In a perfect world, poor body image would not exist. An article about subtle signs you have poor body image would be silly. Or at least of little interest.
The world we live in is not perfect. (Newsflash, right?)
Historically, there have always been people (mostly women) dissatisfied with their body. And, cultural definitions of the ‘perfect’ body change every decade or so, keeping us on alert for the next body ideal du jour. The value of beauty ideals depends in part on the high costs of achieving them.
For the last 30 or so years, poor body image has become so common that it has been dubbed normative discontent.
And by the way, there is waaaaaaay more to poor body image than “I hate my body”.
Subtle signs you have poor body image involve more nuance than the outright declaration of body hatred.
There are sociological, racial, historical , cultural, ethnic, and political factors that contribute to body image. The origin of poor body image is complex.
What is body image?
Body image refers to the relationship you have with your body.
If you have a body, you have a body image.
Body image has more to do with cultural, political, racial, peer, social, and family values than it does about your actual size, weight, or shape.
Messages from family, friends, social media, advertisements, coaches, and lots of other sources contribute to the relationship you have with your body.
It doesn’t take long to internalize a negative image of your body. Especially if you are a frequent social media user.
As is true of relationships of any kind, body image can be complicated.
Your relationship with your body includes thoughts, feelings, sensations, perception of size and shape, and behaviors.
Dissatisfaction with your body can range from mild to severe.
Some signs of poor body image are obvious, such as avoiding the beach due to shame of body size.
Other behavior due to poor body image can be more subtle, such as frequent, casual glances at yourself in the mirror for reassurance that your body is ‘ok’.
Subtle signs of poor body image can be hard to identify, maybe even for you with your own body.
One of the reasons subtle signs can be hard to recognize is because poor body image IS considered ‘normal’, as if it is just how it is, of no concern. (The ‘normative discontent’ we talked about in the beginning of the article.)
Actually, subtle signs of poor body image are important to identify so that you can work on improving your relationship with your body.
After all, just because something is common does not mean it is ok. Nor does it mean that you have to comply with the normative discontent.
Body image and self esteem go hand in hand, so having subpar body image automatically means low self esteem.
(Children as young as three have poor body image. Scary.)
Here are five of the most common subtle signs you have poor body image.
- Self-critical thoughts about your body, even if you keep them to yourself. Just because you don’t say them aloud does not mean they are benign. The self criticism interferes with your ability to feel confident and worthy. Or to have any genuine fun.
For example, imagine you’re at the beach with friends or family. You are wearing a new bathing suit, and the sun is shining. All you can think of is the disgust you feel toward your body.
You continue to think about your body negatively and say mean and hurtful things to yourself that you would probably never say to a friend or loved one. (Or maybe not even to a stranger or to someone you dislike!)
When it is time for lunch, you say you are not hungry. (But you are.) When everyone else gets ice cream, you again decline. Or maybe you get a low calorie alternative. All because you think you are ‘too fat’ and deep down feel unworthy of partaking in the fun.
If your children are with you at the beach, they are likely aware of your stated or unstated body image related self criticism. Children pick up on messages and internalize negative body image for themselves.
Even looking at yourself in the mirror and frowning is a subtle sign of poor body image and something children pick up on.
- Ongoing comparison of your weight and shape to other people’s. This may be something you do in your head, or that you say out loud.
Let’s continue with the beach example. You are wearing that new bathing suit, and the sun is shining. Your main focus, though, is everyone else’s body, and comparing theirs to yours. You miss out on the fun your kids are having building sandcastles.
Or how about another example.
You walk into a room (at work, at your kids’ school, at the bank – anywhere really). You immediately scan the room to see if anyone’s body is bigger than yours. Or where you fit on the body size continuum among people in the room. The comparison is so automatic that you may not even realize you are doing it.
More often than not, social comparison worsens, rather than improves, body image.
- Jealousy due to the lower weight or ‘more attractive’ shape of a family member, friend, celebrity or even a stranger. Maybe you automatically dislike someone, even if you do not know anything about her, because her body more closely meets the cultural ideal. The resulting envy/jealousy of her body size may be a subtle sign of your poor body image.
If you notice wishing you could look like that person, be curious about why your body is automatically deemed inferior.
- Cancellation of social plans is another subtle sign of poor body image. A common example begins with getting ready to go out with college friends. Someone at the last minute decides not to go because ‘nothing looks good’ on her.
Because she can’t find something she feels comfortable wearing, she would rather stay home. She becomes self-critical, caught in a thought loop of how ugly she is. Then feels irritable, jealous, and definitely not in the mood to go out. So she misses out on fun with friends because she is dissatisfied with her body. Those feelings spill over into other areas of her life.
- Perpetuating body shame, racism, sizism, and weight discrimination are often indicators of poor body image. None of the “isms” is benign. Participating in these behaviors affect us all, regardless of our weight or size.
Fat stigma has been referred to as the last acceptable form of prejudice.
When you laugh at jokes about weight or you snicker at people in larger bodies, you are perpetuating weight stigma.
And, doing so may indicate you have poor body image yourself.
I offer this explanation with compassion. After all, we live in Diet Culture, where normative discontent is…..the norm.
Let’s say you feel judgey about the character of larger bodied people. (Despite the fact that not all people in a particular body size are the same. Just as people of a certain descent or height are not the same.)
You create an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ dynamic.
Maybe the belief is something like you will never “let yourself go” like ‘those people’. As if body weight is under complete voluntary control. (It isn’t). Or that we are all obligated to be in a certain weight range. (We aren’t) Or that health and size are causally linked (nope).
But what may perpetuate the stigma and discrimination is fear of your own body becoming ‘fat’.
And living in fear of becoming ‘fat’ suggests a conditional relationship with your own body.
That just one wrong move and bang! You will ‘get fat’ and then really be dissatisfied with your body.
One of the many reasons recognizing even subtle signs of a poor body image is important is that body dissatisfaction can lead to restrictive eating, over-exercising, purging, and other eating disorder behaviors.
Plus, feeling bad about the one and only body you will ever have detracts from quality of life.
So what to do?
Moving somewhere off the grid isn’t realistic for most of us. Nor is permanently unplugging our electronic devices or eliminating all social contact.
1. First, recognize that body ideals are always changing. Standards changing as often as they do suggests that the standards are really just temporary.
Someone will always be more beautiful, regardless of the amount of dieting, self starvation, exercising, applying makeup, or expensive plastic surgery
2. Remain empowered. YOU have control over the social media you consume. Curate carefully. Appearance oriented social media platforms such as Instagram cause more body dissatisfaction than social media that contains more informational content. Limit your consumption of social media that makes you feel bad about your body.
3. Beware of spending time scrolling on accounts of people who may trigger your body dissatisfaction thoughts or behaviors. Instead, check out other types of accounts. Or, even better, take a break from Instagram and/or other social media platforms.
Your body is not a billboard. It does not represent success/failure, goodness/badness, morality/immorality.
Your body IS where you live, and at its foundation are roots from your family tree and the accumulation of lived experiences. Everyone has a different combination of a family tree and lived experiences. So of course there will be body diversity! And thank goodness for that.
If you notice subtle signs of poor body image, please have self compassion.
You are not alone. There are definite ways to improve body image. For many, feeling neutral about their body is ultimately the goal. And that is a wonderful place to start.
I am a clinical psychologist specializing in body image, eating disorders, and Highly Sensitive People. I am dedicated to helping people live comfortably and happily in the body they have. Click here to contact me.
Experts suggest you “embrace your Inner Sex Goddess” as if it were an easy thing to do. Even if you are well aware your negative body image is hurting your sex life, there is no on or off switch to change how you feel.
Especially if all you can think about is how “disgusting” your stomach looks and how “fat” your thighs are. And even more so if you are focusing on how to camouflage your body so your partner doesn’t see what you see.
For sure, negative thoughts running through your head provide a lousy set- up for foreplay or any kind of sexually satisfying experience – for you both.
Here are the ways your negative body image woes is hurting your sex life.
How you perceive and see your body affects desire and arousal.
The more negatively you think about your body, the more sexually inhibited you will be. All phases of the sexual response cycle are affected by disliking your body. That includes desire/interest, arousal, and orgasm.
Remember, the mind and body are connected, so thinking negatively about your body inevitably hurts your sex life.
Being critical toward your own body means you are less in tune with pleasurable sexual sensations.
You are less likely to want to have sex, to feel sexy, or to be present enough in the moment to experience the oohs and aaahs.
Feeling bad about your body limits your sexual expression.
Worrying about how you look means you are less likely to get naked with your partner. If you are disgusted by cellulite on your thighs, for example, you are unlikely to be comfortable with your partner looking at or touching your thighs. (Cellulite is normal, folks! It occurs in 80-90% of women.)
If you feel badly about your body, you may not be okay with your partner freely touching or exploring your body. Also, you may be so caught up in your own negative body image thoughts that you are not present to touch or explore his body.
Shame is associated with negative body image and with less satisfying sex.
Sooo many factors contribute to poor body image. A common one is a history of being teased. Let’s say you remember other kids in sixth grade calling you “Thunder Thighs”. Forget the fact it was fifteen plus years ago, and your body looks completely different now that you are beyond puberty.
Another common cause of negative body image and shame is the memory of how your mom talked about her own body and maybe yours too. Nonetheless, you still carry the beliefs, memories, and associated shame with you from that time. Shame and enjoyment cannot mutually coexist.
Due to boy dislike, the repertoire of sex positions is limited.
Self critical thoughts and feelings of disgust toward your body mean you are less likely to be playful and curious about different sex positions. Missionary style, perhaps under the covers and in the dark, may be the extent of what feels tolerable.
You may be unwilling to try a certain sex position because you think it makes your stomach look fat. At least give innovative sex positions a chance!
Dissociation from the moment is more likely with body dissatisfaction.
Critiquing your body size or shape takes up space in your mind and takes away from the present moment.
Being distracted with negative body thoughts means you are less able to access and experience the pleasure and intimacy of the moment with your partner.
Another reason for dissociation is a history of a sexual assault or other boundary violation. A negative sexual experience from the past can be triggered, causing a sense of being somewhere else other than in the here and now.
The most powerful ‘sex organ’ is your brain.
Your own thoughts and feelings about your body and your relationship with your body are what determine sexual satisfaction.
The key is not what you look or weigh. More moans of pleasure are available by addressing negative beliefs and thoughts your own brain generates. The only person who can do that for yourself is YOU.
Is Wabi-sabi the same as Wasabi, the horseradishy condiment?
Wabi-sabi is an ancient Asian philosophy centered on simplicity. It focuses on acceptance of life as is. It celebrates the beauty of things that are imperfect, temporary, and incomplete. It finds beauty in things that are modest and humble and unconventional. It is present-oriented. It is the embrace and reverence for imperfection. It is the joy of flaws. It is nature and humanity, connected and real.
Its principles are:
- Nothing lasts.
- Nothing is finished.
- Nothing is perfect.
These ideas are contrary to the ones that govern life in the 21st century. We tend to focus on the end goal. We fear, and we resist. We build defenses. We are drawn toward the shiny, the glitter, and the gold. McBigger = McBetter is the motto.
Of course, McBigger = McBetter does not apply to girls’/women’s bodies. (Yes, this is sarcasm)
We tend to define beauty in narrow terms. Beauty is a commodity that is sold to us, products or services promising us a perfect this or perfect that. Air brushed and Instagram filtered images are the standard to which we compare ourselves. Any blemish or scar must be eradicated, pronto!
Goddess forbid a body has any cellulite on it. Photoshop that sh*t immediately!
Why is there such disdain for what is real? What shows age? What nonconforms?
Ragan Chastain, a Fat Activist, talks about recognizing worth in all body sizes as a skill. To see beauty and worth in what may not be culturally sanctioned as worthy. THAT is wabi-sabi! Advertisers and other industries would lose tons of money, though, so they prefer to sell us what they lead us to believe we need in order to be of worth.
Who decides the standards for whatever we are evaluating?
Imagine the ease with which water flows in a river. Imagine the freedom of birds in the sky. Imagine the warmth of the sun.
Imagine the exhale that accompanies body acceptance. FEEL it, even more importantly. LIVE it, most importantly.
THAT is freedom.
Chant to come?
Yoga is not just for the svelte, green tea-drinking, virtuous types. We can all benefit from down dogging it, even from the comfort of a chair. Chair yoga is a real thing. As a famous yoga master said, “If you can breathe, you can do yoga”.
The whole purpose of yoga is to unify. That is what the word ‘yoga’ means – to yoke, or bring together. Yoga brings together the mind, body, and the deeper aspects of Self called spirit.
There are at least a thousand benefits of doing yoga. One benefit of a regular yoga practice is better sex. The way yoga affects sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm has actually been scientifically studied. It is a tough job, but someone has to do it…
One such study was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Women who did 22 yoga asanas (poses) a few times a week for 12 weeks reported increased desire and arousal and better (ie more intense) orgasms. The authors speculate it may be because yoga practice strengthens pelvic (mula bandha) and abdominal muscules (uddihana bandha). The improvement in mood associated with yoga practice is likely another reason for better sex. Being happier or at least less depressed or anxious, makes ‘getting in the mood (for sex)’ more likely. A third reason, and one of my favorites, is the internal shift in experience within the body that an ongoing practice creates. Ask any regular yoga practitioner about how her relationship with her body has changed after practicing yoga for at least a few times, and she will more than likely tell you something about improved body image. Yoga teaches us to tune into ourselves, our feelings, and our internal physical sensations.
No judgment, simply noticing and enjoying.
58 Reasons to Feel Good about Your Body (At Any Size!) Start a Revolution: Stop Hating Your Body!
— By Ellen G. Goldman, Health and Wellness Coach
I am re-posting this excellent idea!
One particularly hot September afternoon when my daughter was in the fourth grade, she invited a few friends to enjoy an after-school swim in our pool. They entered the house filled with laughter and excitement and rushed upstairs to change into their bathing suits. Passing her room while putting away some laundry, I overheard,”Ugh, I look terrible. I shouldn’t be wearing this bikini. My stomach is like a bowl of Jell-O.” ”At least you don’t have thunder thighs!” ”What are you both talking about? I’m the fatty here!”
Here are 58 reasons women gave me about why they love their bodies. After reading them, take a moment to think about all the reasons why you should feel awesome about your own!
- ”I love my big, beautiful sparkling eyes because they are the windows from which I see the world.”
- ”I love my smile. People tell me I light up a room with it, and it makes others feel welcome and cared for.”
- ”I love my arms because they enable me to embrace my loved one.”
- ”I love my strong arms because they allow me to carry my children.”
- ”I love my hands because they fit perfectly into my daughter’s when we cross the street together.”
- ”I love my strong legs because they allow me to climb up and down the stairs in my colonial home hundreds of times a week.”
- ”I love my legs because they take me up the mountain when I hike near my home.”
- ”I love my hands because they let me hold the hands of someone else who needs my support.”
- ”I love my legs because they allow me to pedal my bike and feel the wind in my face.”
- ”I love my legs because they keep me moving quickly enough to return the tennis ball on the courts.”
- ”I love the relaxing feeling of my toes sinking into the sand when I get to the beach.”
- ”I love my finger because it lets me show off the gorgeous wedding band my husband gave me the day we married.”
- ”I love my neck because it is long and gracious. I show it off with fun necklaces.”
- ”I love my strong back because it carries my knapsack with my schoolbooks as my legs take me across campus.”
- ”I love and am grateful for my ears because they allow me to enjoy my greatest passion, which is music and sound!”
- ”I love that my body lets me lie in my hammock and enjoy the breeze in the summer late afternoons.”
- ”I love my hands and legs because I can use them to dance the waltz with a partner.”
- ”I love my stomach. It kept my twin babies warm and secure until they were ready to enter this world.”
- ”I love my long, slender fingers. Without them, I couldn’t play the beautiful music I love on my piano.”
- ”I love my firm hands, which help me chop and dice the ingredients for my home cooked meals.”
- ”I love how my calves look and make me feel sexy in high heels.”
- ”I love how my body cuts through the water when I swim, making me feel buoyant.”
- ”I love my lap. It gives my nieces and nephews a place to sit and cuddle with me.”
- ”I love my upright, straight back. Everyone says I have beautiful posture.”
- ”I love my strong, flexible shoulders because they allow me to serve and swing my tennis racket when engaging in my favorite sport.”
- ”I love my arms. Even at 65 years old, I still wear sleeveless shirts without feeling self-conscious.”
- ”I love my hands because they help me pick the tomatoes from my garden.”
- ”I love my hands because they floss and brush my teeth so that I can take care of my smile.”
- ”I love my ears because they let me hear children laughing, birds singing and music that fills my heart with joy.”
- ”I love my legs because although they don’t look like anything special, they carry me through my days without fail.”
- ”I love my knees and my hands. Resting on a cushion, my knees let me bend down for hours in my garden. My hands let me plant the seeds that turn into beautiful flowers for all to enjoy.”
- ”I love my hands because they are soft and have a nice length to them, and I have strong, natural nails. I think there is a simple elegance in a natural nail with simply nail polish, so for me, I really enjoy my hands.”
- ”I love my ankles because they are strong enough for me to play hopscotch with my students. My kindergarten girls love it when I join in at recess.”
- ”I love my strong legs that keep me mobile…either through mundane daily routines or long walks with my family and dog.”
- ”I love my hands because they allow me to place a bite of nourishing food into my mouth.”
- ”I love my hips because although so many of my friends have needed hip replacements, mine are still strong and pain-free.”
- ”I love my eyes for being able to see the rainbows that cast their brilliance against the mountains after an evening thunderstorm.”
- ”I love and am grateful for my full head of hair that remains thick and healthy despite the passing years.”
- ”I love my legs for climbing up steep mountains, pumping me up the canyon on a bicycle, providing me instant transportation when I need to get away from life’s worries and create a positive shift in my experience.”
- ”I love my hands and fingers because they let me play Pachelbel’s Canon in D on the piano.”
- ”I love my missing breasts because they were a sign of my womanhood and fed my newborns. Although I used to complain about them being big and heavy, post mastectomy, I miss them every day.”
- ”I love and am grateful for my entire body, with all of its imperfections…because without this mortal vessel, I could not experience all the joy and pain of living, from a long-lingering kiss of my beloved to holding a new baby or puppy in my arms for the first or maybe the last time.”
- ”I love my eyes. Not only do they allow me to see all that is beautiful around me including the beautiful people, but they also allow me to express my love and feelings to others.”
- ”I love my waist because no matter how many years go by, I can still hula hoop like I did when I was a little girl.”
- ”I love my feet because they keep me super balanced whether I’m in chef shoes, 6-inch heels or in dance shoes stepping backwards while doing the waltz. Plus, they look cute with hot pink toe polish in summer sandals!”
- ”I love my hands because they enable me to type emails and turn the pages of a good book.”
- ”I love my hands because they let me have fun playing cards or dominoes with friends.”
- ”I love my hair because I have fun with it. I typically change it with the season and will often switch between keeping it straight and leaving it curly. Although I complain about it, and would love hair like Christina Aguilera’s, I’m truly fortunate to have hair that I can be so versatile with.”
- ”I love and am grateful for my arms, which are getting stronger every day. I have been strength training and doing barre classes and I can see the definition in them. And they allow me to carry groceries and shopping bags without trouble!”
- ”I love my eyes because they are distinctive and they serve me well. Others often comment on them and that makes me feel good.”
- ”I love and feel awesome about my whole body because it brings me great pleasure when I forget all my cares and worries and dance around the ballroom floor.”
- ”I love my nose because it allows me to smell the aromas of home cooked meals (and the occasional spoiled food hiding in the fridge.)”
- ”I love my long, slender waist because not matter what I weigh, it’s always slimmer than the rest of me.”
- ”I love my wrist because when I look at it I see the beautiful watch my Mom bought me when I graduated college. It makes me feel closer to her even though we live far apart.”
- ”I love my hair because it is low maintenance. It hasn’t grayed, and I can cut it myself, and it almost always looks good; to me anyway!”
- ”I love my feet with their three perfectly-designed arches that hold the foundation of my body. They add stability for movement, are great for running into the arms of my husband or greeting someone with joy. My feet let me dance and are still strong enough for me to do cartwheels.”
- ”I love my heart because it beats strong within my chest, and is filled with love and goodness for everyone I meet.”
- ”I love my body as a whole and think of it as a wonderful, yet mysterious moving piece of artwork. I can walk, talk, sing and dance. I can see, hear, smell and taste. There are so many people who cannot do these things, so I am grateful for what I have and that I can still do everything I want to do. I can hug my children, kiss my husband, eat with family and dance with my friends. It’s all good!”
What is YOUR favorite part of your body and why? Share it in the comments below!
What have you done to honor your body today?
Assignment: Find a body lotion that you love. Maybe you love the scent of the lotion. Maybe you love the way it absorbs into your skin. Or, maybe, just maybe, the tactile connection between your own hand and your skin feels like a friendship.
Or a romance….
Or maybe none of this is true.
The harder this assignment seems, the greater your obligation is to do it.
The benefits of this practice are dramatic and potentially life altering.
“How do I choose love if I hate myself?”, ‘Sherri’ (not her real name) asked me yesterday during her therapy session.
I said nothing but could feel my eyes soften and water slightly. (Who does not know that feeling?!)
She continued. “My stomach sticks out. I have a zit on my chin. The guy I hooked up with on Friday has not texted me back. He has posted stuff about other girls. All of them are prettier than I am. I feel like such a loser.”
Sherri looked down at the ground, shoulders slumped.
Her sense of disconnection from herself was palpable.
I asked, “Where in your body do you feel sensations”?
She looked at me puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“All feelings have signature sensations in the body. You feel like a loser. What are the sensations in your body associated with that feeling?”
Sherri said, “I don’t feel my body. I feel numb.”
“Ahhhh. Yes” I said quietly. I deliberately inhaled gently and audibly and exhaled in the same way. I invited her to take an inhale and exhale with me.
She did. We did.
‘Notice now what you feel in your body’, I said softly.
“Wow. I actually feel my body!” she said, as she lifted her gaze and looked in my eyes.
And then we began our session.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW) is being held February 23rd to March 1st, 2014.
The theme this year is “I had no idea”.
What ideas do you have about eating disorders?
There are lots of misperceptions.
For example, when people find out I specialize in the treatment of eating disorders, they assume I meet solely with teenage girls. Nope. Girls and women, boys and men, of ALL ages, shapes, and ethnicity present with eating disorder symptoms.
Get the facts!
Eating disorders are complex conditions with serious consequences for health, productivity, and relationships.
They are not a fad, phase or lifestyle choice.
People struggling with an eating disorder need to seek professional help.
The earlier a person with an eating disorder seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery.
In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). I will have separate blog posts on these disorders as the month of February progresses.
For lots of reasons, many eating disorder cases are not reported. In addition, many people struggle with body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes and behaviors.
The best-known contributor to the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is body dissatisfaction
By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat.
Eating disorders are serious! They affect a person’s emotional and physical health. In the United States alone, 30 million people will be impacted by an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime.
These conditions affect all kinds of people and don’t discriminate by race, age, sex, age or size.
“Marissa” (not her real name) is blonde, blue eyed, and thin. She works as a fitness trainer and looks like a model from Shape magazine. Yet, she is absolutely convinced that she is not perfect enough. She believes that she will be happy if she could only have more control over her weight and eating. Twenty four/seven she thinks about food and calories. Marissa feels like a complete fake because she has kept her eating disorder a secret from everyone, including her husband and family.
“Allie” (another fictitious name) is either on a diet or about to start one. Just before she is about to start a diet, she eats large amounts of foods that she otherwise avoids. She categorizes food as ‘good’ (e.g. fruits, vegetables) or ‘bad’ (e,g. pasta, baked goods, ice cream), and believes she is ‘good’ if she eats ‘good food’ and is ‘bad’ if she eats ‘bad food’. When she eats a lot of food, she then compensates by throwing up or over-exercising. Life is all-or-none for Allie. She is constantly thinking about food and her weight. Every time she eats a lot of food, she promises herself it is the last time she will ever do that. But, it keeps happening.
“Katie’s” body is larger than she would like it to be. However, she is very comfortable in her own skin. She is athletic, active, and loves clothes. She enjoys being out with friends. She never criticizes her body, out loud or to herself. She eats a variety of foods and loves chocolate.
There are lots of reasons why an eating disorder develops. Many of us believe that changing our body will fix everything. Hence the weight loss industry yields so many billions of dollars. We erroneously think that body size is the cause of our problems and, therefore, if we change our body, we find the solution to our problems. Many of us believe that being thin equals being special. Another NOPE!
The good news: Eating Disorders are completely, 100% curable, with specialized treatment.
Many people incorrectly believe that once a person has an eating disorder, s/he will always suffer from an eating disorder. NOPE!
Get the facts! Inevitably, someone close to you is suffering from an eating disorder. Knowledge is power.
Both men and women suffer from body dissatisfaction, especially in Western culture. Here are some tips to improve body image:
- Notice what is RIGHT
The NEGATIVITY BIAS many of us have means that when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we see flaws. Instead of focusing on perceived flaws, notice features that you like. For example, notice those beautiful eyes! Your sexy feet! Or your hair, that calls out for your date’s hand to run through!
- Experience the body as an INSTRUMENT rather than an ORNAMENT
We all have a body. We all have a choice about the kind of relationship we have with our body. If we experience our body as an instrument of pleasure, the focus is on all the body can do for us and provide us. It is through our body that we experience sensory pleasures, like the warmth of the sun on our skin. If we experience our body as an ornament, we are inclined to focus on what we think our body looks like (which is often a distorted perception), and how to make it look ‘better’. Wanting to improve our looks is natural and benign, unless it is a preoccupation, which at times is the case with negative body image. Instead of harping on the cellulite on your legs, for example, thank your legs for their strength and ability to walk.
- Emphasize INSIDE- OUT instead of OUTSIDE- IN
When we focus on what we look like, we are focused on our outer self, our appearance, and how closely we approximate some sort of ideal standard of attractiveness. This means we let our self esteem be determined by someone else. When we have an inside- out approach, our first and foremost emphasis is on how we feel. In this way we are validating our worth based on just being who we are, rather than having it contingent on others’ standards. Who would you rather allow determine your self esteem? You or whomever happens to be looking at you?
Feeling comfortable and ‘at home’ in your body is your birthright. It is worth the effort! Try it and discover for yourself the benefits of better body image.