Three Reasons Male Body Image Issues Aren’t Discussed As Frequently As Females’

a young black boy showing male body image issues do not start off at a young age

Bikini-prepping, Keto dieting, scales, tape measures, photo filters, celebrity icons, and constant self-evaluation in the company of a mirror. We may know it’s not healthy, yet somehow society has developed a collective “not-surprised” numbness to girls and body image issues. 

But what about guys? 

Why don’t we hear about male body image issues the way we hear about female body image issues?

In case you’re wondering, it’s certainly not because male body image issues don’t exist.

They most certainly do. And they are fraught with just as many internal and societal messages as those of their gender counterpart. 

It’s as if boys and men receive a memo that plays into the male stereotypes of strength, power, and ego.”Don’t mention any body insecurities. If you do, you’re weak. Just man the ‘f’ up. Puff up your chest and get over yourself.”

No wonder boys and men are far less inclined than females to openly discuss body image issues!

What is body image anyway?

Body image refers to a person’s relationship with his or her body. Everyone who has a body – men included – has a body image.

Body image includes thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and behaviors. 

Translation? Men, just like women, have thoughts about their bodies. And accompanying those thoughts are feelings, perceptions, and behaviors. (Why would we expect otherwise?)

Boys and men aren’t immune to body image issues simply by virtue of being male. Body image problems are not “just a girl thing.”

Social media, television/radio/print media, and Diet Culture affect boys and men, too.

Girls and women consume voluminous unrealistic images of female beauty. And there is no want for information written on the topic and its effects.

Much less air time, however, is given to how boys and men are affected by idealized male images of attractiveness. So the topic of male body image exists like an undercurrent with swelling energy seeking an outlet.

Images of the male cultural ideal abound, however quietly assuming and understood they may be. Six-pack abs, big pecs, bulging biceps, 0% body fat, and a thick head of hair aren’t realistic or feasible for the majority of boys/men. 

Whether the images portray uber-muscularity, a chiseled look, and/or the “tall, dark, and handsome” type, they don’t represent the vast majority of boys or men. 

By design, cultural ideals are unattainable for most people. That’s why they’re called ideals.

The images presented represent how guys should look according to cultural ideals (and marketing). 

The underlying implication is that this is also how they could look if they just tried hard enough through dieting, working out, and/or using ‘x’ products. 

(Some research suggests media messages about body ideals may not impact teenage boys as directly as teen girls, but these results are inconsistent.) 

The reluctance to acknowledge male body image issues creates a perception that males are immune to poor body image.

Male body image is an issue even for this man who is attractice by society standards

Let’s look at some numbers to establish that male body image problems are a real thing.

  • One in ten people with anorexia is male.
  • 17% of men are on extreme diets.
  • 3% of men binge eat.
  • 4% of men purge after eating.
  • 15% of gay males have an eating disorder.

According to large surveys, around 25% of male children/adolescents are concerned about not being ‘ripped’ (muscular and lean) enough. They want muscularity that is (more) toned and defined.

The three main categories of male body image issues include:

  • drive for muscularity
  • drive for thinness
  • body part-specific anxiety

Males tend to want to be more muscular and buff, leaner, and more defined. And/or they feel anxious about particular parts of their bodies. 

As with other psychological concepts, we have to take a step back and look at the role of culture.

None of us exists in a vacuum. In other words, Diet Culture is rampant for everyone, regardless of gender or age. It’s in the air we all breathe. It is the air we breathe.

Keep in mind that everyone’s relationship with their body begins as a love affair. Infants revel in their bodies. Toddlers do, too. 

For all genders, though, that trajectory is rarely linear. It goes up and down, depending on both internal and external circumstances. 

Male body image is no exception.

The male body-relationship tends to deteriorate during key developmental times, especially during ‘tween and adolescent years.

Another ‘especially’ is gender dysphoria.

If you’re male, talking negatively about your body is frowned upon.

You’re considered weak, ‘girly,’ pathetic, uncool.

(Although you would get points for talking about bulking up like Hulk.)

Reasons male body image issues aren’t discussed as often as females body image issues:

1. Stigma

It makes sense that boys and men would rather not admit body image issues because of the associated stigma.

They too are self-conscious about their bodies.

In fact, behaviors such as binge eating, purging, laxative abuse and fasting for weight loss are only slightly less common among males as they are among females.

Common and specific male body image anxieties include:

man representing male body image issue
  • Gynecomastia (“girl boobs”)
male body image issues with male comparing himself against a statue
  • Penile Dysphoria
boy with low muscle tone representing male body image issues
  • Low muscle tone
back of a seated bald man at a pond reflecting on his male body image issue of baldness
  • Balding
  • Height
  • Inadequate muscularity (not being ‘buff’ enough)

2. Concern with being seen as sensitive, flawed, or weak

Some men with body image issues worry that if they reveal their insecurities, people will ridicule them. In some cases, other kids (and/or adults) made fun of them in childhood.

A history of teasing about physical appearance is not uncommon. Even decades later, it can have a haunting effect. (“Shorty,” “Fatty,” “Titty Boy” are examples of nicknames that haunt.)

Men with high(er) body dissatisfaction are more likely to have high(er) levels of anxiety and depression –  another big reason male body image issues are a taboo topic. Stigma still exists, despite advances in mental health awareness.

Many males with body image issues cope by engaging in behaviors they think will improve their relationships with their bodies.

Diet Culture promises that if males (and females) engage in certain activities, they’ll look better, feel better, and be better human beings. (Empty promise alert.)

Here are some of the do-this-and-you-will-look-better methods:

  • over exercising
A man flexing his large muscles while admiring himself shows male body image issues risks
  • using steroids
male body image issues represented by a thin male's torso
  • fad dieting
male body image issues are real
A photo of a naken man with his hands covering his face, demonstrating male body image issues
  • Others avoid public events and social gatherings

It doesn’t matter their body type — skinny, thick, tall, short. Being male doesn’t protect from body image issues.

3. Gender role conflict

Males feel conflicted between improving body image and fearing others will regard them as less masculine if they talk about their body hang-ups. They want to appear cool and confident rather than risk any negative social impact of body image woes.

Cultural stereotypes hurt men, too.

Researchers have found that men with an increased drive for muscularity are even less likely to get help for body image issues. This in turn increases their risk of mental health problems.

To compensate for body image issues, some boys and men act out by dominating others physically, verbally, and/or emotionally.

Male body dissatisfaction is an important subject. And its consequences to physical and psychological health are real.

Body image help

If you’re male and have body image issues, seeking professional help is a good idea. 

If you have associated destructive behaviors such as crash dieting, binge eating, steroid use, or compulsive exercise, professional help becomes necessary. 

Male body image issues put boys and men at higher risk for lots of negative outcomes. Hiding behind male bravado makes seeking help harder and doesn’t benefit anyone.

Boys and men are less comfortable than girls and women talking about these issues. 

While body positivity among women has recently grown, male body positivity hasn’t received much attention.

Stigma around male body image issues and related mental health challenges often prevents boys and men from speaking honestly about their experiences and seeking treatment.

Boys and men have bodies, just like all other human beings. 

They also have feelings, including feelings about their bodies. 

Normalizing this fact will help all people, regardless of gender, feel more comfortable seeking support and living happily in their bodies.

Consider it your birthright. 

Dr Elayne Daniels is a psychologist, coach, and consultant in MA. Areas of expertise include body image, eating disorder recovery, and Highly Sensitive People. 

What Parents Must Know About Social Media and Body Image Research

Helicopter parents, listen up! You may risk hearing, “I hate you!” followed by a slamming door as your teenager storms away. But this is an important credential to add to your (so your child thinks) overprotective parenting resumé. Social media and body image research are on screen-time overdrive for kids. And you ought to be aware of the messages those impressionable minds are seeking — and getting.

Being online

Pre-millennial adults may have difficulty remembering when the world went digital. 

“I vaguely remember libraries with physical books and card catalogs.”

“Computers were enormous, alien objects that competed for valuable decorating space in the house. And there was none of this ‘internet’ stuff.”

“Salespeople used to knock on doors to sell encyclopedias. If your family had the money to own a set, you could do research for your science fair project right at home. The information may have been 50 years old, but still….”

“Cameras used to use this stuff called film….”

A roll of film

“And pay phones…are there even any pay phones left?”

Payphones existed in the days before social media and online apps existed

Once upon a not-so-long-ago time, moms did a weekly sneak-swipe of their teens’ rooms to check for dirty laundry and dirty magazines. 

They didn’t have to investigate “search histories” or worry about their kids’ alter-realities on social media. And body image research? WTH is that?

Today, however, parents have to be on top of their game. And their kids’ game.

Would you be surprised to learn that, according to a 2018 Pew study, 45% of 13-17-year-olds are online almost constantly?

Being on social media

And 97% use a social media platform like Facebook or Instagram.

Let that sink in for a minute. 

We are all so accustomed to being in constant engagement with the digital world that we are, at least as a society, practically numb to authentic person-to-person engagement. 

You know, the “IRL” kind of interaction. 

The eating-dinner-as-a-family-with-no-phones-or-TV kind of interaction.

The looking-up-from-your-phone-and-into-another-person’s-eyes kind of interaction.

The “I-want-to-meet-your-friends-and-know-where-you’re-going” kind of interaction.

So it may not even dawn on many parents that their kids’ well-being could be directly related to their time spent online.

But such is our (relatively) new reality. 

As you do the dance of holding-on-while-letting-go, it’s more important than ever that you pay attention to your child’s moods and self-concept.

It’s also critical that you keep at least a side-eye on his or her eating and exercise habits.

Between growing bodies, chaotic hormones, mood swings, and physically active lives, teens especially can make detection of eating disorders difficult.

But here’s a reality check that might – and should – frighten you:

Approximately 30 million people in the US have an eating disorder, and 95% of them are between the ages of 12 and 25.

Also, eating disorders have the highest rate of death of any mental illness.

Again, let that sink in for a minute.

“Mmyyy child? My cheerleader, church choir, straight-A, always respectful child? An eating disorder? Mmm noo, I don’t think so.”

So what does all this have to do with social media?

Everything, actually.

Here are several things that parents need to know about social media and body image research:

Research shows a correlation between negative body image and time spent on social media, especially when study participants were scrolling through appearance-related content (models, fitness trainers, etc.).

Social media is not necessarily detrimental to body image.

It can actually have positive effects, especially if the content is about inclusion, “ditching the make-up,” and “regular” people doing “regular” activities.

Social media, like other sites on the internet, can be a great resource for useful information.

A site or Facebook page for healthful recipes, for example, may seem harmless enough, especially if your teen has an interest in cooking.

But what happens when a teen who is shunned at school and teased online for being “chubby” finds social media ads for weight loss?

Suddenly an appreciation for healthful cooking and eating can become a cunning way to hide a developing eating disorder.

Another positive of social media is that it allows kids to create online identities and to build a sense of community without geographic barriers.

Social media platforms allow for creative expression – through words, photography, graphics, and even the choice of what external content to share.

Kids can join groups based on common interests and/or support.

And they can learn about people across multiple variables like race, religion, talent, interests…and physical appearance.

A negative of social media is that it allows kids to create online identities and to build a sense of community without geographic barriers.


Social media platforms allow for creative expression – through words, photography (often filtered through glamorizing photo apps), graphics, and even the choice of what external content to share.

See where I’m going with this?

The very qualities that are positives when used properly can become negatives and even dangers when they’re not.

Multiple studies have been done to determine relationships, if any, between social media use and mental health issues.

The results probably won’t surprise you, but they should give you pause.

From spending more than three hours on social media daily to using social media more than three times daily, the correlation and predictability are there.

It’s not just how much kids use social media, but how they use it.


Those who turn to social media and body image research for comparative reasons prove to be definitively less happy.

A teenager demonstrating how social media and body image interact


They’re also more prone to depression and anxiety.

Why?

Because they’re convinced that everyone else they see is happier – and prettier/skinnier/more buff and (fill in the blank) than they are.

Even the passive viewing of others’ posts and photos on social media can lead to lower body and life satisfaction.

People, especially kids, who participate in social media aren’t always prudent about what they share. And they can inadvertently open themselves up to the cruelty of those on social media who don’t have a self-filter.

Now apply that to personal photos posted for all the world to see.

Suddenly it’s not difficult to see how reactively a teen in the throes of a developing self-concept can end up with body image issues.

What’s the takeaway for parents when it comes to social media and body image research?

First, social media in and of itself is not a bad thing. Like everything else, it’s how/how much/why it’s used that determines its influence.

As a parent, you have more control than you may think.

First, take stock of how you use social media and what your body image is like. Social media can affect body image for people of all ages, parents included.

Limit your child’s use of cell phones and social media. Put boundaries around the time and setting of cell phones (not after a certain time at night, not during meals, etc.). 

Monitor your child’s accounts (and let him/her know you are doing so). 

Talk with your child about what is true, right, healthy, kind, appropriate. 

And always encourage the first part of social media: social(ize)…

…IRL!

Dr Elayne Daniels is a psychologist, coach, and consultant who specializes in helping people of all ages feel more comfortable in their bodies.

7 Body Image Affirmations EVERY HSP Needs To Explore

A black women from the chest up is smiling, as if uses body image affirmations to help with her self care.

You’re aware. Of darn near everything. It doesn’t matter if it’s outside of you or inside of you, it doesn’t get by you. And by golly, that goes for your body, too. Thanks to Diet Culture, feeling badly about your own body is more common than not. Add in the heightened awareness and depth of processing characteristic of Highly Sensitive People, and your body-awareness is probably off the charts. So we’re going to go all Hallmark and pull out the body image affirmations to shift your awareness to what truly matters. 

If you struggle with body image, you probably believe that the only way to feel better about your body is to change it. 

And changing it typically means depriving it so it becomes smaller, thinner, more toned….and therefore more desirable to others. 

It’s a formulaic process, really: Tiny-fying your body = success and happiness.It’s also bullshit.

Sorry not sorry for the language, but it is.

 All that nonsense is a big “fat” lie. 

Whether your body is a size zero or a size twenty-two, loving your body lies in changing your body image, not its appearance. 

What is body image?

Body image refers to the way you perceive your body and how you believe others perceive it. It includes thoughts, feelings, behaviors, perceptions, and a sense of connection with your own body.

Body image is a big chunk of your self-esteem and self-confidence.

Developing and sustaining a positive body image is essential for living a happier life. 

Relying less (or not at all) on unrealistic beauty standards opens the door to nurturing and respecting your body.

However, improving body image is tough, especially when you’ve been hating and criticizing your body for so long. 

(If it hurts to read the words “hating and criticizing your body,” good! We’re making progress.)

Feeling the urge to change your body’s appearance stems from dissatisfaction with the way it looks.

Changing that perception is tough. And it doesn’t happen passively.

What is the secret sauce to improving negative body image?

Three words: changing your thoughts.

If you wonder how “just thinking differently” can help, I get it. Using different words to improve your relationship with your body sounds ridiculous.

But words carry weight (no pun intended).

How does changing self-talk about body image help you approach body image differently?

Reading and reflecting upon body image affirmations has the potential to help you to feel more comfortable in your body.

No matter how ridiculous or Pollyannaish it sounds, healthy mantras can be life-changing— even at a neurological level.

If you’re a Highly Sensitive Person, body image affirmations can be especially helpful because of the way they fit in with your neurological processing. (Not sure what a Highly Sensitive Person is? Read about it here.)

The only real, sustained way to feel better about your body is to change  your relationship to (and your thoughts about) your body. 

(And, as more people do just that, the sooner the societal ideal will become less scripted, less narrowly defined. Perhaps  it will even become inclusive!)

What matters most about improving your relationship with your body is what changes in your mind, not in your body. I’m talking about thoughts, reflections, and ideas as opposed to specific actions.

I used to think affirmations were just a cheesy attempt to inspire and uplight. There may be times that’s still true; but I’ve come to realize there is more to them than empty promises of rainbows and butterflies.

The words we say to ourselves really do matter.

Where thoughts go, energy flows. 

Shifting self-talk is about more than mere semantics.

Body image affirmations are helpful for anyone who struggles to love his or her body. But for an HSP? They’re a card-carrying essential. Here are a few power-packed body image affirmations to make you pause and see your physical self in a whole new light:

1. I’m grateful to have a body.

Because I have a body, I am able to feel, hear, see, smell, and taste. I can (fill in the blank).

I imagine her saying, “Yes I am happy to have a body! Very! How else could I chase my little brother? And I stayed up late last night and hung out with the grownups! We ate chocolate-covered strawberries. Thank you, Body. I was able to do all of that because of my body. And I love this dress because it is fancy and makes me feel like a princess.”

2. I can trust my body.

This Highly Sensitive woman feels free and comfortable as she enjoys time outside…in her body. She is not hiding any parts of her glorious body. The soft breeze, warm sun, and scent of the beach are possible for her to experience because she has a body.

A wonan who is an HSP female appearing to enjoy her body as the affirmation reminds her to do

“This bathing suit feels so comfortable, and I really like how relaxed I feel just enjoying the warmth of the sun, the gentle breeze, and the laughter of my friend— especially because she is laughing at my jokes! Being carefree and funny comes naturally when I am not preoccupied with my weight.”

3. My body deserves respect.

With a big brimmed pink hat, she walks down the street with pride in and respect for herself.

With body-respect comes self-respect.

“When I smile at people, they usually smile back. They aren’t looking me up and down or evaluating my weight. If they are, so what? What they think of me is none of my business. Plus, I have so many other things to think about…or not to think about!”

4. My life’s purpose is about so much more than to shrink my body.

This Angie Weiland-Crosby quote is a reminder of the intricate, sensual ways your body takes in and experiences the world. But only if you allow it to do so.

a body image  affirmation especially for HSPs

“Living in the empty, stark jail cell of my own body of hate means I limit what I see, feel, hear, taste, and touch. I deserve more, and so does my body. I have the key to leave this prison, and I will unlock the door and escape back to my birthright of living life fully.” (Pun intended. Living life fully means you see through a different lens than you did when living life chronically hungrily.)

5. My body provides me infinite ways to experience life.

Sometimes we take for granted what brings us pleasure and opportunity. (Or we default to negative commentary about it.) 

The phrase “you don’t know what you have ‘till it’s gone” comes to mind. 

Why not delight in your one-and-only body in the here and now, while you can? 

Relating to your own body more as an instrument than as an ornament is like discovering a secret treasure in a place you have gone for years but have never really seen.

“I am tired of seeing, feeling, touching, hearing my world in colorlessness. I am not a robot. Turning on and up the colors of emotions, touch, sounds, and more means I am appreciating the beating of my heart, the pulsing of energy throughout my body, and the wonder of my senses. That is what it means to have a body. How closely my body matches an unrealistic objectified ideal is not the purpose of having a body. Being in it as I travel through each moment is the purpose.”

A woman's hand with sand sprinkling through it could represent a Highly Sensitive Person's body image affirmation of the tactile benefits of having a body

“Because I have a body, I am able to feel the softness of the sand as it flows through my fingers. I also get to wear purple nail polish that is so fun to look at my fingers and see!”

Being a Highly Sensitive Person has its perks, one of which is your natural ability to deeply feel the joys and beauty in the world. The way you take in the world through your senses is magical.

Unless they familiarize themselves with the beautiful things High Sensitivity offers, HSPs have a hard time understanding why they have the thoughts and feelings they have,  how to appreciate them and make healthier choices. 

6. What if you did not revolve your life around fitting into cultural beauty standards?

Whatever your body size and shape, being more comfortable in your body means changing your mindset, not so much your appearance. 

Your relationship with your body affects all aspects of life. Body image is central to self-esteem and self-confidence.

Worrying about what other people (whoever they are)  think about your body highlights their value system over your own. Do you really want to do that?

If your answer is no, or if you’re just curious about other options beyond living with “normative discontent,” try the following . And consider it to be an experiment.

What if you used body image “iffirmations” rather than body image affirmations?

Try the “what if” version of statements. 

This version of self-talk goes well beyond semantics, even beyond my delight of quirky word puns. 

Think of it as an experiment, just to see what happens.…

Take the statement, “I love my body.” 

Repeat it to yourself and notice what happens.

Maybe your recoil? Snicker? Giggle? Feel warmth spread throughout? 

There is no wrong way to feel.

Now ask yourself, “What if I (were to) love my body?” 

Notice the feelings and sensations that arise.

Even if you do not believe it, saying it to yourself can help you recognize improved body image as an intention, as something to be working toward.

By saying “what if,” you add space andenergy’ to the possibility of actual contentment in your body.

As an HSP, you’re especially aware of internal sensations, both those that feel good and others that don’t feel particularly good. 

You get to choose the input, and therefore the outcome.

7. I’m just missing out by refusing to eat cake, pasta, chips…or anything. Food is meant to be enjoyed. My body is meant to be a happy (or at least neutral) place!

However, improving body image is a tough journey, especially when you’ve been hating and criticizing yours for so long. (Thanks a lot, Diet Culture.) 

Feeling the urge to change your body’s appearance stems from dissatisfaction with the way it looks. 

You and I were not born dissatisfied with the way our bodies look. Diet Culture taught us dissatisfaction.

How to chip away at negative body image and start finding peace — and even joy — in your body? Notice what you are saying to yourself about your body. Gently shift the focus to the good that your body offers. Where thoughts go, energy flows.

So choose thoughts wisely. Be deliberate about using body image affirmations. 

And make them your own.

Diet Culture will know when it has overstayed its welcome.

Dr. Elayne Daniels is a clinical psychologist and coach specializing in body image, eating disorders, and Highly Sensitive People. For over two decades, she has worked with hundreds of men and women to help them find comfort and even joy in their own skin.

How To Improve Your Body Image

A headless photo of a woman holding a pocket book and dressed in a long coat, as if she is going to reveal how to improve body image

She wiggles and giggles and waves and kicks, catching fingers and toes for chewing as they pass her angelic face. She delights in the perfection of herself and the perfection of being alive. There is nothing to improve. “Body image,” in the purity of her infancy, isn’t something to be learned, let alone grappled with or improved.

Her mama delights in her little one’s perfection, too, “booping” and chewing and kissing on every roll and digit. She may be swearing to herself that sunscreen will be an everyday commitment, but only because she is protective…

…and she wants to honor the perfection of this magnificent little creature.

Babies love their bodies. They come into this world instinctively recognizing and loving all that is good. There is no judgment. Just recognition, learning, loving, delighting.

We casually talk of babies and elders being “so close to God,” but do we ever contemplate why we say that? What is it that we are quietly aspiring to by acknowledging their natural content with themselves and their unfettered engagement with all that is pure, good, even holy?

Perhaps we recognize what they inherently know — that we are spiritual beings sent to this life in physical bodies, not the other way around. 

Perhaps we recognize in them a connection that became severed for us as we broke from the cocoon of innocence.

And, perhaps we recognize the simplicity that makes life so much more meaningful and enjoyable.

Perhaps we see in babies what we see in animals and in children with Autism and other handicaps, for example. They do, after all, operate on a similar frequency that allows them to see deeply and communicate on a “soul” level.

And perhaps we feel a bit jealous as we long for the self-acceptance we once had. (That is, until we started believing “the world” had answers we didn’t.)

We “see” in these tiny, flexible, chewable, silky soft miracles what and how we once were. 

It’s one of life’s many ironies that we evolve at the cost of our innocence. In our freshness from the womb, we don’t realize our innocence, our magic, for what it is because we are too busy living it. 

And we don’t have the developed consciousness to assess and attach value to it. (Life experience will begin to forge those attachments soon enough.)

But someone has to feed and protect the Innocents. And so we emerge out of our own purity to take on the duality of this world, separating our physical and non-physical realities as we do.

And suddenly, because of that fracture, we look upon our physical selves with harsh judgment. We seek to improve body image as a way to feel what we always felt before “The Big Break.”

We seek to control and “fix” what is visible, tangible, and corporal in an effort to remedy the invisible, intangible, and spiritual.

And, we seek to sanctify what is already sanctified by shaming and torturing the only vehicle we have for sharing that innate sanctity. 

And the result is tragic. 

No one is born with negative body image.

When was the last time you took delight in your one-and-only body, in all its splendor? (Maybe — or maybe not — in the form of belly button-playing or toe-sucking.)

Keep in mind that you weren’t born feeling ashamed of your body. You learned that shame. (The International Journal of Eating Disorders reports that, by age 5, half of all girls have internalized the thin ideal. Age 5! )

An infant on his belly peering out from a blanket that is on his head.

The relationship we have with our bodies becomes complicated as we age. And the muddling begins early and more often than not yields worsening body image.

How and why?

Two words: Diet Culture.

Christy Harrison‘s explanation of Diet Culture captures it well as a system of beliefs that

  • equates thinness to health and moral virtue
  • promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status and
  • demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others

Diet Culture is sexist, racist, and classist. And yet, this way of thinking about food and bodies is so embedded in society that it’s hard to recognize. It masquerades as health, wellness, and fitness and can be all-consuming.

We’re sold the idea that poor body image can be resolved by “looking better,” ie dieting and shrinking the body.

So, voila! Fixed? Problem solved? Body image resolved?

No. Unequivocally, not-even-a-question…NO! 

Your body is about so much more than appearance. And your relationship with your body is far more complex than mere appearance.

Your body isn’t broken.

Your body isn’t a problem.

And your body doesn’t need to be fixed.

Focusing attention on appearance and size causes us to lose our own power. And it scapegoats our bodies.

Your body’s appearance is not what needs to change.

You are so much more than a body or the clothing and makeup you wear.

You diminish self-worth and oversimplify your sense of self when you focus on appearance.

So how can you improve body image?

To unpack body-dislike and shame, we need to understand their origins. Remember the two words mentioned above?

Diet Culture.

As author and activist Lindo Bacon explains, you’re programmed to believe a culturally created belief as TRUTH.

The belief is that you must attain a “perfect” (thin) body type at any cost. And then you will be attractive and able to enjoy all the attached benefits. 

This message is like molecules in the air we breathe. We don’t  recognize just how ubiquitous the air around us is because we’re in it.

Diet Culture keeps you battling with the size and shape of your body and constantly — both consciously and unconsciously — trying to improve body image.

The result? An ongoing war…with yourself. 

And one you ultimately will never win.

Sure, small amounts of weight loss may lead you to think you’ve won. But even those battles are lost. Dieting is unsustainable long-term.

Some people will temporarily lose weight on a diet but almost all will regain the weight—plus a few extra pounds— long-term.

Sustained weight loss is very rare. Somewhere between 95-98% of dieters will regain the weight they lost — and often more — within 5 years.

Research studies consistently indicate that dieting does not lead to meaningful, long-term, sustainable weight loss. That goes for every shiny, “new” (i.e. repackaged, remarketed) diet, as well.

The most consistent, predictable outcome of dieting is weight gain.

This is because diets don’t work, not because you aren’t doing the diet correctly.

You will end up feeling worse about yourself because you were led to believe you “failed” the diet. 

In reality, what happened is biological, and survival-oriented hard-wiring prevailed. 

Diets are a setup for failure. They drop the burden of success onto you by convincing you they are about willpower and improving body image. 

And, while you are wallowing in your sense of failure? Your “diet” is sneaking out the back door, laughing unapologetically on its way to the bank and its next victim.

Diets fail you. You don’t fail them.

Why do people keep dieting if it doesn’t work? 

Again, two words: Diet Culture.

How can you get back to respecting and appreciating the body you’re in?

Is it possible to improve body image, especially in Diet Culture?

Yes! Try these ideas:

  1. Separate wellness from size and weight.
  2. Celebrate body size and shape diversity as part of the human experience.
  3. Watch this video to see what Amy Pence Brown did.
  4. Find compassion for your body and every body, regardless of body size, ability, shape, gender, or age.
  5. Choose to see bodies of all sizes, ages, shapes, abilities differently than Diet Culture dictates.
  6. Honor aging as a privilege and size- and shape-diversity as fascinating and good.
  7. Practice gratitude for your one and only body, as it is today.
  8. Derive self-worth from other sources, beyond appearance.
  9. Recall that your identity is more than how you look and more than “just” your body.
  10. Meditate on how appreciating your body will give you YOU back. Being whole is your birthright, so appreciating your body — literally expressing gratitude for it — will bring you full circle.

Going against cultural messages takes time and practice. It is not “one and done.” But it does get easier with time.

External appearance changes no matter how many diets, programs, potions, or procedures you try. 

Yet, sadly, body image tends not to improve. Disentangling self-worth from appearance is tough, especially with Diet Culture’s messaging about body size and shape.

You can choose to focus on feeling good from the inside out. This is a complete 180 from what Diet Culture teaches (ie “perfect the outside to feel OK on the inside”). Cultivate your beauty naturally, inside and out.

Someone who unlearns body shame and instead recognizes her own inner and outer magnificence is truly beautiful.

Isn’t this what you want to teach that wiggly, giggly, toe-sucking bundle of joy gazing up at you for affirmation?

And isn’t it the same message you wish you could go back and deliver to that same bundle of joy you once were…and really…still are?

Dr Elayne Daniels is a clinical psychologist in private practice, specializing in body image, eating disorders, and High Sensitivity, with a passion for helping people feel comfortable in the bodies they have. Contact her here for more information.

6 Strategies For Improving Body Image

A group of 5 teenagers looking at their cell phones, possibly good candidates for improving body image

The reflection you see in the mirror may seem straightforward for a quick passing. “Good hair day,” “bad hair day,” “looking good,” “just not feeling it.” But, in truth, what you see is more than visual. It’s deeper and more complex than that.

Your “acceptance” or “rejection” of a moment’s reflection in a mirror is really about your acceptance or rejection of what lies within you.

Approval? Disapproval? Love? Shame?

Strategies for improving body image can help you clarify these messages from within. And they can ultimately help you break free from the ones that don’t honor your inherent beauty and worth. 

These strategies, however, are not easy. There is no magic bullet when it comes to matters of health, whether that be of the body, mind, or spirit. 

The good news is that you can improve body image. And you don’t need to change your body or use toxic positivity to do so.

Body image is a relationship. In fact, it’s among the most important relationships you’ll ever have.

Body image is the relationship you have with your own body and includes thoughts, feelings, behaviors, perceptions, and culture.

If your body image is negative, you can’t feel good about yourself as a person. 

The same is true the other way around: If you don’t appreciate yourself as a person, you’ll probably have lousy body image.

A negative perception of your own body inevitably expands to other aspects of life.

Strategies for improving body image are not an all-or-none deal. To go from hating to loving your body is unrealistic, especially in Diet Culture (which is basically all of Western culture).

Improving body image doesn’t necessarily mean changing or loving your body.

The most common approaches to improving body image don’t work.

Why? Because they are predicated on being at war with your own body.

Dieting and weight loss will not improve your relationship with your body. That’s because improving body image is about more than making your body into what Diet Culture says you should look like.

So let’s say that one more time: Dieting and weight loss will not improve your relationship with your body.

Improving body image is so much easier said than done. (Thanks, Diet Culture.)

The reality is that Diet Culture will try its hardest to seduce you back into the land of false promises. “Your body is the problem. And, if you just ‘fix’ your body by losing weight, you’ll have a better body image. ‘Fix’ your body, love your body.”

That’s the empty promise of Diet Culture.

When you realize that trying to shrink your body size doesn’t work (i.e. diets fail, and changing your body doesn’t lead to long-term happiness or fulfillment), accepting reality becomes easier. 

And, once you can accept reality and “be” with “what is,” you can move forward.

Here is the truth: Weight loss or manipulation of your body into a smaller size or shape by some other means is not going to heal body image problems.

Why? Because your body is not the problem.

The problem isn’t a world populated by bodies of different genders, races, sizes, and abilities.The problem is the system that marginalizes them and demands they change. 

It must be more inclusive. Otherwise it’s incomplete.

Body positivity, as liberating as it sounds at first, can become toxic because it still emphasizes physical appearance more than your body’s functionality and dignity.

Truly living in a body – through taste, breath, touch, mobility, eating, and aging – is about so much more than just how you look in your body.

Social media and other technology burden us with tendencies to compare our bodies with other people’s.

Methods/considerations for improving body image:

1. Start where you are on the body image continuum.

No need to feel daunted. You can go at your own pace as you travel the body image continuum.

By applying the philosophy of the continuum, improved body image will present as body respect, body neutrality, body acceptance, body trust, and ultimately body love.

Even if body love seems out of reach, keep it in mind as a possible goal.

Unfortunately, the body image continuum exists within entrenched systems of oppression, also known as Diet Culture.

Diet Culture has to be dismantled in order to collectively improve body image.

As an individual, you have some agency when it comes to systemic change. Finding resources and methods to challenge the “ism’s” of Diet Culture is difficult. But it’s possible, especially as a community.

According to the body image-continuum approach, improving body image starts with body respect.

Body respect is the first step in improving body image.

You don’t have to love your body or even like how it looks. But you can always choose to treat it with respect.

No matter how you feel about your body, it has been there for you and with you since you were born. Nothing you’ve done or accomplished would have been possible without your body. 

That alone warrants respect.

In practice, body respect means listening to and fulfilling the needs of your body. It means purposely not doing anything harmful to your body such as restriction, overexercising, dieting, or purging.

In short, body respect means giving your body what it needs…and protecting it as you would your own child.

Body neutrality is the second step in improving body image.

In this phase, you accept your body as it is. You recognize you’re ‘enough’ and not ‘too much.’ 

You also accept that you can live your life without a strong emphasis on your body’s appearance.

Body neutrality is …..

  • falling asleep thinking about things other than your body and what you’ll do tomorrow to lose weight.
  • freedom from obsession.
  • a foundation.
  • the place from which you can work toward building body positivity if you want to.

Body acceptance is the third step in improving body image.

Body acceptance is just as it sounds – accepting your body, as it is, today. With acceptance, you don’t necessarily have to feel positive about your body; but you work with it where it is.

Body trust is the fourth step in improving body image.

In this phase, you trust your body’s cues and signals and respond with respect.

If your body is hungry, you eat. If your body feels uncomfortable dressed in a certain style, you change your clothing or make adjustments to be comfortable.

In any good relationship, you build trust. You earn trust. 

The same goes for the relationship you have with your body.

Building body trust is like building trust in any relationship. It goes both ways. You trust your body. Your body trusts you.

Body love/body positivity

There’s more to body positivity than having confidence in a bikini. Liking your appearance is only part of body positivity. 

Bodies are constantly changing, so it’s silly to zero in solely on liking your appearance. What about instead focusing on how you treat your body?

A relationship based solely on liking your looks wouldn’t feel good. Nor would it last. Similarly, a love of your body based solely on appearance won’t last, either.

Shift toward greater appreciation for what your body does for you. 

Your body is more of an instrument than an ornament.

2. Take a step back.

Think about the bigger picture: Diet Culture, the weight loss industry, social injustice, weight stigma, the science of weight. 

The relationship we each have with our body is complex, regardless of race, gender, social status, or any other factor. It carries history, memory…and promise.

Have self-compassion. Recognize that true change will take time. 

You could choose to start right now. No need to micromanage. Just go step by step.

The goal is not immunity to criticism. It’s about recognizing feelings and working on becoming more resilient to cultural messages and societal toxicity.

Everybody’s experience with improving body image is going to be different.

Accepting “what is” means you’ll have parts of yourself you like, parts you dislike, and parts you feel neutral about.

Improving body image is about divesting worth from appearance. It’s about getting to a place where you know you are intrinsically valuable and worthy.

You stop dwelling on your body because how you look is not the primary way you define yourself.

3. Expect ebbs and flows.

Just as the moon’s phases and the ocean’s tides change, bodies change.

Improved body image means you get up each day and accept what is. You recognize aspects of your body that you weren’t keen about yesterday and that you may feel neutral about today.

On some days, separating your worth from your appearance is easy. 

On other days, however, it may be hard to recognize that your value as a human isn’t based on your body.

4. It’s OK to care about how you look.

Being human means we want to feel a sense of belonging, which, at one point, was central to survival (and might still be). It’s natural to want to be liked, approved-of, and accepted. 

It’s also natural to want to be considered desirable.

Approximating the societal ideal with our bodies is a way to belong, if only because “everyone else” is doing the same thing.

The concern is how narrowly defined “attractiveness” is in our culture and the degree to which it’s based on oppression (see #6).

5. Acknowledge grief, loss, and anger.

Going to all sorts of efforts to have a body defined as the cultural ideal has taken up lots of your time and energy. You know that weight loss is not sustainable And yet, you’ve used up tons of resources going down that rabbit hole, even by thinking “this diet will be different.” (But it never is.)

Give yourself some grace. Allow yourself to feel sadness, anger, or whatever other emotion you feel for what you’ve given up or lost in your socially sanctioned self-improvement attempts (i.e. dieting.)

6. Body image is a social justice issue.

Social oppression is a mixture of sexism, classism, racism, ableism, ageism, heterosexism, and size-discrimination.

All the “‘ism’s” influence body image.

Bodies considered beautiful tend to be thin, white, able-bodied, and young. The message is that “fat and old are bad,” and “thin and young are good.” And that there is nothing in between.

So, if you really boil it down, poor body image is not an individual’s ‘fault’. People have been taught by culture not to accept themselves as they are.

Being able to trust, accept, respect, and be kind to your body – regardless of your weight, skin color, abilities, or age – is your birthright. Western culture disagrees…and profits from your dissatisfaction.

What if, instead of trying to fix yourself to fit into sociocultural standards, you challenged the status quo?

Your body is not the problem. Status quo is.

This article just skims the surface of how to improve body image. That’s for two main reasons.

First, body image is a complex topic. Unpacking it all and doing it justice takes more than a blog article. 

Second, as long as Diet Culture exists, so will poor body image.

The social injustice of poor body image doesn’t have to prevent you from accessing your body’s profound wisdom.

You have much more fulfilling ways to live a meaningful life than hating on your body.

beautiful display of food represebtubg a lifestyle of improvd body image
Two feet, indicative of hopefully body appreciation and improved image

Micromanaging your body = missing out on genuine meaning in your life.

Living fully with and in your body need not be a radical act.

Starting right now.

Dr Elayne Daniels is a psychologist specializing in body image, eating disorders, and High Sensitivity. Her passion is helping people live their best lives in the glorious bodies they already have.

3 Articles About Body Image In The Media That Every Parent Should Read

a child with a camera, representing the importance of parents being familiar with body image in the media

Whatever your child’s age or gender, body image is a topic that belongs in your daily teaching and communication. If body image is a sensitive or confusing topic for you as an adult, imagine how it can impact a child’s impressionable mind.

Information about body image in the media will help you become more comfortable with this topic. It’s a subject every parent needs to understand. Especially because social media is here to stay.

“Body image in the media” covers 2 super important topics, especially for kids and teens: body image and media

“Body image” refers to the relationship people have with their own bodies. It includes thoughts, feelings, judgments, behaviors, and perceptions.

Cultural influences are also part of the relationship people have with their bodies. This often overlooked influence is called Diet Culture. Other blog posts describe Diet Culture in more detail.

“Media” refers primarily to social media, and to TikTok and Instagram in particular. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are other forms of media.

Whether or not you have talked with your child about body image in the media, read these articles. The content may be a review of what you already know. But read them through the filter of being a parent committed to helping your child develop a healthy body image.

Kids may roll their eyes at you. (Take it as a sign of good parenting.) Nonetheless, tweens, teens, and even young adults still need guidance from parents about topics such as body image in the media.

Three articles about body image in the media to read before talking with your child are listed below. Depending on your child’s age, you could read them together.

The Effects Of Social Media On Body Image And Mental Health

Social Media Makes Me Feel Bad About My Body

How To Protect Your Mental Health Online

Here are some key take-aways from the articles:

1. When scrolling through social media platforms, users naturally compare themselves to the images they see.

The images (e.g. on TikTok or Instagram) are often digitally altered and heavily filtered. They are not real. Users’ mental health (and body image especially) deteriorates as a result of viewing these images. That is what’s real.

2. There are three main reasons social media use is concerning:

  • The definition of “normal” becomes distorted. The images of bodies on social media are modified to enhance cultural features deemed attractive. These “highlight reels” are the images that bombard us. Not only are they not realistic, they’re harmful.
  • The sheer number of people available for comparison has exploded. ‘We can’t talk about “global overpopulation” without weighing the influence of all those people and all those visual platforms for expression.

    It used to just be our group of friends and peers at school. Now there are social media influencers and a zillion other humans online, all vying for coveted attention, approval, and social envy. Body image doesn’t stand a chance.
  • There is no break. Most people are on several platforms, and they have easy access. (Hello, cell phone/handheld device.) They’re bombarded with images and feel worse and worse about themselves the longer they’re online.

3. Not everyone on social media is kind.

There are trolls online who make insensitive comments that damage mental health. People say mean things online that they would not say in person.

4. It feels good to collect “likes,” “loves,” heart emojis, and friend requests.

That kind of (fake) validation can become addictive, though. Plus, it makes it tricky at times to distinguish between real friends and social media friends.

It’s not all doom and gloom.

Learning how to navigate social media is essential, especially when it comes to body image.

  • Seek out people with whom you feel good about yourself.
  • Focus on liking and posting “feel good” images. Puppies and other animals are always good because they are always “in the moment…and they don’t have body image issues.
  • Apply the Golden Rule: Treat people online how you want to be treated online.
  • Take social media breaks.

As a parent in 2021, being social media-literate and familiar with the effects of media platforms on body image and other mental health issues is supremely important.

Fortunately, not everything online is suspect. And your education about body image in the media can start with three articles…and a little help from Google.

Dr Elayne Daniels is a clinical psychologist specializing in body image, eating disorders, and Highly Sensitive People. Her passion is helping people feel comfortable in their own bodies…from the inside out. Contact her here.

How Media Affects Body Image: Do Body Positive Campaigns Work?

A woman of African American descent in a blue bikini and holding pink balloons demonstrates an example of a body positive campaign photo. ,

Open up any social media app, and you’ll see it – in ads, in videos, in your friends’ posts and photos. Turn on the TV or open a magazine, and you’ll see it – in commercials, in programs, in fashion and makeup ads. You really can’t escape the countless normalized examples of how media affects body image. And you have to wonder if body positive campaigns can even keep up, let alone if they work.

Liking our own body is not easy, especially in Diet Culture. (See earlier posts for more about Diet Culture).

Disliking and being super-critical of our own body have become the norm.

Beauty standards are narrowly defined. Most people will never look like media images, no matter how hard they try. And that’s regardless of how many diets, cosmetic surgeries, or “lifestyle” changes they pursue.

Thanks (but no thanks) to Diet Culture, we praise weight loss, idealize thinness, and think of food as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

This system of beliefs explains why we talk trash about our own bodies, restrict food, and have difficulty seeing our own beauty.

Diet Culture is so powerful that we may not even realize it exists…

…just as fish don’t know they’re wet.

Tina Fey describes social media’s portrayal of Diet Culture pressures in her book, BossyPants.  

“Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama….”

Tina Fey, Bossy Pants (2013).

This is obviously impossible.(The achievement, not the expectation.) But Diet Culture promotes these sorts of ideals, anyway.

And social media is its get-away car.

We take in the images and compare ourselves. Filters and other photoshop techniques make images look extra-convincing, triggering us to feel that much worse about our bodies and selves. 

If only we tried harder to manipulate our bodies to be thinner, we too could look like the images on Instagram. (Not!)

That’s why, in general, media is no help when it comes to body image. (Unless by ‘help’ you mean promoting body-loathing.)

Self-acceptance is difficult when we don’t measure up to what media defines and presents as attractive. 

And, once that failure to measure up becomes internalized as insecurity about and resentment toward our bodies, self-acceptance is all but impossible.Here is where body positivity enters the picture.

Body positivity challenges Diet Culture’s definition of beauty.

The body positivity movement (“#BoPo” for short) promotes acceptance of diverse body sizes and appearances.

#BoPo campaigns are meant to be an alternative to how bodies are typically portrayed. 

The hope is that promoting more realistic messages about body size and shape will improve body image.

Body positive campaigns are a way to challenge societal views and address unrealistic standards of beauty. Their mission is to help people accept and feel more confident about their own bodies, regardless of weight or size.

In #BoPo, unique aspects of appearance are viewed in a positive light rather than as deviations from societal (aka Diet Culture’s) ideals of beauty.

Understanding how media affects body image is more important than ever. 

Information spreads like wildfire. Lots of ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ of posts occur constantly. Posts go viral in a matter of minutes. 

And unrealistic body standards are reinforced…and accepted as “truth.”

How welcoming and inclusive the idea of body positivity sounds! But is it?

And do body positive approaches influence how media affects body image?

Research on the results of body positive campaigns is mixed.

Jes Baker, a body image blogger and author, calls out the sociopolitical limits of body positivity messages.

Her point: Many bodies are excluded in the body positivity movement.

Rather than including white, able-bodied, flawless women who wear a size 0 or 00, #BoPo posts extend to white, able-bodied, feminine, heterosexual women who wear a size 12 or smaller.

Many bodies are excluded, rejected – as if unworthy of recognition.

Body positivity actually still limits how we define attractiveness. It excludes fat/transgender/dis-abled bodies and doesn’t recognize stigma, oppression, or prejudice.

Body positivity still applies only to women of a certain size, shape, skin color, and sexual identity. It doesn’t improve weight stigma, fat phobia, or other kinds of prejudice.

A 2020 study of over 250 Instagram posts suggests contradictory messages are common in so-called body positivity land. Weight loss support or praising thinness are examples of contradictions.

They also identified inner-positivity as the most common body positivity theme on Instagram. 

Inner positivity posts focus on courage and resilience.

These are messages that can benefit all of us, regardless of how we feel about our bodies or how our bodies look.

The best way to reduce media’s effects on body image?

  • Post some images without people. Puppies and nature scenes, anyone?
  • Comment on posts in a way that is not about size, shape, or shaming.
  • Emphasize “inner-positivity” in your feed.
  • Take breaks from social media.
  • Follow body positive influencers.

Social media is not going away. Nor is its influence on social norms. 

There’s a lot of room to reclaim body positivity for more people. Until then, body positivity efforts remain short-sighted.

Why not use social media in a way that recognizes all bodies, regardless of size, shape, gender, or age? 

Until we address the ‘ism’s’ (racism, weightism, fat stigma, misogyny) of the world, body positivity will continue to marginalize people. 

And there is nothing positive about that.

Dr. Elayne Daniels is a psychologist in MA who is passionate about helping people feel more comfortable in their bodies. She also works with people who identify as Highly Sensitive. Contact her here.

Posted in Overcoming Body Image Issues

88 Healthy Body Image Role Models You Need To Meet

The torsos of two women, sitting back to back on a rock with food next to them, suggestive of Diet Culture

Healthy body image role models are tough to find, let alone meet. Especially in Diet Culture.

Diet Culture is a system of false beliefs that we’re taught. Despite their glaring untruths, they’re almost universally endorsed in Western culture — so much so that we often can’t distinguish fact from myth.

Diet Culture is dangerous. It harms people of all sizes.

Identifying Diet Culture when we’re immersed in it is difficult. Diet Culture is the lens through which we see (and automatically judge) bodies, beauty, food, weight, and worth.

Diet Culture is based on the belief that weight and worth are connected. It tricks you into believing that, to be worthy, attractive, successful, likable, and “good”, you must be thin.

Thinness is idealized. It’s the end-all, be-all…the pinnacle.

Dieting and working out are put on a pedestal, and food is moralized. Worth as a human being is defined by body size and food choice in Diet Culture.

The truth is this: Whether you order fries or a fruit cup, your worth is the same. Whether or not you exercised yesterday, today, or any day doesn’t determine your value as a human.

Fries and fruit have no moral value, even though Diet Culture wants you to believe that fries are bad and fruit is good. Even more tragically, it wants you to believe that you’re bad if you eat fries, and you’re good if you eat fruit.

(Bad fries would more accurately mean they were made from rotten potatoes. What if the fruit were also rotten? Would it still be “good”? Nutritional merit is not the same as moral judgment of good or bad.)

Diet culture is so all-encompassing that we typically don’t even see it for what it is. Sort of like fish not knowing they’re wet.

Imagine meeting others who’ve discovered Diet Culture alternatives to being in their bodies. Is it possible to be freed from Diet Culture messages? Are there people whose relationships with their bodies are either neutral or positive?

Yes. Even in the world of social media. 

How ironic! Social media has been a primary way Diet Culture messages spread. 

The very same platforms, however, can spread messages of body neutrality. They can also help to decouple weight/worth and food choice/virtue.

What is body image and why should you care?

Everyone with a body has a body image.

Body image fluctuates, based on many things. Factors like mood, hormones, age, health, cultural and family messages, media ideals, and personality traits such as perfectionism all affect a person’s relationship with her body.

Historical roots are an important part of body image, both familially and systemically (sexism, classism, racism, and other ism’s).

There is only one place — your body — you’ll live your entire life. So finding peace within the body you inhabit is important.

How you feel and think about your body is something to actually care about.

If you have a positive body image, you’re more likely to have physical and psychological well-being. You’re also more likely to have interests, purpose, and meaning in your life.

In contrast, negative body image is associated with depression, social anxiety, and self-consciousness, as well as eating disorders…and not so much fulfillment.

Magic happens when you stop judging your body harshly and learn to appreciate your inner being, soul, and spirit.

You weren’t born hating your body. Diet Culture taught you, starting at an early age.

Take back your birthright. Live unapologetically in the body you were born with.

What are role models?

When you’re looking for guidance, where do you turn?

You probably go to people you know and who seem qualified — Maybe people you consider to be role models.

Role models are people you look up to and whom you might want to emulate, now or in the future.

People you know but haven’t met personally could be role models, as is often the case when social media is involved. Or they may be people in authority. Parents can be role models. So can teachers, peers, and coaches.

These days, people are just as or more likely to spend equal time with social media influencers as with peers and parents.

Social media influencers have a lot of followers who consider them to be role models.

Think about whom you’ve designated as role models.

Have you chosen role models whose values align with yours? Are the role models you’ve chosen celebrities or influencers who spread Diet Culture messages (and who also may not even realize it)?

Consider that media influencers have a lot of platforms from which to send their messages. Television, YouTube, video games, Twitter, music — these platforms are all available 24/7.

Messages from influencers can be powerful. They affect us all. Not all celebrities, stars, and influencers, however, come bearing positive messages.

On some social media sites, the best body image role models have four legs.

Neither dog in the photo below is likely lamenting the shape of its ears or stomach.

two corgi's are body image role models

Social Media

Social media influencers and celebrities get the most attention. They also have the most impact.

The way social media works has naturally led to worsening body image on a national and even global scale.

Instagram, for example, allows users to post images easily and to view and follow other people. From the comfort of any room, you can easily access hundreds of images of women and men with “perfect” bodies. These images are “liked” and praised for their appearance.

Many of the images are not even real! They’re filtered, airbrushed, or otherwise altered.

For teenage and young-adult women, who may be consuming most of Diet Culture’s media messages, unrealistic goals for weight and shape are reinforced.

Viral body image posts and even challenges are common. For example, there’s the trend with teenage girls balancing coins on their collarbones. And how about all the ruckus about a thigh gap?

There may be no malicious intent. Regardless, the impact on body image is detrimental.

The increase in social media outlets has strengthened Diet Culture. The system of beliefs spreads quickly, powerfully, and widely on the internet.

We then internalize what we consume and take it all as “just the way things are.”

But there is good news here.

The intention and impact of social media influencers can be positive. Even with body image.

For example, Lorde posted two photos of herself on social media, one without makeup or Photoshop. “Remember, flaws are ok” she reminds followers.

There actually are positive body image role models who are human (not canine) and really do exist (and not just in social media).

An important step in a healthier body image is to think about the social media accounts you follow.

How do you feel about your body when you scroll through the posts on those accounts?

Why bombard your inbox with people who look a certain way and/or cause you to feel bad about yourself? What if, instead, you include role models with a range of body sizes and shapes? While you’re at it, include people of color, different abilities, and gender identity.

Also, to widen definitions of beauty and body size, diversify your accounts. Move away from unhealthy body image messages presented by social media as healthy and normal. Those are the ones that keep you stuck in Diet Culture and self-criticism.

So what to do?

The first step is a social media cleanout.

The second step is to follow healthier body image role models,

To find healthier body image role models, check out the accounts listed below, many of which are borrowed from Alissa Rumsey.

Please let me know if you have any accounts to add.

Body Image Accounts – Role Models

Websites and Quotes from Body Image Role Models:

  1. Virgie Tovar (https://www.virgietovar.com/) is an author and expert on weight discrimination and body image. She’s also relatable and fun.

    “When we reconnect with our body, it doesn’t just mean we may have more confidence or a better relationship to the mirror. It means we reconnect to the information superhighway that is our body. It means we reconnect to what our bodies are telling us – not just about food or hunger – about everything.”
  2. Christy Harrison (https://christyharrison.com) is an anti-diet, Health At Every Size-informed registered dietician, podcaster, and author.

    In her own words, “My mission is to help you recognize Diet Culture for the life thief that it is, and tune back into your body’s inner wisdom about how to truly nourish yourself—so that you can free up space in your life for bigger and better things.”
  3. Alissa Rumsey, RD (https://alissarumsey.com) is a registered dietician who helps people “free themselves of the shame and pain of chronic dieting so they can live their most unapologetic, liberated lives.”

    As she says, “the more you trust your body with food, the more you start to trust yourself in other areas of your life.” 
  4. The Body Positive (https://thebodypositive.org) is a community of trained people who“helps people develop balanced, joyful self-care and a relationship with their bodies that is guided by love, forgiveness, and humor.”
  5. Sonya Renee Taylor (https://sonyareneetaylor.com) is the founder of The Body is Not An Apology, a digital media and education company promoting “radical self-love and body-empowerment as … tools for social justice and global transformation.” 
  6. Lindo Bacon, PhD (https://lindobacon.com) is an author, professor, speaker, social activist, and outspoken proponent for global body positivity. She is a pioneer!

    Read their Body Manifesto.

Registered Dietician Body Image Role Models:

These body image role models provide information and inspiration for anti-diet, health-at-very-size, intuitive-eating nutrition.

  1. @Evelyntribole Evelyn Tribole (co-creator of Intuitive Eating)
  2. @ElyseResch Elyse Resch (co-creator of Intuitive Eating)
  3. @haes_studentdoctor Jess Campbell
  4. @thethicknutritionist Tash (non-diet nutritionist)
  5. @kristamurias Krista Murias (“Your worth doesn’t change with the shape of your belly…”)
  6. @mollybcounseling Molly Bahr
  7. @haescoach Kerry Beake (coach who specializes in social justice, weight stigma, and body image)
  8. @thewellful Brenna O’Malley (“Friends don’t let friends talk sh*t about their bodies.”)
  9. @body_peace_liberation Kathleen Bishop
  10. @bodypositiveyoga Sarah Harry
  11. @fionawiller Fiona Willer Author, podcaster, speaker from Australia
  12. @kaley_rd Kaley Sechman (“Hunger is a normal body sensation.”)
  13. @rachaelhartleyrd Rachael Hartley
  14. @thereallife_rd Robyn Nohling (non-diet nutritionist and nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health)
  15. @laurathomasphd Laura Thomas
  16. @themindfuldietitian Fiona Sutherland
  17. @hgoodrichrd Haley Goodrich
  18. @immaeatthat Kylie Mitchell
  19. @jessihaggertyrd Jessi Haggerty (registered dietician, personal trainer)
  20. @intuitiveeatingrd Sumner Brooks (“My body is not for your viewing pleasure or displeasure…”)
  21. @lindsaystenovec_rd Lindsay Stenovec (“How do I unlearn diet culture?”)
  22. @emilyfonnesbeck_rd Emily Fonnesbeck (“My body is my home, and I won’t burn it down.”)
  23. @chr1styharrison Christy Harrison
  24. @rebeccascritchfield Rebecca Scritchfield (“Never diet again.”)
  25. @bodyimagewithbri Brianna M. Campos (body image educator)
  26. @heytiffanyroe Tiffany Roe (“Body bashing is not bonding.”)
  27. @bravespacenutrition Katherine Metzelaar (“You don’t need to love your body to improve your body image.”)
  28. @livedexperiencecounsellor Sonny Jane
  29. @alissarumseyrd Alissa Rumsey

Fitness Body Image Role Models:

These body image role models provide fitness inspiration and information for all bodies.

  1. meisjessamyn Jessamyn Stanley
  2. @bodypositiveyoga Sarah Harry 
  3. @bodypositivefitnes trainers (“Removing barriers to fitness with a safe, inclusive space for all.”)
  4. @bodypositivehf Shelley Lask
  5. @curvyyoga Anna Guest Jolley includes free yoga and meditation for people in bodies of all sizes)
  6. @deadlifts_and_redlipss Karen Preene (non-diet personal trainer)
  7. @positiveforcemovement coaches
  8. @amberkarnesofficial Amber Karnes
  9. @the.intuitive.trainer Julie Newbry (non-diet, intuitive eating-oriented personal trainer)
  10. @fatgirlshiking community
  11. @louisegreen_bigfitgirl Louise Green (author of Big Fat Girl; “size inclusive fitness expert”)
  12. @bloomfittraining trainers (“I was not put on this earth to count almonds.”)
  13. @practicewithdana Dana Falsetti
  14. @thephitcoach Jake Gifford 
  15. @emmafitnessphd Emma Green (“Why you don’t need to do 10,000 steps/day.”)
  16. @letsjoyn – (free body-neutral classes for all bodies)
  17. @themirnavator Mirna Valerio
  18. @sarahsapora Sarah Sapora
  19. @bloomfittraining coaches
  20. @iamlshauntay Latoya Shauntay Snell (chef, journalist, speaker, advocate)
  21. @fitragamuffin Jamie (“We’re prioritizing the wrong things when it comes to fitness.”)
  22. @tallyrye Tally Rye (“Your body is not your art. It is your paintbrush.”)
  23. @dearbodybymeg Meg Boggs (“Be your body’s protector, not its predator.”)

Activist & Educator Body Image Role Models:

These role models want to make a difference and change Diet Culture through education and activism. You might be inspired by their messages.

  1. @Madeonagenerousplan Meredith Noble (fat liberation coach)
  2. @Sundaymorningview (“celebrating the beauty in women;” Self-Love magazine)
  3. @Historicalfatpeople (“Vintage photos featuring nice to not-so-nice fat people of yore. Occasional diet ephemera.”)
  4. @Ownitbabe Rini Frey
  5. @Bodyimagemovementt Taryn Brumfitt
  6. @yrfatfriend Aubrey Gordon (“What we don’t talk about when we talk about fat.”)
  7. @iamivyfelicia Ivy Felicia (“Body peace is your birthright. You just have to claim it.”)
  8. @fierce.fatty Victoria Welsby (author and speaker who “helps fat people ditch shame and unlearn fatphobia”)
  9. @themilitantbaker Jes Baker (“Pay attention to who you are with when you feel your best.”)
  10. @sonyareneetaylor Sonya Renee Taylor
  11. @meghantonje MeghanTonjes is a singer/songwriter. (“Fat, blessed, and thriving.”)
  12. @betteringbecca Becca Ferry (postpartum body image; “Your weight might fluctuate, but your worth does not.”)
  13. @shesallfatpod (“The podcast for FAT POSITIVITY, radical self-love, and chill vibes ONLY.”)
  14. @shanboody Shan Boodram (“Dr Ruth meets Rhianna”)
  15. @fyeahmfabello Melissa Fabello (digital media educator with a PhD in human sexuality studies)
  16. @iamchrissyking Chrissy King (writer and speaker who talks about equity for wellness community)
  17. @beauty_redefined Lexie & Lindsay Kite (“To improve your body image, prioritize the way you experience the world, not the way the world experiences you.”)
  18. @DanaSuchow Dana Suchow
  19. @bodypositivememes Michelle Elman (“You are a walking miracle. Strut accordingly.”)
  20. @chubstr (“style for big men”)
  21. @lizzobeeating Lizzo
  22. @jameelajamilofficial Jameela Jamil (“The only diet advice you should take from celebrities is ‘don’t take diet advice from celebrities.’”)
  23. @i_weigh Jameela Jamil
  24. @iamivyfelicia Ivy Felicia
  25. @Ellanabryan Ellana Bryan (“Self love and Body Positive Advocate”)
  26. @sassyredlipstick Sarah Tripp (“curvy, confident body-positive mama”)
  27. @lolo_russell Logan Russell (“empowering you to embrace your body”)
  28. @tessholiday Tess Holiday
  29. @ashleygraham Ashley Graham
  30. @Madeonagenerousplan Meredith Noble (“fat liberation coach”)

Now what?

Consider all the options available for choosing body image role models. There are 88 examples provided here, and this is not even an exhaustive list.

Check out as many of these inspiring accounts as you want. Be curious!

Do some strategic filtering to decide whose accounts to follow and whose not to follow (and whose to delete).

Being mindful of whose accounts (and messaging) you follow is powerful. Imagine if thousands of us deleted accounts that are immersed in Diet Culture?

Each of us has a voice. Finding it allows you to speak your truth.

Together we can ditch Diet Culture and create radical changes to improve body image.

YOU have agency. You can choose.

Once you recognize Diet Culture’s impact, you will be in a stronger position to choose body image role models who aren’t drinking the diet Kool-Aid.

I am Dr Elayne Daniels, a Massachusetts-based psychologist with a passion for helping people feel more comfortable in and accepting of their bodies. Contact me here for more information.

8 Body Image Quotes And Sayings That Will Help You Fall In Love With Your Body Again

A photo of a girl with two thumbs up as if she likes or loves her body

Body image is complicated. Rarely is there anyone over age 4 or so who loves her body. That is so sad; none of us is born hating our body. And even through early stages of life, we revel in our fingers and toes. And in our body as a whole. Chubby babies are considered “so adorable”. But all this changes around pre-adolescence and certainly adolescence.

So, how realistic is it to think body image quotes and sayings could help you fall in love — or at least like — with your body?

You tell me. Check in with yourself and let a couple of words come to the surface that describe RIGHT NOW how you feel in your body. No judgment, like good or bad.

Read through the quotes.

Pause.

Reflect on which words come to mind now to describe how you feel a about your body.

Body image quotes and sayings that speak to you can be just what you need to hear, when you need to hear it.

Here are more body image quotes and sayings:

“it was when I stopped searching for home within others and lifted the foundations of home within myself I found there were no roots more intimate than those between a mind and body that have decided to be whole.”

― Rupi Kaur

I am so much more than my appearance.

My body is perfectly imperfect.

Wabi sabi.

I am unique, the only one on earth with this soul or body.

My body carries me.

I am tired of hating my body and myself.

My body is something to honor, to care for, and not take for granted.

The back of 4 women, arm in arm, demonstrating the impact of body image quotes

i like the way the stretch marks
on our thighs look human
and that we’re so soft yet
rough and jungle wild
when we need to be
i love that about us
how capable we are of feeling
how unafraid we are of breaking
and tend to our wounds with grace

It is easy to love the nice things about ourselves. But true self love is embracing the difficult parts that live in all of us.

-Rupi Kaur

a lotus

When you find body image quotes or sayings that speak to you, post them on your bedroom mirror. Use them as your screen saver. Repeat throughout the day.

Your body hears everything you think.

I am Dr Elayne Daniels, a Boston based psychologist with a passion for helping people find freedom and ease in their body. You can contact me here.

How to Overcome Poor Body Image and Body Dissatisfaction

Tips for how to overcome poor body image and body dissatisfaction tend to be generic. Or at least limited.

Suggestions such as valuing what is inside and not just what you look like on the outside. Focusing on what your body can do instead of how it looks. Or that how you look is not that important.

These ideas can feel oversimplified. Like “just do this and you will feel better.”

Except it is not that easy or simple.

What I’ve found helpful to overcome poor body image and body dissatisfaction is to widen the lens.

Widening the lens is about taking a step back to shift perspective. A pivot of this sort can help create more flexibility in how you think and feel about your body.

Let’s talk first about why poor body image and body dissatisfaction are important.

And why overcoming them is actually one of the most powerful, revolutionary declarations of (your) worth.

Even just thinking about these ideas can be helpful in the process of overcoming poor body image and body dissatisfaction.

What is body image?

We all have a body and therefore a body image.

Body image is the relationship you have with your body. It includes thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and behaviors. In other words, body image is how you see, feel, think about and perceive your body. Appearance has a lot to do with body image. Especially in Diet Culture. (Don’t know what Diet Culture is? Check this out.)

Body image ranges from negative to positive.

Body image concerns can affect every one of us – regardless of age, gender, or culture. The concerns often begin at a young age and continue throughout life. Especially in Diet Culture.

Most people’s body image is either positive or negative. Rarely is body image somewhere in the middle, especially for females, and increasingly for people of all genders. Particularly in Diet Culture. (Are you starting to see a trend here with the impact of Diet Culture?)

Positive body image is when you feel comfortable in your body, accept your body and weight, and know that weight and appearance don’t define your worth as a person.

Negative body image includes evaluating your body critically and emphasizing what you consider to be flaws. Depression, shame, sadness, and jealousy often accompany negative body image.

Poor body image is one of the best predictors of anorexia or bulimia.

One of the main causes of poor body image is comparing your body to someone else’s.

Body image can be viewed as a state or trait.

Body image as a state refers to the idea that a person’s relationship with her body changes across contexts. As in depending on the situation. A person may have negative body image, for example, at the beach in a bathing suit. Her body image may be better when she is wearing an oversized sweat shirt and yoga pants.

Body image as a trait refers to body image as a consistent, stable quality across situations. Whether a person is at a beach in a bathing suit or in an oversized sweatshirt and jeans at school, body image is similar.

Most people think of body image as a trait. However, it can be state dependent. Meaning how a person feels about their body may depend on the context. There are even questionnaires that specifically focus on body image in a variety or situations. Examples are the Situational Inventory of Body Image (SIBID) or the Body Exposure during Sexual Activities Questionnaire (BESAQ).

Efforts to improve body image affect mental health and well being

The Body Positive movement (aka BoPo)

BoPo promotes size diversity, body love, and improved body image, regardless of age, form, gender, race, or abilities. Its tagline is “all bodies are good bodies”, while challenging the ways society presents and views the physical body.

A criticism of the BoPo movement is that emphasis remains on appearance. And on the ‘how you look =self worth’ link.

Maybe we do not have to love our bodies in order to improve body satisfaction?

There are other options for navigating poor body image and diet culture without introducing a new standard of beauty.


Say what? Well, how about taking less of a leap. Instead of BoPo, what if the goal were Body Neutrality.

The Body Neutrality movement

Why continue to feed into society’s obsession with beauty?

The concept of body neutrality is that you don’t have to like how you look in order to honor your needs. That there is more to your body and to you than just how your body looks.

What if you weren’t as concerned about your body size or shape?

In a paper published in the 1990s, I asked the same question. There’s no denying that culture has taught us to obsess over our appearance in all ways – whether it’s telling us we need to be photoshopped, that our booty should be more lifted, or that stretch marks and curves are what makes a “real woman.”

Frankly, it can be a relief to duck out of the obsessively body-centric conversation altogether.

Just think – how much more brain power and energy we could devote to other worthy causes. How much more could we just plain relax and find inner peace, if our appearance wasn’t constantly taking up center stage?

When you approach your worth from a different lens you become closer to unconditionally accepting who you are. Inside AND out.

You are more than flesh and bones. See yourself as the entire, soul-filled wonder you are.

Dr Elayne Daniels is a psychologist and coach specializing in helping people transform their relationship with their own body. Please join me – and be a part of this revolution!