The statistics say it all:
Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies.
And yet, only 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed as ideal in the media.
A focus on appearance is at an all time high in our culture, and with this comes the potential for a negative body-image, low self-esteem, and a whole lot of food and exercise related disorders.
As someone who overcame anorexia/bulimia in the past, I know what it’s like to look in the mirror and hate what you see. To be obsessed with the scales, inches and calories. To exercise compulsively. To micro-analyze celebs and other women’s bodies. To feel bad about every morsel of food that crosses your lips. To sabotage relationships. To avoid socializing. To hide behind dark and baggy clothes. To cry at your reflection in the mirror. To be angry at yourself for not looking the way you want to…
Now researchers have confirmed increased preoccupation with appearance and body dissatisfaction puts us women at greater risk for engaging in dangerous practices to control weight and size. Extreme dieting, compulsive exercising, alcohol and laxative abuse, binge eating, vomiting, smoking, and the use of diet pills and anabolic steroids have all been associated with a negative body image. And back in the day, I did it all!
A positive body image plays a vital role in our psychological and physical health and development. To start with, women with a positive body image have a higher self esteem, better self acceptance, and a healthier attitude towards food and eating.
But what is body image?
Body image is how you see or picture yourself, but also how you think others perceive you. What you believe about your physical appearance. How you feel about your body, and how you feel in your body.
When you have a positive body image, you’ve a realistic perception of your body. You accept your body and appearance the way they are. Having a positive body image involves understanding that attractive bodies come in many shapes and sizes, and that physical appearance says very little about your character or value as a person.
When your assessment of your body is kept separate from your sense of self-esteem, and you don’t spend unreasonable amounts of time worrying about food, weight or calories, you’ve a healthy body image.
A healthy body image allows you the freedom to develop in all other areas of your life; expanding yourself mentally and physically, developing true friendships and great relationships, making the most of your talents, taking risks and grabbing opportunities.
Do you have an unhealthy body image? How many of the following statements do you identify with?
1. You weigh yourself every day or more than once a day
2. You look in the mirror a hundred times a day, or you avoid looking in the mirror
3. You spend a lot of time thinking about food, counting calories, or feeling bad about what you eat
4. You’re always either on or off a diet, or have binge eating episodes, or vomit food
5. You prefer to eat alone. You’ve a secret stash of unhealthy foods hidden in the house or the car
6. You use alcohol, cigarettes, laxatives, diet pills or other things to suppress hunger
7. You exercise as much as possible for as long as possible in order to burn as many calories as possible
8. You cancel going out and socializing because you don’t feel good in your body or your clothes
9. Your relationship with your body has negatively affected or sabotaged relationships
10. You don’t like your partner to see you naked or touch certain parts of your body
11. You wear dark or baggy clothes to hide your body
12. You’re jealous of other women’s bodies. You’re always in competition with other women to look slimmer than them
If you identify with some or all of the above statements, you might have an unhealthy body image.
An unhealthy body image has been linked to diminished mental performance, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction, dieting and eating disorders…
If you suspect you’ve a poor body image, be sure to ask for the help you need. It took time and effort to me to develop a healthier and more positive body image. But I did it, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. It changed the course of my whole life! 🙂