Healthy body image role models are hard to find, let alone meet. Especially in Diet Culture.
Diet culture is a system of beliefs we’re taught. The beliefs aren’t factually true, yet they’re nearly universally endorsed in Western culture. So much so that we often don’t even realize the beliefs aren’t actually true.
Diet Culture is dangerous. It harms people of all sizes.
Identifying Diet culture when we are immersed in it is difficult. It’s the lens we through which we see (and automatically judge) bodies, beauty, food, weight, and worth.
The belief system of Diet culture is based on the premise that weight and worth are connected. And that to be worthy, attractive, successful, likable, and “good”, you must be thin.
Thinness is idealized. It is the end all, be all. The pinnacle.
The beliefs of Diet culture are so embedded that we tend not to blink an eye when someone says she was “naughty” for eating dessert. Or that he was “bad” because he skipped the gym yesterday.
Dieting is 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 though whether you order fries or a fruit cup your worth is the same. Whether or not you exercised yesterday, today, or anyday 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. And 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 the moral judgments 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.
So imagine meeting others who’ve discovered Diet culture alternatives to being in their body. Is it possible to be freed from Diet culture messages? Are there people whose relationship with their body is either neutral or positive?
Yes. Even in the world of social media. How ironic! Social media, has been a prime way Diet culture messages are spread. The very same platforms can be utilized to spread messages of body neutrality, and decoupling weight and worth, and food choice and virtue.
What is body image and why should you care?
Everyone with a body has a body image.
Body image fluctuates, based on lots of things. Factors like mood, hormones, age, health, cultural and family messages, media ideals, and personality traits such as perfectionism affect a person’s relationship with her body.
Historical roots are an important part of body image. Both in terms of your own personal family tree and systemically (sexism, classism, racism, and other ism’s).
There is only one place you’ll live your entire life, and that is in your body. So finding peace within the body you inhabit is important.
How you feel and think about your body is something to 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 in and with.
What are role models?
When you’re looking for guidance, who do you go to?
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 be like, 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.
In real life, people are just as likely, or more so, 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 a role model.
Think about whom you have designated as role models.
Have you chosen role models whose values align with yours? Are the role models you have chosen celebrities or influencers who spread Diet culture messages (and who also may not even realize it)?
Consider that media influencers have lots of platforms to send their message. These include television., YouTube, video games, Twitter, and music. All of these platforms are available 24/7.
Not all celebrities, stars, or influencers have positive messages. Influencers’ messages can be powerful. And their messages affect all of us.
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 the way its stomach hangs down.
Social media influencers and celebrities get the most attention. They also have the most impact.
The way media works has naturally led to worsening body image country-wide (and in some cases internationally).
Instagram 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 of teenage girls balancing coins on their collarbones. 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.
What then happens is we internalize what we consume and take them 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).
We discussed that social media is a major transmitter of unhealthy body image messages.
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? How about if instead you include role models with a range of body sizes and shapes? While you are at it, include people of color, of different abilities, and gender identity.
To widen definitions of beauty and body size, diversify your accounts. Move away from unhealthy body image messages social media presents 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 these accounts, many of which are borrowed from Alissa Rumsey’s list. 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/): She’s 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/) 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)
They “help 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)
She’s the founder of “The Body is Not An Apology, a digital media and education company promoting radical self-love and body empowerment as the foundational tool for social justice and global transformation.”
6. Lindo Bacon, PhD (https://lindobacon.com)
Lindo is an author, professor, speaker, social activist, and outspoken proponent for global body positivity.
Read their Body Manifesto.
Registered Dietician Body Image Role Models:
These body image role models provide anti diet, Health at Every Size/Intuitive Eating informed nutrition.
- @Evelyntribole Evelyn Tribole (Co-creator of Intuitive Eating_
- @ElyseResch Elyse Resch (co-creator of Intuitive Eating)
- @haes_studentdoctor Jess Campbell
- @thethicknutritionist Tash (Non-diet nutritionisht)
- @kristamurias Krista Murias (“Your worth doesn’t change with the shape of your belly…”)
- @mollybcounseling Molly Bahr
- @haescoach Kerry Beake (Coach who specializes in social justice, weight stigma, body image)
- @thewellful Brenna O’Malley (“Friends don’t let friends talk sh*t about their bodies”)
- @body_peace_liberation Kathleen Bishop
- @bodypositiveyoga Sarah Harry
- @fionawiller Fiona Willer Author, podcaster, speaker from Australia
- @kaley_rd Kaley Sechman (“Hunger is a normal body sensation.”)
- @rachaelhartleyrdRachael Hartley
- @thereallife_rd Robyn Nohling (She is a non-diet nutritionist and Nurse Practitioner, specializing in women’s health.)
- @laurathomasphd Laura Thomas
- @themindfuldietitian Fiona Sutherland
- @hgoodrichrd Haley Goodrich
- @immaeatthat Kylie Mitchell
- @jessihaggertyrd Jessi Haggerty (Registered Dietician, Personal Trainer)
- @intuitiveeatingrd Sumner Brooks (“My body is not for your viewing pleasure, or displeasure…”)
- @lindsaystenovec_rd Lindsay Stenovec (“How do I unlearn diet culture?”)
- @emilyfonnesbeck_rd Emily Fonnesbeck (“My body is my home and I won’t burn it down.”)
- @chr1styharrison Christy Harrison
- @rebeccascritchfield Rebecca Scritchfield (“Never diet again.”)
- @bodyimagewithbri Brianna M. Campos (Body image educator)
- @heytiffanyroe Tiffany Roe (“Body bashing is not bonding.”)
- @bravespacenutrition Katherine Metzelaar (“You don’t need to love your body to improve your body image.”)
- @livedexperiencecounsellor Sonny Jane
- @alissarumseyrd Alissa Rumsey
Fitness Body Image Role Models
- meisjessamyn Jessamyn Stanley
- @bodypositiveyoga Sarah Harry
- @bodypositivefitnes trainers (“Removing barriers to fitness with a safe, inclusive space for all.”)
- @bodypositivehf Shelley Lask
- @curvyyoga Anna Guest Jolley also includes free yoga and meditation for people in bodies of all sizes.
- @deadlifts_and_redlipss Karen Preene (Non diet personal trainer)
- @positiveforcemovement coaches
- @amberkarnesofficial Amber Karnes
- @the.intuitive.trainer Julie Newbry (non diet, Intuitive Eating oriented personal trainer)
- @fatgirlshiking community
- @louisegreen_bigfitgirl Louise Green (Author of Big Fat Girl; “size inclusive fitness expert”.)
- @bloomfittraining trainers (“I was not put on this earth to count almonds.”)
- @practicewithdana Dana Falsetti
- @thephitcoach Jake Gifford
- @emmafitnessphd Emma Green (“Why you don’t need to do 10,000 steps/day.”)
- @letsjoyn – Free body neutral classes for all bodies
- @themirnavator Mirna Valerio
- @sarahsapora sarah sapora
- @bloomfittraining coaches
- @iamlshauntay Latoya Shauntay Snell (“Chef, journalist, speaker, advocate.”)
- @fitragamuffin Jamie (“We’re prioritizing the wrong things when it comes to fitness.”)
- @tallyrye Tally Rye (“Your body is not your art. It is your paintbrush.”)
- @dearbodybymeg Meg Boggs (“Be your body’s protector, not its predator.”)
Activist & Educator Body Image Role Models
- @Madeonagenerousplan Meredith Noble (Fat liberation coach)
- @Sundaymorningview (“celebrating the beauty in women”; Self Love magazine)
- @Historicalfatpeople (“Vintage photos featuring nice to not-so-nice fat people of yore. Occasional diet ephemera.”)
- @Ownitbabe Rini Frey
- @Bodyimagemovementt Taryn Brumfitt
- @yrfatfriend Aubrey Gordon (“What we don’t talk about when we talk about fat.’)
- @iamivyfelicia Ivy Felicia( “Body peace is your birthright. You just have to claim it.”)
- @fierce.fatty Victoria Welsby (Author, speaker who “helps fat people ditch shame and unlearn fatphobia.”)
- @themilitantbaker Jes Baker (“Pay attention to who you are with when you feel your best.”)
- @sonyareneetaylor Sonya Renee Taylor
- @meghantonje MeghanTonjes is a singer/songwriter. (“Fat, blessed, and thriving.”)
- @betteringbecca Becca Ferry (Postpartum body image; “Your weight might fluctuate but your worth does not.”)
- @shesallfatpod (“The podcast for FAT POSITIVITY, radical self love, and chill vibes ONLY.”)
- @shanboody Shan Boodram (“Dr Ruth meets Rhianna”)
- @fyeahmfabello Melissa Fabello is a digital media educator with a PhD in Human Sexuality studies.
- @iamchrissyking Chrissy King (Writer, speaker who talks about equity for wellness community)
- @beauty_redefined (Lexie & Lindsay Kite) (“To improve your body image, prioritize the way you experience the world, not the way the world experiences you.”)
- @DanaSuchow Dana Suchow
- @bodypositivememes Michelle Elman (“You are a walking miracle. Struct accordingly.”)
- @chubstr (“Style for big men”)
- @lizzobeeating Lizzo
- @jameelajamilofficial Jameela Jamil (“The only diet advice you should take from celebrities is ‘don’t take diet advice from celebrities”)
- @i_weigh Jameela Jamil
- @iamivyfelicia Ivy Felicia
Body Image Role Models
- @Ellanabryan Ellana Bryan (“Self love and Body Positive Advocate”)
- @sassyredlipstick Sarah Tripp (“Curvy, confident body positive mama”)
- @lolo_russell Logan Russell (“Empowering you to embrace your body”)
- @tessholiday Tess Holiday
- @ashleygraham Ashley Graham
- @Madeonagenerousplan Meredith Noble (“Fat liberation coach”)
Consider all the options available for choosing body image role models. There are 88 examples provided here, and this is not an exhaustive list.
Check out these accounts. However many of them you want to. . Then, decide in a more deliberate way whose accounts to follow and whose not to follow.
And whose to delete.
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’re in a stronger position to choose body image role models who aren’t drinking the (diet) Kool-aid.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
There are plenty of articles about the terrible ways social media affects body image for people of all ages. And for good reason. They’re true.
Social media can be a huge body-image killjoy.
You probably already know this, even firsthand— especially if you identify as female. And Diet Culture of the United States and other Western countries just adds to the problem.
Scrolling through images of friends, acquaintances, and influencers can be a real downer, especially if you’re competitive. Who got more ‘likes,’ ‘loves,’ comments? Why did I get a thumbs-up, but she got a red heart?
Scrolling can be particularly tough on self-esteem. The same is true if you’re comparing yourself to determine who’s the hottest, most popular, or other (fill-in-the-blank)est.
Social media provides a 24/7 opportunity to compare yourself to countless others’ highlight reels and to internalize Diet Culture messages.
Social media spreads toxic Diet Culture themes, such as:
- Body dissatisfaction (for all genders, especially people who identify as LGBTQ)
- Internalization of the cultural ideal
- Disordered eating
A 2019 report suggests that more than 3 billion people are active social media users. That’s nearly half of the world’s population.
The impact of social media on how we think and behave is mind-blowing.
Keeping up with the Kardashians and with other trends, looking a certain way, and having a particular aesthetic have become a given. And social media posts communicate this loud and clear.
Social media demonstrates beautifully that “comparison is the thief of joy.”
Even though Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t referencing social media, his sage insight is as fitting now as it was then.
How are you using social media?
There are many different ways to use social media.
How you use social media affects body image. For example, how do you consume what other people post? Are you taking, editing, and uploading selfies? Do you follow close friends and family? Or a bunch of celebrities and influencers? Which platform do you prioritize?
Most likely you do some combination of consuming, uploading, and following.
As we said, social media is toxic for body image, largely because of the built-in comparisons it promotes.
Self-objectification is at the heart of the problem.
Self-objectification occurs when you internalize an observer’s view of your own body. (As if your body is a mound of clay to measure, shape, and control.) By viewing and treating your body as an object, you essentially scrutinize your own body in anticipation of being evaluated by others.
Your body becomes a ‘thing’/object to monitor, manage, and curate rather than a means of expressing your life.
Is viewing social media always associated with poor body image?
This is a ‘no, but.’
Social media use is consistently and positively associated with negative body image. (That’s the ‘but.’)
Scrolling through the feed of a Diet Culture-oriented fitness instructor, for example, will likely worsen body image.
However, researchers have identified some nuance in the effects of social media on body image.
For example, different social media platforms impact body image worse than others.
In fact, a recent study suggests Instagram users spend more time looking at images of people, while Facebook users spend more time looking at images without people in them. And FB users tend to read and write more content.
It’s no surprise, then, that Instagram users report more appearance comparisons than Facebook users.
Women in the study’s Instagram condition also reported thinking about their appearance significantly more than women in either the Facebook or (online game) Bejeweled conditions.
Another example in the ‘yes’ column: time spent on body positivity sites can improve body image.
Do #BoPo images really help people improve body image?
In social media language, #bopo refers to body positivity, The purpose of #bopo images is to encourage acceptance of and appreciation for all body types.
Viewing body-positive images on social media sites can be associated with improved body image. But not always.
The basic criticism of Body Positivity is that the focus is still on bodies. The ‘love your body at any size’ message of #bopo is lovely. But, again, focus is still on appearance.
Our bodies are more than something to look at. How strongly you identify with that belief system affects the impact #Bopo images have on you.
What about #Fitspo posts?
“Fitspiration,” aka #fitspo in Instagram language, is a popular social media category. #Fitspo images promote exercise and ‘healthy eating’ (aka Diet Culture) as a source of encouragement and inspiration.
(Please pardon the snark here: If the encouragement and inspiration are meant to inspire a nosedive in body image, mission accomplished.)
Exhibit A: In a 2017 study, 160 female undergraduates viewed either #fitspo, self-compassion quotes, or a mix of the two. Here are the findings:
#Fitspo viewers were low on self-compassion.
“Fitspiration” images were associated with being self-critical.
Compassionate quote viewers (e.g. “You’re perfect just the way you are”) were kinder to themselves AND thought more positively about their bodies.
Good news! For those who viewed #fitspo and self-compassion quotes, the benefits of self-compassion outweighed (pardon the pun) the negatives of #fitspo.
Geek alert: Much of the research on how social media affects body image is based on correlational studies, which means we can’t say that one thing (social media posts) causes another (poor body image). It’s possible that social media and poor body image are linked for other reasons. For example, people with body image issues may be more likely to use social media.
What about posting selfies?
When it comes to posting pictures on social media, selfies prevail.
Selfies are photos taken of oneself or of oneself in a group. They’re often used on social media sites as a way to present oneself.
Modifying selfies so we appear more conventionally attractive (that’s Diet Culture speak for thinner) is an automatic step in posting. We “edit” ourselves to accumulate more followers and boost our social media presence and reputation.
Among female college students (and probably among most people), taking and posting selfies, with and without photo-retouching, worsen mood and body image. This is true even when editing, filtering, or otherwise retouching selfies.
Selfie takers still tend to focus on what they don’t like about their looks.
Retouching photos doesn’t prevent a body image decline. Maybe the anxiety of accumulating “likes” and “loves” interferes with better body image. After all, the likes and loves can only provide temporary boosts or relief. #Reality!
Some experts suggest spending a lot of time perfecting selfies may indicate a person is struggling with body image.
Is this just a female thing?
Negative effects of social media posts on body image extend to people of all ages and genders.
Men are not immune.
For example, a study found that men who reported looking at male #fitspo content more frequently said they compared their own appearance to others more often and cared about having muscles more. As a result, they had more body dissatisfaction and appearance-oriented motivation to exercise.
Among men, #Fitspo content is linked to concern about being muscular and lean for appearance’s sake.
Body image challenges existed long before selfies and social media were even a twinkle in the eyes of its creators.
Unfortunately, social media offers a stage and forum for users to compare bodies and popularity.The use of filters adds even more pressure to appear perfect. The overall effect of social media, at least as far as body image is concerned, is that of a toxic mirror.
Consider for yourself ways to curate your feed and posts so they align with your own values. Especially when it comes to YOUR body and YOUR self-esteem.
I am Dr Elayne Daniels, a psychologist in MA specializing in helping people improve their relationship with their body. Life is soooooooo much better when you and your body are on the same side! Contact me here if you would like more information.
How do you know if your child’s body image problems are cause for concern?
If you’re thinking, “Oh great! Now this to worry about?” I get it. Just what you need –yet another thing on the mile-long list of concerns.
Please don’t panic!
At every phase of body image development, parents can do a lot of things to support their children’s body image and address signs of body image problems.
Whatever your child’s age, his relationship with his body is important. In fact, his body image is central to his sense of who he is. And it lays the foundation for well-being throughout life.
What is body image?
Body image is how your child feels and thinks about his or her body.
Positive body image means she’s relatively happy with how her body looks and moves. A child’s positive body image is central to confidence and self-esteem.
If a child has poor body image, she feels negatively about her body. Shemay not like how her body looks, or, for some other reason, may feel unhappy about her body. ‘These negative feelings lower confidence and self-esteem.
A child’s relationship with his or her body is one of the most important relationships he or she will ever have.
Children and Body Image
Everyone with a body has a body image — a relationship with that body. As with teens and adults, children can have body image problems, too.
Babies and Toddlers
- We are all born with a body. And that’s where body image begins – as a newborn, with a body.
- A year or so later, babies become toddlers and learn to crawl, stand, and walk. They take pride in doing things themselves.
- Parents can help babies and toddlers feel good about their bodies. You may do this through smiles and praise or by cuddling and playing. Tuning into and responding to their needs is another important way of nurturing children’s developing body image.
- Spend time 1:1 if possible and be mindful of maintaining direct eye contact.
- Body image grows as your child grows.
- Poor body image occurs in children as young as 3-5 years of age.
- For each child, positive body image moments look different. ‘For example, when your son smiles in the mirror after a dental cleaning, delighting in his ‘shiny whites.’ Or when you include your daughter in your gardening, and she enjoys the feel of the dirt on her hands.
- All of these moments are rooted in body image and are an opportunity for you to support your child’s relationship with his body.
- Children naturally want to feel good about their bodies and how they look. They want to be able to do what other kids can do.
- As your child gets older, he will likely compare himself to others. This is normal. But comparisons can go south over time and cause body image problems.
According to research on body image among children:
- More than half of girls and one-third of boys as young as ages 6-8 say their ideal weight is less than what their actual weight is.
- By age 7, one in four kids has attempted some sort of dieting behavior.
- As many as 41% of girls say they use social media to “make themselves look cooler.”
- A whopping 87%of female characters on TV that are between the ages of 10 and 17 are below the average weight for girls their age.
Body image problems are most common during adolescence.
- Puberty is one of the most challenging times for body image (among other things) So much is in flux at this time in children’s lives. The way they feel about their bodies may be one of many changes happening all at once.
- Body image problems are common during this phase of development.
- Your teenager may be excited about the way hisbody is changing. Or she may feel shy and modest. Or your teen may have feelings somewhere in between. All of it is normal.
- Being in a body that is changing can be stressful. Hair grows where it had never been. Body shape changes. Weight gain is biologically natural and common.
- Adjusting to a changing body is about more than just looks. Boys’ voices become more like men’s. Girls begin to menstruate.
Getting used to a body that looks and feels different takes time. It’s an adjustment.
There may be more body image problems than victories. And that’s ok.
- Kids who develop early may feel super awkward at first. Some feel proud.
- Teens who develop late may be excited to finally fit in with their friends.
- Or maybe their self esteem has already taken a hit.
- Your role as a parent is to educate, support, and provide assurance.
Being in a teenager ‘s body can = body image problems: What’s normal?
- Adolescence is a time when your son or daughter is prone to worry about weight.
- Kids become more aware of looks around the time bodies start to change, making physical changes difficult to deal with.
- Some kids grow wider before they grow taller.
- Some become taller and then fill out.
- Their relationship with their bodies can be challenging, especially if their growth sequence causes them to feel like they don’t fit in.
- Preteens and teens may try out new looks and styles, often dressing to fit in or to stand out.
- Some kids focus on what they don’t like about their bodies.
- Boys may wish they had more muscles. Girls may wish they were thinner or had a bigger butt.
- Being self-critical about looks hurts everyone’s body image. This is especially true for teens.
- In addition to speaking negatively to themselves, some kids are teased or shamed about their bodies.
- Bullying in all forms, including cyberbullying, is harmful, whether it happens on social media or in person.
What can parents do to help with body image problems?
It seems almost inevitable that, at some point, Aunt Phyllis or some other well-intentioned person will make a comment about your child’s body. Maybe the comment is in the form of a diet recommendation. Any such talk is likely unhelpful and may negatively affect body image.
Parents have limited control of outside forces, such as peers, media, social media, classmates, and teachers.
But parents do have some agency in their child’s relationship with his or her own body.
If you’re reading this article, you’re clearly a parent who wants to do your best to encourage your teen to feel comfortable in his or her body.
Remind yourself and your teen that health and happiness are not equated with weight loss or weight gain, nor with appearance in general.
You could help your teen focus on his or her talents, passions, strengths, and other valuable qualities, along with appearance.
Talk with and listen to your child. Talk about everyday things — school, friends, sports, classes — and even bodies and body image.
Show interest in your child’s interests, hobbies, opinions, and schoolwork.
Minimize the focus on appearance. Encourage your child’s passions and the discovery of special skills, talents, and joy.
A healthy body image comes from accepting one’s body, liking it, and taking care of it. Even when there are things kids can’t do, they can feel good about what they can do.
Talk about your own body in positive ways. Accept your own body and take good care of it. Kids will pick up on this and do the same for themselves.
A child’s body image can improve, even if it has been hurt.
The most important thing for you as a parent is to be a good body image role model.
Dr Elayne Daniels is in private practice in the Boston area. Areas of expertise include body image and eating disorders. She’s passionate about helping people improve their relationships with food and their bodies.
There are lots of signs of an eating disorder, yet how to know if you have one can be tricky. One of the main reasons you may not know if you have an eating disorder is due to Diet Culture. More about that in a moment.
How to know for sure if you have an eating disorder? Ideally, an informed physician or psychologist would conduct an evaluation of your symptoms. Unfortunately, education and training for eating disorder treatment is woefully inadequate, especially among medical doctors.
Even worse is that a lot of medical professionals don’t actually know how to correctly diagnose an eating disorder. Instead they resort to stereotypes and myths, such as using weight as a main indicator. Or believing that only white teenage girls develop eating disorders.
By the way, in the United States, an estimated 30 million people of all ages and genders have an eating disorder.
So, how do you know if you have an eating disorder?
Knowing if you have one is complicated. Being diagnosed with one can be even more complicated. Again, eating disorders are easily misdiagnosed. And often overlooked by professionals. Many in the medical and psychiatric field do not have training in eating disorders. Or in nutrition. (Can you tell it’s a pet peeve of mine?)
Consider too that an eating disorder is often downplayed by the person suffering from one. S/he may not want it to be identified. Or not recognize that her thoughts and behaviors are part of a bona fid eating disorder.
By the way, you can’t tell by looking at a person if she has an eating disorder. Body size is not an indicator, nor is any specific sign a slam dunk indicator. Girls and boys, nonbinary people, women and men suffer from eating disorders.
You definitely can’t tell by looking at yourself in the mirror if you have an eating disorder. Often your own perception of your body size and shape is distorted.
What is the main challenge of knowing if you have an eating disorder?
A huge challenge for how you know if you have an eating disorder is Diet Culture.
In reality, Diet Culture makes it nearly impossible to distinguish between “normal” and “abnormal” eating and body image. What is considered ‘healthy’ in Diet Culture is often anything but.
Haven’t heard of Diet Culture before? It’s a system of beliefs that equates thinness with worth as a human being. Through the lens of Diet Culture, you’re taught to feel bad about your body. And to judge other people’s worth by their body too. Diet Culture is often disguised as “healthy lifestyle”, “eating clean”, or “Intermittent Fasting”.
No wonder eating disorders are so rampant. Or that what is and isn’t an eating disorder can be tricky to determine.
Diet culture’s solution to any problem is: “Lose weight and you’ll look better, feel better, and be better.”
Taking this insidious message to heart puts you on a fast(er) track to an eating disorder.
Of course more factors than Diet Culture are at play. Regardless, Diet Culture’s messages are pervasive and detrimental. To the point where you may be unaware you’ve internalized them and are being controlled.
Social media has fueled Diet Culture’s impact. (Instagram is considered the most influential. although I suspect TikTok is a contender for first spot.)
What follows is a list of potential indicators of an eating disorder. This is not a complete list! (Resources are also available online to help you determine if you have an eating disorder.)
Possible indicators that you may have an eating disorder include:
1. Preoccupation with food, weight and/or the shape of your body.
- Thinking about food all day – what you ate, wish you could eat, wish you did not eat, and how to compensate for what you ate.
- You’re constantly thinking about your body and comparing yourself to others, especially to people on social media.
- You weigh yourself often, and the number on the scale determines your mood and how the day goes.
2. Not eating certain foods for fear that something bad will happen to you.
- A common example is cutting out particular food groups out of fear that they will cause you to ‘get fat’.
- Another example is believing myths, such as sugar is toxic or addictive.
3. Feeling out of control over the amount of food you’ve eaten, at least once a week.
- You might have binges. If you feel a loss of control when eating, you’re bingeing.
- Bingeing is usually secretive. And is inevitable after a period of restriction.
- Sometimes you may think you’ve binged because you’ve eaten more than you planned.
4. Worrying about the nutrition and calorie content of foods.
- People with an eating disorder tend to get stressed about eating out. They may look at menus online in advance of going to a restaurant.
- More than others, people with an eating disorder are influenced by calorie information on menus.
- Someone with an eating disorder is likely to avoid going to restaurants, or to compensate before and/or after they eat.
- Avoiding social occasions if food is involved is common.
5. Feeling disgusted or anxious when looking at your body or seeing it in a mirror.
- A person with an eating disorder is likely preoccupied with looking at herself in the mirror. Or may go out of her way to avoid seeing her reflection.
- People with certain forms of an eating disorder may wear oversized clothing as a way to hide their size or shape.
6. Constantly comparing your body to friends’, social media influencers, and people you see at the gym.
- And feeling worse about yourself, regardless of the comparison.
- You long for your body to look more like so-and-so’s body. You may even think that if you could look like so-and-so, everything would be perfect! You’d be happy, then. (But not really.)
7. Feeling guilty after eating.
- Food is often categorized as good or bad. In reality, all food is just food. It doesn’t have moral quality.
- Having an eating disorder often means rigid rules.
- Violating any rules leads to guilt. Especially when the rules involve food.
- All-or-nothing thinking is common.
8. Intentionally making yourself vomit or exercise excessively so you don’t gain weight.
- These are called compensatory methods. They’re habit forming. And dangerous.
- The purging methods are secretive.
9. Being very aware of calories.
- You’re vigilant about the calorie or macro content of food, and/or the amount of calories you burn.
- You have rules about how many calories you’re allowed, and you may track the information in your head, on an app, or with pen and paper.
- The less you’ve eaten, the better the day. And the more successful you feel.
10. Needing to check your body’s appearance throughout the day.
- You may frequently mirror check, weigh yourself often, or pinch areas of your body to assess the amount of tissue.
- These are called checking behaviors and can become automatic.
- You engage in these behaviors for reassurance that body parts have not gotten larger.
11. Having other symptoms as a result of your behaviors.
- There are a myriad of medical symptoms and risks involved.
- “Everyday” physical consequences include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, light headedness, irregular heartrate, gi distress, and constipation.
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems are common. Or become worse.
12. Treating your body as if it is an object, rather than as a beautiful expression of your life.
- When you focus on your weight, you are objectifying your body, as if it is a mold of clay to size and shape.
- Withholding food from yourself is punitive.
- What about practicing embodiment? BEING in your body as if your body were the instrument through which you live your glorious life?
Ok. So now what?
Early evaluation and diagnosis, as well as effective treatment, stack the deck favorably for recovery.
And, full, complete recovery is possible!
What if you’re still not sure if you have an eating disorder? Consider talking with a specialist on a hotline through one of the national organizations such as the National Eating Disorder Association.
Whether or not you have an eating disorder, educate yourself on topics such as fat stigma, privilege and other social injustices that make up Diet Culture.
Let’s ditch Diet Culture together. And delight in size and shape diversity.
Imagine actually enjoying food? Welcoming other pleasures? And feeling comfortable in your body?
This IS possible. As you learn to love yourself more, you’ll break free from the constraints of Diet Culture.
As you become more accepting of yourself, you teach others to be more accepting of you too. And of themselves. Before you know it, you’ll be teaching others to break free from Diet Culture too.
Greater inclusivity will reduce the rate and impact of eating disorders. And lead to unprecedented freedom FOR YOU to let your body be.
I’m reminded of Margaret Sanger’s words: “No one can consider [themselves] free who doesn’t own…. [their] own body.”
The first step toward freedom in your body is to admit having an eating disorder.
By letting go of the shackles of Diet Culture, you’ll be able to experience your life – “happiily full” and with abundance. .
Hi! I am Dr Elayne Daniels, a MA licensed psychologist with a passion to help people of all sizes and shapes improve their relationship with food and their body. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, live in MA, and want help, please contact me here.
How often do you control, starve, punish, speak harshly to your body? Or about your body? Overcoming body image issues is challenging for most women, and, most women have them. It just seems to go along with being a woman. (And, increasingly, a man.)
The mean things you may do and say about your body happen automatically, without you even realizing it. And the self-bullying only worsens body image. Your body hears everything you say or think about it.
The good news is that overcoming body image issues is possible.
Although no one article, tool, wisdom, fad, or behavior that will flip a switch. But, when you use a combination of these 9 steps, you’ll know how you can successfully fall back in love with your body.
Toddlers rejoice about the size of their thighs and round bellies!
The 9 Steps:
1. Be aware.
“Thoughts turn into actions and actions turns into character. The mind is the powerful aspect of the human body.“
- Awareness of how you speak to yourself means you recognize and can therefore change your self-talk to make it more accurate and neutral. By self-talk, I am referring to thoughts.
- Instead of thinking “my stomach is disgusting and looks like I am carrying twins”, you could simply say “right now I am feeling dissatisfied with how my stomach looks and feels.” The first thought is mean, untrue, and self deprecating. The latter is true and in the moment. Awareness of thoughts means you can gently question their validity and reframe them.
- Every time you think a particular thought, that thought is strengthened. We are always practicing something. When we think a thought, we are practicing thinking that thought. Be aware of what you’re thinking/practicing and therefore what you’re strengthening. (The fancy term for this is neuroplasticity.)
- Neuroplasticity means we can actually change thought patterns and behaviors. We can develop a new mindset, new skills, and new abilities.
- Your body hears, internalizes, and feels everything you say about it. Be aware. Be deliberate.
2. Be here, now.
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
- Your body carries history and brings you into the future, yet the here and now, in time and space, IS your body.
- In any given moment, your relationship with your body is a blend of the past and present; biology, culture, and the environment; emotions, perception, and behaviors.
- The more immersed in the past or the future your body image is, the less present you are in the here and now. And, the here and now is all any of us has.
- If you are not in the here and now, you are missing out on presence in your own life. Instead, you’re immersed in judgey, self-critical chatter about the past and future.
- When in the here and now, you are more likely to notice the deep burgundy color of leaves, melody of robins chirping, and the overall beauty surrounding you.
3. Be-yond objectification.
- Body image is a relationship. It is the relationship you have with your body. Like all relationships, the depth of the relationship is something over which you have some agency.
- When we objectify our body, we relate to it as if it is a thing. An object to manipulate. Something to focus on, i.e. size and shape. Unidimensional. Like a shoe, pillow, or toaster.
- Consider if an objectified relationship is the kind you want with your body.
- Cultural messages are designed for you to believe your body is not good enough, that your relationship must be conflictual.
- Advertisers and social media are brilliant at promoting body as enemy. Relationships with enemies are rarely neutral or happy.
- What if you embraced with delight, or at least accepted with neutrality, the whole of you?
4. Be on your own side.
- Your body is with you for life. It will carry you through life’s ups and downs.
- Your body will age, experience illness and injury, and change. Everything does.
- Your body provides you with feedback about emotions, health, the environment and so much more.
- The more friendly you are in the relationship with your own body, the more you will be able to access its wealth of knowledge.
5. Be joyous.
- Your body is your own personal pleasure source. Sensory capacities are your gateway into joy.
- Stop for a moment. Look, listen, feel, taste, smell.
- BREATHE. That breath of air? That is life.
6. Be active.
- Your body is a type of instrument, and not just an ornament.
- Your body, in water or on the ground, is meant for you to enjoy; it is not just something to decorate.
- Regardless of age, health, or size, your body has the capacity to move.
- Maybe the movement is dipping your toe into an ocean’s wave, as it comes to shore. Or stretching your fingers. How about expanding your lungs with a deep breath in, and contracting them with your exhale. Or skateboarding in purple sparkle sneakers.
7. Be courageous.
- How about tapping into your well of courage and experimenting with these body image recommendations?
- Be a rebel and be the change you wish for the world.
- Choose one of these 9 ideas and notice how you feel in and about your body.
- You DO have agency with your body….especially when you are on your own side.
8. Be respectful.
- Your body does hear everything you think.
- Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your body. Or at least not cruel.
- Speak to yourself as you would a friend.
- Consider all your body has carried you through.
- Have thanks. Give yourself grace.
9. Be you
- “You” are made up of all the amazing people who came before you. You may have your mom’s hips. Or your grandmother’s ears. Or your dad’s eyes.
- Your body contains the genetics of your ancestors. You are a walking family tree.
Body image issues are complex. Overcoming them takes time, awareness, and trust.
Start with one of the ideas. Add another as you are ready. You don’t need to do all at once. One step at a time.
Remember to love yourself. Once you do, everything will fall into place.
I am a non-diet, Certified Intuitive Eating specialist and clinical psychologist in MA. If you’re struggling with your body image and/or an eating disorder, and want to chat with me, please contact me here.
Some days, inspirational body image quotes may help you love your body more. Other days, body image quotes may seem feeble.
Regardless, every single person deserves to feel at least neutral and safe in their body. That’s your birthright.
Before you read inspirational body image quotes, nonjudgmentally notice how you feel. Especially about and in your body. And then check back in with yourself after reading them.
Be curious about any differences in how you feel before and after reading inspirational body image quotes.
If you feel even a smidge better –or less bad — after reading them, it’s a win.
Body image is important for lots of reasons. It’s linked with self-esteem and health.
It does not have to be this way – normative discontent is more than sad; it is bulls*it.
An alternative that’s within reach for everybody is called body neutrality.
It’s the concept that you can simply exist, worthy of respect, without thinking about your body. Or, maybe you feel good about your body one day and not so great about it the next.
Body neutrality is a bridge between body loathing and body positivity. And a worthy pursuit in its own right.
Consider these inspirational body image quotes. They may help move you toward body neutrality…. or beyond.
2. “Your body hears everything your mind says.”
3. “We cannot heal our own body image by judging, shaming, objectifying or pedestaling other bodies”
5. “You can’t hate your body into a version you will love.”
6. “Apologize to your body. Maybe that’s where the healing begins.”
— Nayyirah Waheed
7. Losing weight does not cure negative body image.
8. “Of course you look different. You aren’t made with a cookie cutter.”
9. Love your body back.
10. Girls don’t just decide to hate their bodies. Culture teaches them to.
11. My ideal weight is my weight holding 5 puppies.
12. You have to stand up and say, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me or my shape or who I am; you’re the one with the problem!’
13. Life is so much more beautiful and complex than a number on the scale.
14. Your body provides pleasure. Access it!
15. “Mother Teresa did not walk around complaining about her thighs.
She had shit to do!”Sarah Silverman
Where thoughts go, energy flows. Notice your thoughts. Ask yourself if you would speak to a friend in the same way.
More often than not, you may automatically think about your body harshly. As in using words you’d never ever say to a friend about her body. And, if you heard her use the same harsh language about her body, you’d probably correct her right away. And be sad that she is being such a bully toward her body.
Speak to yourself as you would a friend.
Back to inspirational body image quotes:
16. Who cares if there are lumps on my thighs? I’m guilty of having human legs made up of fat, muscle, and skin, and sometimes when you sit, they get bumpy.Kristen Bell
(Ever hear a toddler complain about her thighs?)
17. “I don’t look in the mirror and go, ‘Oh, I look fantastic!’ Of course, I don’t. Nobody is perfect. I just don’t believe in perfection. But I do believe in saying, ‘This is who I am and look at me not being perfect!’ I’m proud of that.”
19. “Don’t waste so much time thinking about how much you weigh. There is no more mind-numbing, boring, idiotic, self-destructive diversion from the fun of living.”
21. “People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder.” -Selma Halyek
You, yes you, are the Beholder.
Who defines you? YOU define you.
Sociocultural norms for beauty ideals are constructed.
What is constructed can be deconstructed.
P.S. Check back in with yourself: Is your relationship with your body any different after than before you read the post? Remember, a smidge counts!
I am a non-diet, Certified Intuitive Eating specialist and clinical psychologist in MA. If you’re struggling with your body image and/or eating disorder, please contact me here.
Have you ever wondered how media affects body image negatively? Consider the following scenario:
Next thing you know, you’re looking up from your mobile device, comparing your waist to the waist size of the two women ahead of you in line.
The spiral continues. As you glance at the magazine covers, your yoga pants suddenly feel too tight. You can’t help but compare yourself to the perfect, airbrushed, beautiful women with bright white teeth smiling at you from the magazine stacks. All this while you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed, feeling worse about yourself with every image you see. So much so that you remove the Oreos and Ben and Jerry’s from your shopping cart.
More often than not, media affects body image negatively.
Media includes the old fashioned kind, such as television commercials and print ads. It also includes social media and all its networking platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Snapchat, and more. Social media is internet based and a way to communicate with the world.
Social media is one of the most popular things online. In 2020, over 3.6 billion people in the world were using social media. By 2025, the number is projected to be 4.41 billion.
On social media sites, users create personal profiles. They then share, view, comment and ‘like’ or love’ peer-generated content. Or even add an emoji if it is an extra special message. People spend hours on social media each day. In 2020, daily use averaged 145 minutes.
How exactly does media affect body image negatively?
First is the way that social media in particular increases exposure to Diet Culture ideals and contributes to negative body image.
Especially when it comes to having the perfect female body. “Perfect” as defined by cultural standards. Keep in mind that beauty ideals often change, making them that much more elusive to attain. What doesn’t change over time is the impossibility for anyone to achieve and sustain the ideal.
Media popularizes images that become the standard for how you evaluate yourself, including your weight, appearance, and worth. The images presented as ‘ideal’ are internalized and become the standard we strive toward. In pursuit of the the unrealistic-for-most-people standard, you can easily get caught up in a futile spiral of feeling increasingly worse about yourself.
Especially when you consider that on social media, people easily optimize appearance by crafting their image.
Airbrushing, use of filters, and creative editing of all sorts create a false image. Sort of like what happens in the worlds of marketing and advertising. In this case, the self —yourself—is the object, the product.
Obtaining as many likes as possible has become a fleeting way to feel good about yourself – especially when it comes to posting “selfies”. The more likes you receive, the more attractive, appealing, popular, and hotter you’re considered. But the likes are never enough. How many loves and added compliments did you receive? Worth becomes quantified and externalized. All based on a thumbs up or a heart. And, the number of reactions you’ve gotten for other people to see. (And for them to compare themselves to you.)
Images are often sexualized. Be it in clothing, posture, or ducky-face lips.
Instagram has been determined to be the most toxic social media site, followed by Facebook and then Twitter.
In the words of CNN reporter Ella Reeve, “I don’t think, as a culture, we’ve grappled with the way social media is a brainwashing machine.”
The main reason media has a negative impact on body image is social comparison.
There’s a theory, aptly called Social Comparison Theory, proposed by Leon Festinger way back in 1954. The gist of it is that we evaluate ourselves by looking at those around us. We define our own value and worth by comparing ourselves to other people. Although this seems obvious, it happens so automatically that you may not even realize it.
Social media promotes upward social comparison.
By inviting social comparison, social media reduces self esteem and worsens body image. And, think of the millions of images social media provides – way more than we had available in 1954!
Even the co-founder of Facebook recognizes it’s a “social validation feedback loop“.
Here is an example of social media’s upward comparison trap, and how it impacts well being.
You look at Instagram posts. They promote the thin ideal (aka “thinspo”).
Thoughts: Disordered eating attitudes. “I am not as thin or pretty or fit as they are.” “I should be more like them.”
Feelings: Jealousy, inferiority, sadness, low self worth, body dissatisfaction
Behaviors: Increases in: dieting, comparisons, attempts at ‘self improvement’ and social media use
Physical sensations: decreased energy, headache, tension, pit in stomach
Unless you are aware of the trap, getting stuck in it is almost automatic. And it is all – consuming, affecting your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and how you feel in your own body. Unfortunately, we easily internalize the images from social media, and that becomes the standard we compare ourselves against.
Social media driven images are often just an illusion. They aren’t real. But that doesn’t stop most of us from contributing, either by posting filtered selfies or ‘liking’/’loving’ other people’s carefully crafted posts.
There are some basic things you can do to lessen the negative impact of social media on body image.
- Unfollow toxic accounts and instead follow accounts with diverse body types.
- Find inspiration elsewhere – perhaps filling your Insta feed with cute puppies and beautiful nature scenes instead.
- Be selective about the posts you like or love.
- Recognize that true beauty and health can’t be filtered or manipulated.
- Put your device down and go outside. Be in nature! Use your senses to take in the beauty surrounding you.
- Increasing body appreciation may be more effective than decreasing body dissatisfaction. Consider this when deciding what to post on your social media sites, and what to like, love, or comment on.
I am a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of eating disorders and body image. For more information, please visit me here.
Body image is the relationship you have with your body. Parents, your body image has likely changed over the years in some ways. But maybe not in others.
For tweens, body image is especially complex due to unique influences associated with age and development. Tweens are especially prone to feel self-conscious and to obsess about their appearance.
First, let’s unpack body image.
Body image includes how you think and feel about your body, and your perception of how it looks. Your body image may have little to do with your actual appearance, including your size, shape and weight.
Just as bodies change over time, body image can too.
As an adult, have you ever joked that you would rather (fill-in-the-blank) than go back to middle school? Tween years are tough: Puberty. Peer pressure. Experimentation. Budding sexuality. Social media.
Almost as difficult as being a tween is parenting a tween.
Especially because tweens don’t know what they don’t know. Yet they think they know. And you do know.
Even though in tweens’ mind, you grew up in the Dinosaur Age. And are of course clueless. (Insert tween eyeroll here.)
Here’s a list of what influences body image for tweens:
- Home environment
- Social media
- Culture and subculture
- And everyone’s favorite, puberty
- Direct comments/bullying/teasing
The most visibly obvious influence on body image for tweens is puberty.
During puberty, a tween’s body goes through lots of changes. But at the same time, fitting in and looking cool or hot become more important.
Tweens are at greater risk of negative influences on body image if they:
- act on pressure from family, peers or media to look a certain way
- have a different body shape from peers or media images
- self-objectify (Only see themselves from the ‘outside’)
- compare themselves to others
- have low self-esteem
- participate in a group or sport that emphasizes a certain body type
- have physical disabilities
- have mental health challenges such as depression or anxiety
One of the most powerful influences on body image is comparisons.
In and of themselves, comparisons are not bad. In fact, we’re hardwired to compare ourselves to others. Our species has survived in part due to comparisons.
However, our ancestors did not have social media. Unfortunately, social media, and Instagram in particular, negatively influence a tween’s body image.
The negative impact is intense. Especially because tweens are bombarded with computer-enhanced images of bodies that are impossible to attain. The messages easily convince tweens that they’re flawed and need to improve upon their imperfections.
Parents influence tweens’ body image too.
As parents you have more influence than you may realize to help tweens with body image, no matter their size or shape.
Some of the ways you influence your tweens’ body image:
1. Role modelling. Be aware of the example you are setting.
Tweens watch you and your choices, even if they roll their eyes and seem to be annoyed most of the time. They are aware of your attitudes toward your body, even if they don’t comment. If you often criticize the size of your belly, for example, they are more likely to be critical of theirs.
2. Feedback. Be positive. Or at least neutral.
Critical remarks about your teen’s body are damaging. Comments only make them feel more down on themselves.
3. Teach media literacy.
Help tweens learn to be wise consumers of what they see and read in magazines and online. Definitely teach them about filters, photo edits and other tricks that fuel the beauty culture.
4. Emphasize interests and pursuits.
Encourage your tweens’ interests in whatever they show interest in. Maybe it is community service, music, sports, arts, or something else? Focus on their efforts rather than on the outcome.
Body image, the relationship tweens have with their body, is important. Their body image is a function of many factors. As parents, you’re among the most powerful of all influences. Keep communication open with your tweens so they can talk with you about the ups and downs in their life. Remember, your tweens are paying attention to what you say, and to what you communicate through your own behaviors and comments.
I am an anti-diet clinical psychologist in the Boston area, specializing in helping people of all ages improve their relationship with body. To learn more about how to support your tween during the turbulent tween years, please contact me.