At Experience Life, we’ve covered the benefits and importance of a healthy body image for years. By thinking positively about our bodies and celebrating them, we can realize a newfound freedom and appreciation in our lives.
Yet having this attitude is often easier said than done as our own vision of our bodies can easily become clouded by others, mass-media influences, and our own thoughts — to the point we can start viewing ourselves negatively. And the replay of this false internal dialogue can result in more severe issues.
As with most journeys toward health and healing, the first step is acknowledging there’s a problem. In this case, the problem begins with a distorted, poorly informed sense of our own body’s shape and size. According to a study noted in our 2008 piece “Body Positive,” “Body dissatisfaction has emerged as a core aspect of women’s physical and mental health.” And although women may be more prone to body-image problems, men are by no means immune to them.
Of further concern, children often mirror their parents’ body-image issues, says Margo Maine, PhD, assistant clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut and coauthor of The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to Be Perfect (John Wiley & Sons, 2005).
To help adopt a healthier body image, we’ve rounded up articles from our archives that offer tools and resources designed to help improve self-talk.
We also love this simple exercise you can start today to nurture your relationship with your body just as you would nurture any intimate relationship (from our December 2008 piece, “Body Positive“).
- Answer honestly: When was the last time you looked in the mirror? Not just a quick check of hair or teeth, but really looked? According to a study from the Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, mirror-exposure therapy can significantly boost body esteem.
- Erase all the body-related chatter from your mind. Just look at your body and try to see it simply and honestly.
- When you feel ready, state out loud at least five nonjudgmental things about yourself. (If you have trouble getting started, simply saying “My hair is brown” works.)
- Then, without skipping or dwelling on any particular body part, describe — objectively and out loud — how you look. Use color, texture, proportion, shape, and symmetry, but not subjective words like “gross” or “too big.” (“I have a heart-shaped face that is slightly red across the nose and cheeks.”) If you feel ready, state five things about your appearance that you like, and what you like about them.
“It does feel a little bit strange at the beginning,” says Sabine Wilhelm, PhD, director of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Clinic and Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “But once you get into it, it feels kind of like a conversation you’re having with yourself, and it starts to become quite nice. Like anything, it’s a habit you have to develop over time. It’s about learning to train yourself to see your body as it is, rather than immediately focusing on what you don’t like.”
The goal of #NEDAwareness Week is to put the spotlight on the seriousness of eating disorders and to improve public understanding of their causes, triggers, and treatments, according to http://nedawareness.org. To learn more about #NEDAwarenessWeek or get help, visit http://nedawareness.org/get-help.
Share your thoughts on what a healthy body image means to you in the comments section below.