Updated: Jun 6
What does it sound like inside when you think about your body type? Is it difficult to hear something kind? How about when you are trying to explain to someone else how you perceive your body? Do you experience discomfort?
Have you ever wondered why it is such a difficult topic, talking about our physical appearance? Have you wondered how your internal perception may be perpetuating issues where your overall health and wellness is concerned?
Here is what is real.
Body image is a very personal mental perspective that is centered around your emotional connection to how you see yourself - your size, shape, and weight and your perception about how others see you as well.
So, what are the factors that impact body image?
Well, to start we can pinpoint social influences, stigma, and discrimination. And then move right on to underlying anxiety, obsession, and low self-esteem. All contributing factors, that when left unattended have the propensity to lead to the development of disorders such as body dysmorphia and social physique anxiety.
Now you are probably asking “how does someone get to this extreme body dissatisfaction?”
Well, family influences are a primary example. Especially when there is pressure to lose or gain weight, open criticism about size, or specific ideals and constant efforts to achieve or maintain a slender frame.
If you are a parent ask yourself if you are promoting restrictive dietary practices, and the engagement in regimented exercise, either in word or action. Do you make negative comments about how your child chooses to dress? How about your comments about how you look when you get dressed?
The modeling we present as parents around our own body style and body image through dietary practices, excessive exercise, and negative commentary will influence the adolescent and even the younger child. And what ends up developing is disordered eating habits, internalization of the ideal body, and negative body image as the child strives to please the parent by living up to what they have adopted as the perceived expectation.
Food has now become an associated tool to accomplish something. Be that weight control, comfort, or reward.
Of course, we can’t ignore the contributions to poor body image that come from peer influences. There is always that desire to fit in, look like the most popular, or put a stop to teasing or bullying. And we can’t ignore what those weight requirements are doing for our kids esteem when we look at activities like gymnastics, dancing, and wrestling. It is very common here to acquire body dissatisfaction and more
often then we even realize the development of serious eating habits like binge eating, restricting, and purging. Which of course are the onset of bigger concerns like anorexia and bulimia.
There are other factors we could dive into but I think the truly important thing we want to consider here is how we can become aware of where we need to make adjustments and straight up corrections to the way we are currently functioning on this topic.
Take some time, observe yourself, watch others in your life, and then ask:
o How do I talk to myself about how I look
o Do I make negative comments about my body often
o Am I constantly engaging in a diet
o Do I talk about that diet a lot
o Are there times I secretly overindulge
o How does my dialogue sound then
o Is food a part of every celebration
o How about when I feel down, does food comfort me
o Am I avoiding shopping for new clothes because I plan to loose weight
o Does my appearance keep me from social interaction
o What was the significance around food when I was a child
Where you go from here with what you have learned so far is a big decision. You can continue to be self-defeating, or you can learn how to see yourself as beautiful and special. I don’t mean you have to ignore all of your body aspirations. I just propose we work on a more realistic perspective. One that will have you leading by a good example for yourself and the others in your life.