us or how we look.

Another helpful idea is “Thought Swapping.” Instead of saying bad things about our bodies, we can think of good things about the body parts we don’t like. For example, if we think our thighs are too big, we can say, “My thighs are strong and help me go to beautiful places.”

It’s also important to focus on health-related goals instead of just wanting to look a certain way. Some things, like hormones or health conditions, might make it hard to lose weight even if we eat well and exercise. Instead of weight goals, try setting health goals like improving A1C, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels.

Building more positive self-talk is an important way to support mental health for women. Remember, it takes time and practice to feel better about your body, but it’s worth it. It’s the only one you have.