What is Body Image?
Body image refers to a person’s perception, thoughts, and feelings about their own body, including its appearance, shape, and size. It is how a person views themselves when they look in the mirror, how they feel in their body, and how they think others perceive them. Body image is influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, cultural and societal norms, past experiences, and personal beliefs.
In our culture, women are taught to over-value how they look, that is their appearance is more important than other internal qualities, such as kindness, generosity etc.. The belief is that being attractive will somehow guarantee a life of happiness. We are taught that our appearance is what makes us worthy of love, respect and belonging.
A positive body image involves feeling comfortable and confident in one’s own skin and appreciating the unique qualities and strengths of your body. A negative body image, on the other hand, involves feeling dissatisfied or unhappy with one’s body and appearance, often leading to feelings of shame, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
Body image can be impacted by various factors, including media portrayals of “ideal” bodies, social comparison with others, experiences of discrimination (weight stigma and anti-fat bias) or bullying based on appearance, and personal relationships with family and friends.
It’s important to heal and work towards finding peace and a sense of being at home in our bodies. As a whole, we must recognize that everyone’s body is unique and worthy of respect and love, regardless of shape, size, appearance, gender, skin color, disabilities, sexual orientation, etc. etc.
A healthy body image refers to having a positive perception of one’s own body and feeling comfortable and confident in one’s own skin. Feeling at home and safe in your unique body. It means recognizing and appreciating the unique qualities and strengths of your body, regardless of shape, size, or appearance.
A healthy body image involves understanding that everyone has different body shapes and sizes, and that external appearance is not the sole determinant of a person’s worth or value.
It involves focusing on aspects of your body that you like and appreciate, rather than constantly comparing yourself to others or striving for some unrealistic “ideal”(that doesn’t actually exist).
Having a healthy body image also means being able to listen to your body’s needs and taking care of it through intuitive eating, gentle nutrition, regular physical activity (joyful movement), and adequate rest.
It involves treating your body with kindness and respect, and avoiding negative self-talk or harmful behaviors like extreme dieting or over-exercising.
Overall, a healthy body image involves accepting and appreciating your body for what it is, and recognizing that your worth as a person is not determined by your appearance.
What are some myths about positive body image?
There are several myths about positive body image that can perpetuate harm. Some common myths include:
- Positive body image means loving everything about your body: This myth implies that having a positive body image requires you to love every aspect of your body. This is just not how it works; it’s normal and healthy to have areas of your body that you may not love as much as others. Positive body image is about accepting and appreciating your body as a whole, rather than fixating on specific flaws.
2. Positive body image means being confident all the time: Another myth is that people with positive body image are confident and self-assured all the time. Wrong! Everyone experiences moments of self-doubt and insecurity, regardless of their body image. Positive body image involves acknowledging these moments and working to counter negative thoughts and behaviors.
3. Positive body image means never wanting to change your body: Some people believe that having a positive body image means you never want to change anything about your body. Also, not true! It’s perfectly normal to have goals or desires for your body. Positive body image involves making changes for the right reasons, such as for health or personal growth, rather than out of shame or pressure from others.
4. Positive body image is only for certain body types: This myth suggests that only people with certain body types, such as thin or conventionally attractive bodies, can have positive body image. This also needs to be challenged. Positive body image is for everyone, regardless of shape, size, or appearance. It involves embracing and celebrating diversity and recognizing that all bodies are worthy of respect and love.
How can one improve their body image?
Improving your body image is a process, and it takes time and effort to shift negative thoughts and feelings towards a more neutral-positive-balanced perspective.
Here are some strategies to check out:
- Focus on self-care: Taking care of your body through balanced and intuitive eating, joyful movement, and getting enough rest as well as play.
- Challenge negative thoughts: Pay attention to negative thoughts you have about your body and challenge them by asking yourself if they are true or if there is evidence to support them. Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations or statements.
- Surround yourself with positive influences, such as people who are supportive and encouraging, social media accounts that promote body positivity and body liberation, and media that includes diverse representations of body types- especially fat bodies!
- Here are some Instagram accounts to follow: @center4bodytrust, @Madeonagenerousplan, @Sundaymorningview, @Historicalfatpeople, @sassy_latte, @Bodyimagemovement, @iamdaniadriana, @jamesissmiling, @resilientfatgoddex, @shooglet, @yrfatfriend, @iamivyfelicia, @fierce.fatty, @fatpositivefertility, @plusmommy, @themilitantbaker, @crutches_and_spice, @sonyareneetaylor, @comfyfattravels, @meghantonjes, @nalgonapositivitypride, @ihartericka,@betteringbecca, @shesallfatpod, @shanboody, @fyeahmfabello, @fatgirlflow, @iamchrissyking, @vivanlascurvas, @DanaSuchow, @bodypositivememes, @chubstr, @i_weigh, @mskelseymiller, @fatwomenofcolor, @iamivyfelicia, @moemotivate, @fatpositivefertility, @intuitive.eating.coach (that’s me, but I’m an IG slacker, lol) !
- Engage in activities you enjoy: Get out and live your life. Get involved in activities you enjoy, such as hobbies or socializing with friends, can help you focus less on your appearance and more on the things that bring you joy, peace and connection.
- Practice mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness, such as meditation or deep breathing, can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and develop a more compassionate and accepting attitude towards yourself. Oh, and I *almost* forgot YOGA. Do it. If you are curious about how to get started, Linda is my go-to resource https://www.lindawellnesswarrior.com/
- Become an activist. Your “bad” body image is learned. Remember your body is not the problem, our oppressive system is the problem. Get angry at the system and find a community of like minded warriors who are also fighting the good fight. The problem is bigger than you. Get support so you are not feeling alone. Follow the amazing folks at The Center for Body Trust.
- If negative body image is impacting your life and causing significant distress, it may be helpful to seek support from a good therapist (contact me for referrals) or book a free call with me here
I hope this helps. Please let me know if I missed anything. It’s always an evolution.
Photo credit @shooglet on IG
Your Anti-diet Dietitian since 2005