In a world where beauty and conformity seem to matter so much, it can be hard to maintain a positive body image. Many people turn to eating disorders or surgeries just to try to fit in. But you don't have to go through permanent or sickly changes to force your body to be something it's not. The true path to happiness—and healthiness—is by simply finding your positive body image.

1. Look Past the Illusion

By now you've probably run across at least a couple of comparison articles that show models with and without makeup. But the manipulation of their bodies goes much deeper than just makeup. In fact, life as a fashion model can feel like nothing more than being a "pretty hanger," as one model said, and often demands models subsist on nothing but a few apple slices a day and no water as a way to control weight. The body you may be trying for isn't "real." The one you have is.

2. Choose to Accept Yourself

Believe it or not, you do have a choice to accept your body. Rather than focusing on the parts you don't like, focus on the parts that you love. Maybe you have killer locks, smoldering eyes, sexy hips? When you find traits about yourself that you love, it's easier to accept the things that you don't like. You can also track how much time you dedicate to negativity by making a mark on a piece of paper every time you have a negative thought about your appearance. Have an affirmation in mind, and every time you have a negative thought, replace it with your new mantra. "I am beautiful," "I love myself," "I am perfect the way I am" can all be good starters.

3. Find What You Want Out of Life

Once you realize how much of your time is spent being negative and wishing changes to your body, you can eliminate it. This will leave you with plenty of time to figure out what it is that you truly want out of life. Perhaps you've always wanted to travel? Maybe you dreamed of being an author as a child? Now's the time to start making plans and devoting yourself to a new way of life. In this new life, where you accept yourself as you are, you have plenty of time to dedicate yourself to things that make you happy.

4. Discover Your Natural Talents

Now that you have more free time to do things that you like, and you have an idea of what you want out of life, you can easily discover what you're good at. Indulge in healthy hobbies that lift you up and from which you can draw pride and a sense of accomplishment. This doesn't just mean sketching or vlogging, either. Try out new things - ice skating, yoga, rocking climbing, calisthenics- and find something that your body is good at. Something you can be proud of and confident about.

5. Stop Measuring Now

Did you know that your body weight changes from day to day? It depends on whether you've eaten yet, had a bowel movement, put on muscle, and many other factors. This can lead to misleading results (eg you think you lost x amount of weight, but it looks like you gained), and a bad mood with a self-defeatist attitude. Even taking your measurements with a tape measure only serves to encourage other bad habits of keeping a critical eye on your body. Quit holding such a tight leash on what you eat, wear, and how you measure your body and your beauty.

Breaking bad habits can be hard. If you've started down a rough path and you're hurting yourself and starving yourself, there are many eating disorder treatment options that can help you recover. Even if you've not reached that point yet, it's important to stop now and give yourself some time to recuperate from negative thoughts. You are beautiful; you are worthy. It's time you take control of your life and care of yourself.

Author's Bio: 

Claire Stewart is a freelance writer and blogger focused on writing about health, travel, and business among other topics. She graduated from Washington State University with a Bachelors in Women’s Studies and currently lives in Seattle with her goldfish, Merlin.