The way we view our bodies has a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves and how we live our lives. Our perception of our bodies and the bodies of others starts to take shape early, and can be influenced greatly by our family’s values and beliefs, but also by ours peers and broader influences like the media.
Unfortunately, from a young age children begin to show dissatisfaction and concern about their appearance and weight, which can then lead to engaging in behaviours that attempt to control or change their young bodies.
By the end of the teenage years, most young people have been on a diet of some kind. As adults, the majority of women wish to lose weight (even those who are in the healthy weight range!) and approximately two-thirds of women withdraw from activities due to feeling negatively about their bodies.
So how can we move towards being more accepting of our bodies and feeling better about ourselves? Here are some tips on how to build a better relationship with your body:
- Pay attention to how you think and speak about bodies (your own and others!). Focus less on weight, shape or appearance by paying greater attention to other personal qualities. When we overvalue the importance of our appearance, we think that how we look is the most important thing about us, so pay attention to your many other qualities and aspects of your life that make up who you are.
- Appreciate your body for what it can do. The human body is a remarkable vehicle that carries you each and every day of your life. Move it in ways that feel good and have gratitude for both the ordinary and amazing things your body does for you.
- Improve your media literacy. Challenge the images and messages being promoted in the media. Learn about the many tricks and technologies that are used to modify the bodies presented to us every day. Question the messages that are being sent out in advertising and celebrity endorsements.
- Focus on your health rather than your weight or shape. Consider the things you can do now that will help you to feel good (mentally and physically) regardless of whether your weight changes or stays the same. For example, engage in exercise or physical activity for your enjoyment, or increase your intake of nutritious foods that give you more energy.
- Surround yourself with a diverse range of bodies. Who and what we follow on social media, what we watch on TV, and who we see in magazines etc., can often influence what we think is “normal” or “ideal”. Body diversity in popular media is very limited, so branch out and follow and connect with people of all shapes, sizes, colours and abilities.
- Challenge your beliefs about different body types. Try to recognise that bodies are neither good nor bad. No body is better than any other and there is no “perfect” or “ideal” body type. We definitely can’t make assumptions about another person’s health or wellbeing based simply on how they look!
- Be a positive body role model! Don’t talk negatively about your body or others’ bodies. Don’t sit out of activities or choose not to do things because of your size or body type. Engage with life and what is meaningful to you. Show others that you enjoy and appreciate your body and that there are so many things about you that are more important than how you look!
Tamika Doyle is a Hopscotch & Harmony psychologist at our Werribee practice, skilled in working with teens and adults presenting with body image concerns, low self-esteem and eating disorders. She aims to empower her clients to make positive changes in their lives. Tamika provide evidence based treatment for anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.