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10 Ways to Improve Your Body Image

Improve Your Body Image

The literature defines body image as the person’s perception, ideas, and feelings about their own body. It includes views of the size, shape, and weight. It is a subjective evaluation that can be impacted by internal factors such as self-esteem, self-worth, and personal experiences, as well as external factors such as societal ideals, media representations, and cultural standards of beauty.

Researchers agree that within the body image construct, it is necessary to differentiate negative and positive body image, as both are different concepts (Halliwell, 2013). Positive body image includes having a realistic and accepting view of one's body, appreciating its unique qualities, and being comfortable and confident in one's skin. Negative body image is defined as an unrealistic, critical, or non-acceptant evaluation of one's body.

Researchers have linked body dissatisfaction with dieting, dangerous weight loss measures, binge eating, depression, poor self-esteem, social anxiety, and lower quality of life (Neumark-Sztainer et al., 2006, Grogan, 2006). Furthermore, it has been acknowledged as one of the most considerable risk factors for eating disorders (Grabe et al., 2008).

Cristina Martin-Garcia, therapist at Psychology Therapy, highlights that “it is vital to note that body image is not solely based on objective physical appearance. It also incorporates emotional, cognitive, and behavioural elements of how people relate to their bodies”.

While living in a culture that encourages pursuing the thin ideal makes it difficult to have an accepting body image, Martin-Garcia encourages taking action to cultivate a positive body image and reduce body dissatisfaction. The therapist suggests the following tips to improve your body image:

Practice self-acceptance: remember that each body is unique and has its own beauty, including yours.

Focus on body functionality rather than appearances: pay attention to what your body does for you every day, rather than fixating on perceived flaws.

Be grateful for your body: write down each day three things you are grateful for your body. Don’t take it for granted, some people can’t walk, or move freely, or dance. Thank your body for allowing me to do all those things.

Surround yourself with positive influences: surround yourself with people who adhere to healthy mindsets about physical appearances, that encourage you to accept your own body. Engage in social media accounts that endorse body positivity and diverse representations of beauty.

Challenge the thin ideal: become aware and critical of the societal messages that encourage the thin-ideal and other strict and unrealistic beauty standards. Remember that these ideals are not reflective of real bodies and should not define your self-worth.

Practice self-care: take care of your mind and body by engaging in activities that make you feel good about yourself. This can be different for different people, but some people use exercise, eating balanced and nutritious meals, sleeping enough hours, or engaging in fun activities as ways of self-care.

Focus on health rather than appearance: shift your focus from pursuing a certain appearance to prioritizing your overall health and well-being. Adopt healthy habits that promote physical and mental well-being, such as regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and stress management techniques.

Challenge negative thoughts: First, become aware of negative thoughts and self-criticism about your body. Then, actively replace this idea with more realistic thoughts. For example, if you had the thought “I will only be successful if I am thin”, challenge it and replace it with a more realistic one, such as “My success doesn’t depend on my body, but on my effort and hard work”.

Surround yourself with diverse representations of beauty: expose yourself to diverse representations of beauty in various forms of media, including different body types, sizes, and ethnicities. This can help broaden your perspective and challenge narrow beauty standards.

Seek support: if you're struggling with body image issues, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who specializes in body image and self-esteem. They can provide guidance and support tailored to your specific needs.

References:

Grabe, S., Ward, L. M., & Hyde, J. S. (2008). The role of the media in body image concerns among women: A meta-analysis of experimental and correlational studies. Psychological Bulletin, 134(3), 460–476. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.134.3.460

Grogan, S. (2006). Body Image and Health: Contemporary Perspectives. Journal of Health Psychology, 11(4), 523–530. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105306065013

Halliwell, E. (2013). The impact of thin idealized media images on body satisfaction: does body appreciation protect women from negative effects? Body image, 10(4), 509–514. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.07.004

Neumark-Sztainer, D., Paxton, S. J., Hannan, P. J., Haines, J., & Story, M. (2006). Does body satisfaction matter? Five-year longitudinal associations between body satisfaction and health behaviors in adolescent females and males. The Journal of adolescent health: official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 39(2), 244–251. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2005.12.001

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