Body image refers to the way we perceive our body based on self-worth and other people’s reactions. This, in turn, can affect our feelings, beliefs and attitudes.
Body image can be described as being positive or negative. A positive body image implies that one is generally happy with the way they look, having accepted their shape as it is. Contrary to that, a negative body image can make you feel inferior to the role models promoted by media or society and generally unhappy with the way you look.
Most of the times these are unrealistic thoughts and when they exist for a long time they can lead to eating disorders.
The media and nowadays, social media plays a very important role on the formation of body image beliefs. Comparison is a natural human behaviour and to compare your own body with others is natural, but can become dangerous in the extreme.
An ideal body is fit, well, healthy and looked after – inside and out. There isn’t a one shape fits all and we are all very unique.Sometimes the way ‘the body’ is portrayed on social media after all the editing and corrections is spotless and far from real.
This can set unrealistic aims for young ladies especially. Leading to a desire to be and look different and comparison becomes an addiction.
How this affects eating habits
This attitude can affect eating habits in the following ways:
- You get stuck following diet plans which usually are lacking in the necessary nutrients for a healthy body.
- You can find yourself adopting other unhealthy behaviors to control food intake.
- Getting feelings that your body is able to adapt to extreme weight loss and weight gain easily.
- Increased amounts of stress.
- Lowers self-esteem and self-worth.
Steps to finding a balance
The aim of each of us is to learn how to accept and love our body and adopt a healthy eating pattern based on nutrient not calorie intake. There are some steps that could help us to achieve this:
1. Learn to love food.
Food is the body’s fuel and eating good food is how we can keep active and healthy. We cannot survive without food. So, the question is what do you enjoy eating and how can you form a healthy relationship with food. Try new foods, and foods from different cultures. Start cooking and making again and find recipes you love.What should be avoided are highly processed foods, saturated fat and excess sugar which provide the body with ‘empty’ calories.
2. Try to find out the connection between food and feelings.
Feelings of loneliness, sadness or disappointment could result in binge-eating or purging behaviors. It’s quite helpful to keep a diary of these episodes and try to track down their origins. If you can manage to match the unhealthy behavior to a specific event then there is a lot of room for understanding and getting to the root of your relationship with food.
3. Understand that the way someone looks does not define who they are.
It is unfortunately common for people to judge each other according to their looks only. This is a kind of discrimination that could appear in all aspects of daily life. Each of us should understand that we are a combination of mind and body and our personality does not exclude one or the other.
4. Find the real reasons.
This means finding the real reasons that someone pays so much attention to the way they look only. It could be related to their life experiences, stereotypes, the beliefs they grew up with etc. This is the first step in finding a future solution is to changing thinking patterns.
Feature article written by: Christie Miliordou.
Christie is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She has a background in psychology and CBT Psychotherapy.