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About Body Image

What does the term body image mean?

Body image is defined by the following:

  • How you see yourself when you look in the mirror.
  • What you believe about your own appearance.
  • How you feel about your body, including your height, weight, and shape.
  • How you feel in your body, not just about your body.

What does it mean to have a healthy body image?

Someone with a healthy body image has a clear perception of their body; understands that someone's physical appearance says very little about their value as a person; refuses to spend unreasonable amounts of time worrying about food, weight, and calories; and is comfortable and confident in their own skin.

If someone has an unhealthy body image,
does it mean that they have an eating disorder?

No. Many people feel poorly about their bodies from time to time, but it does not mean that they necessarily have an eating disorder. It is important to recognize that it is normal to struggle with how we feel about our bodies. It is also important to recognize the signs and symptoms someone might display if they have an eating disorder. For more information about eating disorders and how to tell if you or a friend might suffer from one, click here.

What are the major influences on how someone views their body?

While there are endless pressures that influence the way we feel about our bodies, there are several major influences that help to shape a person's sense of themselves and their bodies.

They are:

  • Peers
  • Media - just take a look at the shows that pervade television channels today..."America's Top Model" and "Make Me a Supermodel," that focus solely on someone's appearance.
  • Family
  • Culture - Check out a great Web site like to investigate how our culture contributes greatly to how we feel about ourselves and our bodies.

How can I make myself feel better if I'm having a bad body image day?

  • Engage in physical activity -- play tennis, go for a jog, dance around in your room to your favorite song.
  • You're so lucky to have a healthy, strong functional body -- wear some of your favorite clothes; wear clothes that you feel comfortable in and make you happy.
  • Treat your body -- paint your toenails, get a massage, or simply sit down and put your feet up; your body works hard for you each day and sometimes you forget to appreciate it.
  • Mentally list at least three qualities and talents about which you are proud.
  • Think of the reasons you like your friends -- they probably don't have anything to do with their appearance, and neither are the reasons that your friends like you.
  • Make plans with a friend that you have been meaning to catch up with to go for a walk or a cup of coffee.
  • Take the step to tackle a long-term project -- you've been putting it off...whether it's cleaning your room or signing up for a pottery class, there is no better time than right now.
  • Take a few moments for deep breathing and relaxation -- you can do this sitting waiting for class to start or on a bench outside; inhale deeply through your nose for a count of five, filling your lungs with cool air and positive energy, and then exhale slowly through your mouth.
  • When you exercise, think of your bones and muscles getting stronger -- think of this and your blood circulating throughout your body rather than focusing on calories and weight loss.
  • At meals, eat healthy colorful foods -- and, think of energy, vitamins and nourishment you are fueling your body with.

Body Image Self-Evaluation Quiz

Take this quiz to help measure how comfortable you are with your body and how accepting you are of yourself.

True or False I can easily name my favorite body part (other than my hair or eyes).
True or False I can look at myself in the mirror & see an attractive person looking back.
True or False I am not preoccupied with when I can and cannot eat.
True or False I don't need to count calories or fat grams to feel that I am eating healthfully.
True or False I don't exercise to change my body shape, only to be healthy and happy.
True or False I never smoke or use drugs to curb my appetite.
True or False I feel comfortable eating around other people -- male or female.
True or False I don't harm my body when dealing with stress.
True or False I don't compare the way I look to the way my friends look.
True or False I don't think I am much bigger or smaller than my friends tell me I am.
True or False I am comfortable being naked when alone.
True or False I am comfortable being naked with my partner -- even with the lights on.
True or False I do not feel that I need a sexual partner in order to feel attractive.

The more questions you answered TRUE, the more likely you are to have a positive perception of your body.  Keep retaking this quiz over time to gauge your changing body image.  Hopefully, the change will be positive.