Body image is how you view, feel about and experience your body.

According to research published by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), 91% of college age women report body image issues.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) also reports that over the past three decades, the percentage of men who are unhappy with their bodies has risen from 15% to 43%.

Body image problems are largely responsible for the multi-billion dollar weight loss and anti-aging businesses.

People with a negative body image are at risk for a host of problems, including depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, self-injury, unhealthy sexuality and eating disorders.

The most common contributors to negative body image are cultural/societal norms, media and family.

Ways to reduce the risk of body loathing and hatred:

  • Stop reading women’s magazines and viewing media that objectify women’s bodies and perpetuate unrealistic stereotypes about body size and shape.
  • If you are a parent, monitor your children’s use of media.
  • Deal with your own body image problems before having children. If you obsess about your weight or size, your children will learn to do the same.
  • Stop judging other people by how they look, otherwise you teach your children to judge others based on appearance and body size.
  • Talk to your children about realistic and unrealistic standards for physical appearance. Show them realistic bodies of regular people who do not spend hours daily in the pursuit of beauty.
  • Set different norms and standards for yourself and your family. Celebrate the whole person, rather than just physical appearance. Teach children that their health, studies, hobbies, ability to think and reason are more important than their appearance.
  • Help children understand the difference between health and appearance. Teach them to monitor their health in ways other than just their weight or size. Do this by modeling healthy behaviors and celebrating successful and healthy habits, ie. spending at least 30 minutes each day engaged in a physical activity, like walking or playing basketball.
  • Accept aging as a natural part of life. Make peace with your changing body and looks. Rather than bemoaning lines, wrinkles and gray hair, recognize these as normal.
  • Support those who advocate healthy body image, aging and natural beauty. Boycott companies and manufacturers that promote the unhealthy ‘heroin’ look in their models and actors.
  • Most importantly, if you recognize problems with body image, contact me to discuss it.

(Adapted from Body Image: The Basics, Theravive)

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