Body image is the way you perceive yourself – and how you think others perceive you. Magazines featuring air-brushed photos of beautiful women who still weren’t beautiful enough should tell us that striving for perfection is futile.
From toddlers, labels are attached that begin to define body image and sense of self.
• Chubby – fat, chunky, big, hefty, plump
• Pretty – cute, handsome, beautiful, attractive
• Skinny – thin, lean, bony, scrawny
• Tall, short, dark, pale, tomboy, girlie, athletic…the list goes on.
All of these labels put individuals in a box. That box becomes the method used to define ourselves and the people around us. That box is restricting, self-defeating and often cruel.
Girls as young as FIVE are worried about their weight – and want to be thinner.
If the labels are perceived as positive, we strive to remain within that idea at all costs. If the labels are perceived as negative, we feel less than or not as good as the people who are labeled as ideal.
Trying to overcome negative body image is a painful process – one you might not think affects you.
When you think of negative body image, you may picture young people going through puberty. That awkward stage of acne, growth spurts and clumsiness.
Experts believe as much as 91% of all women are dissatisfied with their body.
Girls, boys, women and men. Negative body image does not affect one group or even one gender. The statistics for men are difficult to gauge because negative body image among males is a silent epidemic.
Eating disorders for both genders are on the rise in an effort to reach some societal standard that is often unrealistic if not downright impossible to reach.
50% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys use dangerous methods to lose weight.
Every person is unique. It is easy to say “love yourself” and hard to do if you focus on those labels of too fat, too skinny, too tall or too short.
Compared to who?
Our goal should not be outward appearance but total body health. If you treat your body – the only one you will ever have – with respect, it will reflect in how you feel about yourself and how others perceive you.
Top 10 Ways to Overcome Negative Body Image
1. Don’t be mean to yourself…or anyone else. What you think about others are often the same thoughts you use when you judge yourself. If you make fun of people you deem “ugly” or “overweight” then your per-occupation with your own outward appearance can reach unhealthy levels. If you lump people different than you in an “other” column – as if they are a different “type” or “species” than you – it is impossible to view yourself objectively.
2. Forget the DIET hype. People who constantly diet have a higher risk of developing eating disorders, are more likely to binge eat and cause a domino effect of physical and mental health issues that include depression, irritability, anxiety, digestive problems and metabolic syndrome.
Diets don’t work – 95% of people who diet gain back the weight they lose and often gain more than they originally lost. Looking and feeling good are common sense. Eating right, regular exercise and sleeping are your weight control keys to success!
3. Put body image in perspective. Instead of spending so much time obsessing over your outer self – consider focusing your attention on education, hobbies and socializing with your friends. Keeping your mind engaged will help you notice others with the same interests. Working to get fit and healthy is an admirable goal but it should never consume your life.
4. Know your body and accept it. Perhaps you inherited your mother’s larger hips or your father’s height and broad shoulders. Our genetics are a strange cocktail that are unique to every person and learning to love your body is the first step in working with your particular body size and shape.
Having the same size and weight goals of a person six inches shorter or taller than you is unrealistic and setting yourself up for failure. You may be the same height as a friend who is a perfect size six but may have a much larger build. Don’t diet to fit anyone else expectations. It is your body, your health and you are the only one who has the right to dictate what is “right” for you.
5. Listen to your body – it will not lie. When you aren’t getting the right nutrition you are going to feel it. Inability to sleep deeply, stress and anxiety, feelings of fatigue and sluggishness, lack of focus and a greater urge for high-fat/high-sugar foods. When your body feels like it’s dragging, you get greater cravings for caffeine and sugar. Masking poor nutrition only makes the problem worse over time.
6. Solve problems – do not try to eat them. Any person is susceptible to developing an eating disorder. When we are sad, angry or filled with anxiety, our natural response is to reach for comfort food.
Those foods that “make us feel better” are typically not healthy and will only result in more anxiety if you gain weight or feel bad physically. Get to the root of things that bother you. Don’t bottle them up and remember: there is nothing wrong with asking for help!
7. Celebrities are not “average” people! Remember that most celebrities are paid based on how they look on camera. They have an entire team of people who make sure they eat right, exercise and take care of their skin and hair.
When they become pregnant or go through a tough time, they have a team of people who helps them drop the weight fast and get back to “camera weight” without the distractions the average person has. Many celebrities have spoken out about suffering for years with eating disorders, emotional problems and drug addiction to maintain their public image.
Your standards for getting fit should encompass your life as it is right now – not the unrealistic “rapid” weight loss of an actress. Then there is all the Photoshopping of otherwise beautiful women and men. If perfection is impossible – even for them – why would you strive for it?
8. Set goals that are realistic and healthy. If you are overweight, out of shape, want to take up running or cycling, want to build more lean muscle mass or simply wish to feel good in that little black dress you bought – know that progress takes time.
Healthy weight loss is considered by experts to be one pound per week. If that doesn’t seem like much – remember that in the course of one year you will lose more than 50 pounds! Losing weight the healthy way increases your chances of keeping it off for good!
9. Celebrate the beauty of you! Loving yourself, respecting yourself and appreciating all the wonderful things about you make you more confident, increase self-esteem and make you more attractive to others. It isn’t about how many inches your waist is. It isn’t about your clothing size. Nor is it about whether or not you have six-pack abs.
Appreciate what makes you unique, what makes you special – you will see so many incredible qualities in yourself if you take the time to look. Be your biggest fan!
10. Ask for help if you need it. Surround yourself with positive people who lift you up – who contribute to your happiness – and look to them when you falter in your goals. Whether you need help sticking to a healthy eating plan, a buddy to workout with, a personal trainer to show you how to do the exercise that is right for you or someone to discuss emotional issues with – ASK. There are so many people willing and able to help.
In order to overcome negative body image – forget about what society portrays as “normal” or “attractive” and do what is right for you, your life and your body type.
See yourself, love yourself and accept yourself unconditionally.