With society constantly telling us what perfection looks like, it is not surprising that so many women have a disparaging relationship with their bodies. The body image culture is all around us – media, school, work, magazines, we even find it around our friends and family. It all can be too much sometimes. You begin to find fault with the image you see in the mirror, nit-picking every perceived imperfection, leading to a negative body image. A negative body image can not only make you uncomfortable, but it can also lead to an eating disorder.
How is body image related to an eating disorder?
An eating disorder doesn’t develop overnight, it may gradually happen over a few months or even a few years. Eating disorders are a serious mental health issue and begin differently for each person. While there are numerous contributing factors, a negative body image can be a key contributor. When you have an eating disorder, the high value placed on body shape and weight may cause you to change your body so you can feel better. However, these changes may lead to patterns of disordered eating and the development of an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.
Negative body image may include some of these signs and symptoms:
- Body dissatisfaction and preoccupation with your weight, shape, and size
- Obsessive self-scrutiny in mirrors
- Making negative comments about your body
- Frequently comparing your body shape and size to others and feeling your body is flawed
- Using unhealthy behaviors to alter weight or shape, such as dieting, skipping meals, vomiting, taking laxatives, excessive exercise
Negative body image can severely impact your self-esteem, the true opinion you have of yourself. When your self-esteem is low, you don’t feel good about yourself, making it difficult to take care of your body.
How can I improve my body image?
Changing the negative into a positive takes time, and it involves retraining your brain to see yourself in a positive light and being vulnerable about your challenges and fears. Think about these questions.
Do you see food as the enemy?
Food is fuel for your body and can help you achieve many things. Work with a Registered Dietitian to learn what foods provide proper nutrients for your body and the combinations that help you to enjoy food. Work towards letting go of counting calories and move towards enjoying your food. Make food choices based on preferences and enjoyment.
When you look in the mirror do you only see negative?
Turn this around by focusing on the positive. Seeing yourself as a whole person and recognizing and appreciating all your body does for you will help you refocus the negative self-talk. When negative thoughts creep in, overpower them with body-focused gratitude that builds you up.
Are you tying your worth to your weight and appearance?
Viewing your self-worth and seeking fulfillment in your weight and appearance can lead to a distorted self-perception. Think about your purpose and know your value is not tied to the way you look. A key to changing the negative is to accept yourself for who you are. You are a worthy, exceptional individual with unique aspects.
Do you compare yourself to others?
The media has opened the door for you to constantly compare yourself to others. Images splashed across the pages of magazines, television, and social media make it challenging to eliminate the negative. Choose to minimize your exposure to these images by limiting what you see. When you do compare yourself to others, ask yourself a few questions. Is it fair? Is it realistic? How does this make me feel about myself? Being comfortable with your body should not leave you feeling that you need to change it.
Do you have past hurts about your weight or body?
Many times, a negative body image can develop at a young age, leaving you to carry it around for years. When you begin to explore this hurt and these feelings, you can begin to heal and find freedom from the negativity and embrace your body.
A healthy body image is vital to your mental well being, and you may need help disconnecting your self-worth from your weight and appearance. Seeking help can help you overcome the feelings of depression and isolation that you may be feeling and help you find freedom from the negativity.
Magnolia Creek provides compassionate care that can help you learn to embrace and respect your body and overpower the negative feelings that have contributed to your eating disorder. Our clinical team offers a customized approach that can help you develop positive, affirming, and accepting feelings. If you are struggling with an unhealthy relationship with your body, Magnolia Creek can help. Call us today or complete our contact form for more information.