Eating Disorders and Body Image
What is Body Image?
Body image is the mental picture people have of their physical appearance. Body image can be positive and/or negative depending on the thoughts and feelings people have about their physical appearance. Positive body image occurs when people are comfortable with the way they look and accept their bodies as they are. Negative body image occurs when people are uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the way they look.
When Negative Body Image Becomes a Problem
Negative body image can become a problem when a person’s thoughts are preoccupied with areas of their body they’re dissatisfied with, are experiencing negative emotions, and engage in unhealthy behaviours in attempts to change those areas. Common thoughts that come along with negative body image include “I’m too skinny/fat/tall/short/unattractive”. These thoughts tend to originate from beliefs that emphasise the importance of physical appearance. Often people think that if their body looked different or fit the idea of what’s considered attractive, then they would somehow be happier or a better person. These ideals are usually perpetuated by mainstream culture, the media, and also can be influenced by friends and family. Not fitting in with these ideals can trigger feelings of sadness, shame, guilt, frustration and/or hopelessness. These thoughts and feelings can lead people to become fixated on changing the aspects of their appearance that they’re dissatisfied with. This can lead to unhealthy behaviours, particularly restrictive dieting and excessive exercising.
Who’s affected by Negative Body Image?
While negative body image can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, it is one of the common concerns for young people. It has previously been suggested that young women are more susceptible to negative body image, however it is increasingly being recognised as a concern for young men as well.
Ways to Improve Body Image
There are some small ways to help improve body image:
- Remember that there is no ‘right way’ to look. Each individual is different and unique.
- Focus on your positive qualities. While it can be helpful to focus on the parts of your body that you do like, it still places emphasis on the way you look. What are some other traits or skills you possess? It’s important to remember that you are so much more than what you look like
- Focus on what your body can do. Our bodies are pretty amazing! You might be able to run fast, or you might be strong, or you might be able to play an instrument
- Try to avoid negative self-talk
- Avoid comparisons with others
- Be mindful when looking at images in the media. The use of photo shop and airbrushing is so widespread that most images in the media are unrealistic
However, most of the time it can be hard to shift negative thoughts and beliefs about body image. That’s why talking to a mental health professional can be helpful in addressing these concerns. If you or someone you know would benefit from talking about their body image concerns, then please don’t hesitate to contact Brilliant Minds Psychology
If you or someone you know needs some help with body image issues please contact us to make an appointment
What are Eating Disorders?
Poor Self Esteem and Body Image Dissatisfication can lead to eating disorders. Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.
Common symptoms associated with Anorexia including fears of gaining weight, restricted eating, and significant weight loss. Bulimia involves binging (eating large amounts of food in a very short time) and attempting to prevent weight gain through unhealthy ways including purging or other uses.
If you need some help Brilliant Minds Psychology is trainined in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Eating Disorders (CBT-E) - this treatment is suitable for older Teens and Adults.
Author: Dr. Jenni Silva