Body Image: How Do I Look and Why Does it Matter?

Body Image

Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or see yourself in a picture, encompassing what you believe about your appearance, how you feel about your body, and how you feel in your body. Our perception of our body influences our mental health, our physical health, how we take care of ourselves, and how we relate to others. Those with a negative body image have a higher chance of developing an eating disorder and will often suffer from depression, low self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss.

Body image statistics prove many people, even those as young as age 10, are sensitive and vulnerable to critical thoughts about themselves.

 

Body Image Statistics Data
Percent of all women who are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting 91 %
Percent of women who say the images of women in the media makes them feel insecure 80 %
Percent of college-aged girls who feel pressured to be a certain weight 58 %
Percent of girls in 1st through 3rd grade who want to be thinner 42 %
Percent of 10-year-olds who are afraid of being fat 81 %
Percent of teenage girls who are, or think they should be, on a diet 53 %
Percent of teenage girls who reported being teased about their weight 30 %
Percent of teenage boys who reported being teased about their weight 25 %
Percent of girls ages 15-17 who want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance 90 %
Percent of teen boys using unproven supplements and/or steroids 12 %
Percent of girls age 15-17 who acknowledged having an eating disorder 13 %
Percent of women who stated they would consider cosmetic surgery in the future 40 %
Percent of men who stated they would consider cosmetic surgery in the future 20 %
Total annual revenue of the weight loss industry $55,400,000,000
Total number of people with an eating disorder in the U.S. 8,000,000

 

What is the difference between a positive and a negative body image?

Positive Body Image

  • A clear, true perception of your shape, seeing the various parts of your body as they are.
  • You celebrate and appreciate your natural body shape, and you understand that a person’s physical appearance is not about their character or value as a person.
  • You feel proud and accepting of your unique body.
  • You feel comfortable and confident in your body.

Negative Body Image

  • A distorted perception of your shape, perceiving parts of your body unlike they are.
  • You are convinced that only other people are attractive and that your body size or shape is a sign of personal failure.
  • You feel ashamed, self-conscious, and anxious about your body.
  • You feel uncomfortable and awkward in your body.

Social media has become society’s way of sharing everything in our lives and is a significant tool for influencing others and placing value on the perfect body and appearance. The National Eating Disorder Association released a study of women between the ages of 18 and 25 showing a link between Instagram and increased self-objectification and body image concerns, especially among those who frequently viewed fitspiration images. Americans spend an estimated two hours a day on social media potentially exposed to unrealistic ideals of beauty, diet talk, body shaming, thinspiration, weight loss posts, and more. For someone with a negative body image, they do not see themselves as meeting the standards of the perfect body depicted in many of these posts, leading to sometimes devastating effects.

How do you develop a healthy body image?

Changing how we see our body can be a challenge, but the key to developing a positive body image is to recognize and respect our natural bodies and learn to overpower the negative thoughts and feelings. These guiding principles can help you look at your body in a positive and healthy way.

  • Educating yourself about social media influences can help you to understand the unattainable and unrealistic standard of size and beauty. Also, limit your exposure to social media and other media such as fashion magazines.
  • Make yourself aware of factors other than body size, shape, and weight represent a healthy body. Remember blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, physical fitness, or engaging in regular, enjoyable physical activity are also factors.
  • Regularly acknowledge parts of your body or your appearance that you like, not just your flaws.
  • Make a list of functions that your body performs that you enjoy, such as walking, swimming, yoga, etc. Engaging in these activities regularly will help you to feel good about your body.
  • Try not to continuously check your body for flaws and compare your body to bodies of others.

While these are just a few ways that can help to look at your body differently, you should seek help immediately If you notice symptoms of depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder.

Changing your view of your body can sometimes be difficult to do on your own, especially since negative aspects can develop over an extended period. Reaching out to a qualified mental health provider can help you make positive changes in your body image or help you to cope with your body dissatisfaction. At Magnolia Creek, our clinicians use weekly group therapy sessions to provide clients with a skill set needed to combat negative body image.  Our therapeutic approach helps them understand many underlying issues cause one to fixate on their body instead of focusing on their emotions and circumstances, and helps to restore their relationship with their body.

We use treatment modalities that include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to educate clients on the connections between their emotions, cognitions, and behaviors as it relates to body image. In ACT, clients are led to explore their set of values and process how their values may be hindered or shaped by their negative perceptions of their bodies. They are then encouraged to imagine a life with less time and value placed on their negative perception of their body. In CBT, clients learn how to begin challenging negative cognitions surrounding their body and replacing those cognitions with ones that help lead to body tolerance and body acceptance. This can be very difficult for clients as many of their distorted cognitions may stem from childhood and are ingrained in them.  Our clinicians also use creative writing and art therapy to aid clients in developing a better understanding of the relationship they have with their body.

Eating disorder treatment places a great deal of emphasis on one’s outer appearance, and it is vital to address not only how to challenge negative body image but also have clients journey below the surface and consider what they may be avoiding by hyper-focusing on their bodies. Laura Cordova, Primary Therapist, says, “I often ask my clients “What would you be thinking about if you were not thinking about your body right now?” which often leads them to find connections between their internal emotion and how they may avoid those emotions by focusing on their bodies.” We hope to walk beside clients as they journey toward healing their relationship with their bodies and with themselves and to begin finding self-worth that is not defined by their body.

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