How many times have you stood in front of the full-length mirror, sucking in your stomach, flattening out your bulges, and cursing your cellulite until you’ve exhausted the curse word dictionary? The answer for most of us is probably too many times to count. While it’s very natural to hone in on bodily imperfections, more often than not these days we take it to the extreme. We distort that few extra pounds on our thighs into the greatest crime ever to be committed against humanity. It is this distortion that drives what it feels like to have a negative body image, and it can do serious damage to both our emotional and physical health, including our ability to successfully lose weight.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), people who view their bodies negatively are more likely to develop an eating disorder and suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, and low self-esteem. These conditions are all linked to weight gain and obesity. The exact cause is difficult to pinpoint, but it most likely begins somewhere in the adolescent years when forming an identity takes on greater importance. Intense comparisons to unrealistic standards of beauty in the media and to peers can contribute a great deal to negative body image. Other complicating factors may include bullying, abuse, or a predisposition to clinical depression.

If you feel like you have a negative body image is impacting your quality of life and ability to improve your health, don’t give up hope. The good news is that it is absolutely possible to overcome this self-sabotaging way of thinking. Here are some ways that have been proven to turn the negative into the positive:

Boost Your Social Support. Take stock of the people in your life and assess how they make you feel. Are you getting positive, constructive feedback? Or is there a lot of unwarranted negative criticism? Forming a positive body image can be amplified when you surround yourself with people who appreciate who you are and are considerate of your feelings.

Focus On The Positives, Ditch The Negatives. This may sound easier said than done, but it is true nonetheless. The key is to start small. A good first step is to put together a list of things you like about yourself that have nothing to do with your weight. For instance, you may get a lot of compliments on your hazel eyes, or take a lot of pleasure in volunteering for your favorite charity. Read this list to yourself every day so you can start to feel that positivity. Once you plant that seed, more good feelings will have the chance to blossom.

Wear Clothes That Make You Feel Good. Needless to say, trying to squeeze into a smaller clothing size will only have one ending, and it won’t be a happy one. Look for fashions that you feel comfortable in and accentuate the perks of your particular body type. For instance, if you are a woman who may be a little light on top and curvier on the bottom, try an empire waist to even out your figure. V-neck clothing for both men and women also adds the kind of angle that gives the body more dimension. Whatever your body type, go ahead and experiment with whatever looks good and makes you feel good.

Exercise. There are numerous studies that show just how much physical activity can improve your mood and even reduce feelings of depression. When you work those muscles and raise your heart rate, you release endorphins that serve to both increase your natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain. It is also thought that exercise stimulates something called norepinephrine, which boosts mood. Of course, we know that exercise is an important component in the weight loss and weight maintenance process, which in the end will protect you from other chronic diseases.

Get Counseling. Discussing your problems with others goes a long way in improving body image, self-esteem, and weight loss. A review of studies published in the journal PLOS One found that a weight loss program that included counseling sessions helped participants feel better about their bodies and lose significantly more weight than those who didn’t attend the sessions.

We’re not going to lie. Since you’ve probably been beating yourself up for a long time now, it’s going to take some time and effort to unwind the effects of having a negative body image. But if you’ve finally had enough of the self-shaming, then do something about it. Because every time you look in the mirror, the only thing you should see is the unique, wonderful you.