With a positive or healthy body image, a woman has a real perception of her size and shape. She also feels comfortable with her body. With a negative body image, a woman has a distorted perception of her shape and size, compares her body to others, and feels shame and anxiety about her body. Being unhappy with your body can affect how you think and feel about yourself as a person. A poor body image can lead to emotional distress, low self-esteem, unhealthy dieting habits, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Developing a positive body image and a healthy mental attitude is crucial to a woman's happiness and wellness.
When you Look in the Mirror, do you Like What you See?
Is your body image positive or negative? If your answer is negative, you are not alone. Women in the U.S. are under pressure to measure up to a certain social and cultural ideal of beauty, which can lead to poor body image. Women are constantly bombarded with "Barbie Doll-like" images. By presenting an ideal that is so difficult to achieve and maintain, the cosmetic and diet product industries are assured of growth and profits. It's no accident that youth is increasingly promoted, along with thinness, as an essential criterion of beauty. The message we're hearing is either "all women need to lose weight" or that the natural aging process is a "disastrous" fate.
Other pressures can come from the people in our lives.
- Family and friends can influence your body image with positive and negative comments.
- A doctor's health advice can be misinterpreted and affect how a woman sees herself and feels about her body.
Learning to Love What You See in the Mirror
We all want to look our best, but a healthy body is not always linked to appearance. In fact, healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes! Changing your body image means changing the way you think about your body. At the same time, healthy lifestyle choices are also key to improving body image.
- Healthy eating can promote healthy skin and hair, along with strong bones.
- Regular exercise has been shown to boost self-esteem, self-image, and energy levels.
- Plenty of rest is key to stress management.
Additional Information on Body Image:
Building a Better Body Image (Copyright © Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Inc.) — this web page lists tips about how to feel better about the way you look and empower yourself. It also links to other information from the Our Bodies, Ourselves Health Resource Center about body image.
The Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders (Copyright © National Eating Disorders Association) — This online publication provides some basic facts about the influence of the media on body image.
- National Mental Health Information Center, SAMHSA, HHS
- Weight-Control Information Network, NIDDK, NIH, HHS
- American Association of OrthodontistsMind on the Media
- National Eating Disorders Association
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