News — Body Image

 

Body Image is really important and with it being Mental Health Awareness Week we have put together a guide to try to explain a little more about Body Image. 

A healthy body image means you feel comfortable in your body and you feel good about the way you look.

This includes what you think and feel about your appearance and how you judge your own self-worth. A negative body image can put you at higher risk of certain mental health conditions, such as eating disorders and depression.

What is body image?

Your body image is what you think and how you feel when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. This includes how you feel about your appearance; what you think about your body itself, such as your height and weight; and how you feel within your own skin. Body image also includes how you behave as a result of your thoughts and feelings. You may have a positive or negative body image. Body image is not always related to your weight or size.

Why is a healthy body image important?

People with a positive body image are more likely to have good physical and mental health. Those with negative thoughts and feelings about their bodies are more likely to develop certain mental health conditions, such as eating disorders and depression.

A negative body image may also lead to low self-esteem, which can affect many areas of your life. You may not want to be around other people or may obsess constantly about what you eat or how much you exercise. But you can take steps to develop a healthier body image.

Why are we so focused on our body image?

We see and hear messages about how we look from the first moments we are alive, throughout much of our childhood, and into adulthood. The media focuses on showing people who are thin, attractive, and young, but these images are often edited using computer technology. As a result, we often try to reach beauty and body ideals that do not exist in the real world.

What causes a negative body image?

Past events and circumstances can cause you to have a negative body image, including:

  • Being teased or bullied as a child for how you looked

  • Being told you’re ugly, too fat, or too thin or having other aspects of your appearance criticised

  • Seeing images or messages in the media (including social media) that make you feel bad about how you look

  • Having underweight, overweight, or obesity

In rare cases, people can have such a distorted view of their bodies that they have a mental health condition called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). BDD is a serious illness in which a person is preoccupied with minor or imaginary physical flaws.

How can I have a healthy body image?

Research shows that if you have overweight or obesity, your body image may improve if you participate in a weight loss program, even if you don’t lose as much weight as you hoped. The weight loss program should include a focus on healthy eating and physical activity.

If you are underweight and have a negative body image, you can work with a doctor or nurse to gain weight in a healthy way and treat any other health problems you have. If you are eating healthy and getting enough exercise, your weight may matter less in your body image.

The more you practice thinking positive thoughts about yourself and the fewer negative thoughts you have about your body, the better you will feel about who you are and how you look. While very few people are 100% positive about every aspect of their body, it can help to focus on the things you do like. Also, most people realize as they get older that how you look is only one part of who you are. Working on accepting how you look is healthier than constantly working to change how you look.

How can I help my kids have a healthy body image?

Your body image plays a role in how your kids see themselves. Studies show that children are twice as likely to have ideas about dieting when their parents diet. If you want to lose weight to get healthy, pay attention to the language that you use with your kids. Rather than talking about “dieting,” explain that you are eating healthy foods.

Together with your family, cook healthy meals, order healthy meals at restaurants, and get more physical activity. Teach your children about smart food choices and help them develop healthy eating and exercise habits.

You can help your children develop healthy body images by:

  • Making sure your children understand that weight gain and growth are normal parts of development, especially during puberty

  • Not making negative statements about food, weight, and body size and shape yours, your children’s, or anyone else’s

  • Allowing your children to make decisions about food while making sure that plenty of healthy and nutritious meals and snacks are available

  • Complimenting your children more on their efforts, talents, accomplishments, and personal values and less on their looks

  • Limiting screen time. In addition to getting less exercise, kids who watch TV shows or movies or play online games often see unrealistic female bodies. Talk with kids about the media images you see.

  • Encouraging your children’s school to create policies against bullying

  • Talking to your children often and showing them that you’re always there to listen

You may be teaching your kids harmful habits if you:

  • Often complain about your weight or your body shape

  • Often try new “miracle” diets

  • Tell your kids they would be more attractive if they lost weight

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