Body image is the way someone feels about their body shape or size and negative body image is common in people with eating disorders. While everyone deals with negative thoughts about their body at times, individuals struggling with an eating disorder spend most of their day thinking about it. The fear of gaining weight can be so scary or depressing for people that they use disordered eating behaviors as a way to prevent weight gain.
Mental Health and Body Image
An eating disorder is only one of the many mental health consequences that can arise when someone is struggling with the way their body looks. Other consequences include:
- Low self-esteem
Caring about what we look like tends to have a negative connotation and is often looked at as shallow or vain, however, it is human nature to care about what we look like. What’s important is not whether we care or not, but the impact we let it have on our lives. There’s a difference between having a bad body image day and engaging in disordered behaviors to make your body look different.
Actual vs Ideal Body Image
Researchers have been trying to understand the ins and outs of what leads someone to feel dissatisfied with their body. Body image can be shaped by a variety of things, such as images in the media or comments made by family and friends. However, recent research on body image has revealed that body dissatisfaction is a result of thinking the way your body looks is not how it is supposed to look. For example, if someone believes that being thin is the only attractive body, then they are more likely to be critical of themselves if they are not what they considered thin.
It is important to understand that it is one’s own beliefs about their body that influence whether they like their body or not. If our body image is based on our own beliefs, where did these beliefs derive from?
Child development specialists teach that when we’re children, we absorb information like a sponge. We’re learning about the world through our experiences and what we’re exposed to. This means that media or comments from our friends or family about our bodies can influence our beliefs throughout our entire life. The comments we receive, whether from media or the people in our life, have a profound impact on the way we view ourselves and our overall mental health.
There is more than one way to have a healthy, beautiful body, just as there is more than one thing that determines someone’s identity. Surrounding yourself with positive influences that make you feel valued and loved is a good start in working towards a healthy body image.