Developing a positive body image

After treatment, you will need time to recover and adjust to any changes. Do things that make you feel good about yourself and let your body know you appreciate it. This could be having a relaxing bath or spending time somewhere peaceful. Other ideas to help improve your confidence include:

  • being kind to yourself and spending time with people who support you
  • writing down things you like about yourself and your appearance
  • seeing yourself as a whole person and not focusing on parts of your body you don’t like
  • replacing negative thoughts about your body with positive thoughts
  • making the most of yourself with make-up, clothes or a good hairstyle.

Making healthy lifestyle choices is a positive way of caring for your body. Being more physically active, healthy eating, not smoking and getting enough sleep all contribute to a healthy lifestyle. They bring different benefits, are good for your general health and can help you to feel more in control.

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Developing confidence

You need time to recover from treatment and adapt to body changes, especially if they are permanent. Taking care of yourself and your body is important. It may help you develop a more positive body image.

Even if your body looks or feels different, you can feel good about it getting you through treatment. You may find you appreciate what it does for you every day.

Feeling good about yourself makes you more confident and self-accepting. It gives you an attractiveness that’s about more than how you look. You may discover qualities you didn’t know you had or find certain relationships are now closer.

Take time out regularly to do nice things for yourself so your body knows you appreciate it. This could just be having a relaxing bath, going for a massage, or spending time somewhere you find peaceful.

The suggestions below may help your confidence:

  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Spend time with people who support and encourage you.
  • Write down the things you like about yourself and your appearance.
  • When you see yourself in your mind, or in a mirror, look at yourself as a whole person. Don’t focus on parts of your body you don’t like.
  • Try to replace negative thoughts about your body with positive thoughts.
  • Make the most of your best features by using make-up or clothes to draw attention to them. Have your hair styled or keep it groomed.

Making healthy choices

Eating healthily, getting enough sleep and being more physically active are ways of taking care of your body. Not smoking or drinking more than recommended levels are also important. These are positive ways of looking after your body. They may help you feel more in control and improve your body image.

Being more active

Doing regular physical activity can help you feel better about your body, its strength and what it’s capable of doing. It makes you feel less tired and helps release chemicals (endorphins) that lift your mood and lower stress hormones.

It can be an opportunity to take up a new type of activity you wouldn’t have thought of before. There are lots of different activities you can get involved with. Short walks that you build up gradually can often be a good start.

Some areas run physical activity programmes for people with cancer. Ask your healthcare team or look online for advice and to find out what’s available in your area. Regular physical activity also helps keep your heart and bones healthy. It may help reduce the risk of certain cancers coming back.

Eat healthily

A healthy, balanced diet gives you more energy. It also makes you look and feel better. Drink plenty of water, which helps look after your kidneys and keeps your skin clear.

Try to eat:

  • plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • less red and processed meat
  • less saturated fat and sugar (cakes, biscuits, fried fatty foods).

A healthy diet helps keep your weight healthy. It also reduces the risk of other diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Sleep well

We all feel and look better after a good night’s sleep. Cancer treatment can make you tired for weeks or sometimes even months after it’s over. Feeling anxious can also stop you sleeping. If you’re having problems sleeping, ask your doctor or nurse for advice.

Don’t smoke and stick to sensible drinking

Stopping smoking is the best decision you can make for your health. Smoking is a major risk factor for smoking-related cancers and heart disease. It also causes premature skin ageing. Within a few weeks of stopping, your skin will look clearer and brighter. Straight away, your breath, hair and clothes will smell better.

Stick within the recommended guidelines for alcohol. Drinking too much can make you more anxious or depressed. It affects your health and how you look. It also stops you sleeping well.

Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. Try to have several alcohol-free days a week. If your doctor has advised you to stop drinking, it’s important to follow this advice.

It can be hard to stop smoking or cut down on alcohol when you’re feeling anxious and stressed. Ask your doctor or nurse for advice. There’s lots of different support to help you.

Chicken, sweetcorn and noodle soup

Back to Cancer and body image

Relationships, intimacy and sex

Cancer and its treatments can affect your sex life and relationships. Talking openly and taking the time to get used to possible body changes can help.

Helping you take control

Setting realistic goals, dealing with problems in a structured way and challenging unhelpful thinking can help you take control.

Changing the way you think

Being aware of your thoughts may help you notice unhelpful thinking patterns. It can then allow you to challenge these.