Body Image: What is it, and why is it important?
For Body Image and Eating Disorder Awareness Week (6-12th September 2020), PhD candidate Alana Heafala took the time to provide five easy tips to foster positive body image.
Body Image refers to how a person sees, feels and thinks about their body, regardless of how it looks. Many factors can influence our body image such as our family values, cultural background, our peers, the media, and more recently, social media. Negative body image can occur in childhood, and often carries on well into adulthood with women being more commonly affected. Body image was the 4th top concern for young Australians (15-19 year olds) as shown in Mission Australia’s 2019 Youth Survey, where 42.8% of females were very concerned about body image.
So why do we care about body image, and why is it important? The way we view our body can influence our behaviours and how we care for and nourish ourselves. Having a negative body image can lead to low self-esteem, disordered eating patterns, an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. It is also a risk factor for developing a clinical eating disorder. The good news is, we have the power to change the way we see, think and feel about our bodies.
Here are five tips to help foster positive body image:
- Positive self-talk #changethedialogue:
The way we speak to ourselves matters! Sometimes we can be our own worst critic, and it may help to reframe your thinking. If you find yourself having a negative thought when you look in the mirror, stop and ask yourself if you would ever talk to your closest friend the way that you speak to yourself? While this may take some practice, exchanging negative terms with either neutral or positive terms can make a difference over time.
2. Stop comparing:
As the saying goes, comparison truly is the thief of joy. We’ve all done this at one time or another. Particularly on social media, it can be really easy to scroll through your feed and compare yourself to people you admire. Comparison can leave you feeling ‘less than’ or not good enough. Try making a list of the things you like about yourself as this can be a helpful reminder.
3. Practising body acceptance, neutrality and respect:
Being preoccupied with your appearance can lead to feeling self-conscious, leaving less brain space for more important things. Embracing an attitude of acceptance and neutrality takes the focus off how we look and frees up mental energy to focus on things that bring you joy.
4. Shift the focus:
Rather than focusing on appearance and external measures, why not try shifting the focus to what your body CAN do? It’s incredible what our bodies do every day just to keep us alive!
5. Diversity your feed:
This tip is referring to your social media feed. As we scroll through our phones, we are bombarded with images that are unrealistic, highly edited and unattainable. One thing we can do is diversify our feed. If there is an account that leaves you feeling negative about yourself, maybe it’s time to unfollow and follow accounts that include a wide range of interests and bodies of all shapes and sizes.
Want to learn more? Here is a list of some great resources:
Alana is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with Griffith Clinics who is passionate about empowering clients to experience food freedom, body acceptance and joyful movement. Alana is investigating how dietitians can be better prepared to treat patients with eating disorders.