Body Image: Factors That Affect Your Body Image & How To Improve It

Your body image is very important for your overall quality of life. Negative body image can affect your health and your self-esteem. All you can do is improve your thought patterns. Want to know more about body image? This guide will definitely help you.

Category: Health & Beauty     Written By: Madiha Jamal

Body Image: Factors That Affect Your Body Image & How To Improve It

Body image problems have increased over the last 30 years worldwide and is influencing people of all ages. The need to work towards developing a healthier relationship with your body is essential to achieve a healthy body image.  Let me help you get your body confidence. 

What is the first thought that pops up in your mind when you see yourself in the mirror? Do you always count your flaws? Like the extra you have gained, or having a too much slender figure that people make fun of? Most of the people often think bad about their body when they look into the mirror.

This negative image can ruin your performance in academics, career, relationship satisfaction, and even your mental health. In extreme cases, it may lead to Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), where a person starts to imagine a physical defect in the body like the nose, breasts, legs, belly, butt, etc. 

Imagine what life would be like if you will focus on what you love about yourself instead of what you desire to change in your personality? Believe me; this positive thought can seriously improve the overall quality of your life.

The only thing that important is how you see yourself, not what people think about you. To fend off the feelings of body dissatisfaction, here is the guide that focuses on the causes, and the ways to improve your body image.

What is body image?

Body image is described as, how a person feels about and sees his or her body. It can relate to body shape, size, facial features, appearances, or any physical disabilities and differences. It can be both negative and positive.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) defines body image as, 

“It is not just what you see in the mirror. It includes assumptions, memories, and generalizations.”

What are the types of body image?

Body images is divided into two types, healthy (positive) body image and unhealthy(negative) body image. Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention Inc. (EDAP) has beautifully described both the positive and negative body image.

Positive Body Image

A person with a positive or healthy body image feels confident and comfortable in his or her body. It does not mean to think that their body is perfect, instead, to accept it, and commit to loving and caring for it.

The person feels happy about their looks even if it does not match what is desirable according to the family, friends, or media.

A lifestyle with a well-balanced diet and exercise can contribute to a positive body image but it doesn’t mean to starve and worry about food, and spending time in counting calories. 

Negative Body Image

A person with a negative or unhealthy body image feels uncomfortable, ashamed, and, anxious about their body. The person has a distorted perception of their body shape. He or She has an opinion that only other people are attractive and their body shape is a sign of personal failure.

A negative body image can be dangerous; it may lead to mental health problems, such as depression (in worst conditions.) The person may pursue unsafe weight-loss habits and engage in the inappropriate use of hormones to build muscles or surgeries.

Why is body dissatisfaction a serious Problem?

body dissatisfaction problem

When a person has a negative perception about their body, they foster body dissatisfaction. It can be influenced by several external factors like family, friends, acquaintances, teachers and the media. Individuals or mostly teenagers, who move in the appearance-oriented environments are at an increased risk of body dissatisfaction. 

Body image issues have increased worldwide and are concerning because of describing a person’s self-worth on the basis of their shape and size. When you experience body dissatisfaction, you can become fixated on trying to change your body shape. This obsession can lead to unhealthy practices with exercise and food. 

These practices will not give you the desired outcome both physically or emotionally, and you can fall into the intense feelings of disappointment, guilt, and shame with your shape. Thus this body dissatisfaction can ultimately increase the risk of developing an eating disorder.

Body Image and Adolescents- Why it is important for them

Body Image Issues In Teens

Many teens feel very confused when their body changes with puberty. Both boys and girls experience sexual development and growth stimulation. Along with physical changes, they also experience hormonal shift which may cause skin problems, and it takes time to get used to their new appearance or "image."

Adolescents are more susceptible to criticism, or negative comments. With teenage body image, some may lose confidence in their appearance when they receive negative or insulting comments about their looks, ethnic features, or any physical body changes associated with puberty. 

At this point, parents can help their teens with the body image problem. Remind them their worth, tell them to give equal value to other important traits about their personality, inner strengths, mental aptitudes, and artistic talent along with body image. Always encourage your teens to accept and value people regardless of their looks.

How the media can damage adolescents’ body image?

Today we are dwelling in a media-rich environment and adolescents are getting more active with media consumption screen time. Approximately 60% of 15- to 18-year-old girls reported getting influenced with the pictures of a perfect body shape by reading magazines every day.     

Young people enjoy spending their time on social media more than any other age group. Social media has become a primary part of their lives. 

From Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat to Instagram, Social media has become a common form of communication. But have you ever felt bad about yourself by watching your feeds? If so, you`re not alone. 

A new study titled as, "The Selfie Generation: Examining the Relationship between Social Media Use and Early Adolescent Body Image" is conducted by Ilyssa Salomon (doctoral student), and Christia Spears Brown (psychology professor at the University of Kentucky). They explored the damaging effects of social media exposure among teenagers.

The research has shown that the majority of girls in middle school have a body dissatisfaction issue. Teenagers spend every day looking at highly sexualized and curated pictures of other people on social media. 

They are especially vulnerable because they are undergoing physical changes with puberty, and they are more focused on the opinions of their peers. These changes place early adolescents at higher risk for developing negative body image.

Impact Of Social Media On Teenagers Body Image

Body image and self-esteem- how they are correlated?

self esteem and body image

Self-esteem and body image are a big part of your physical and mental well-being. Self-esteem is the opinion you have of yourself inside and out. It is how you respect yourself as a person, how you take care of yourself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is about your whole self, not just your body. 

Body image is mental and emotional. When you have healthy body image, you embrace your qualities and strengths that make you feel good about yourself.

On the other side, when you have good self-esteem, you value yourself, and you know that you deserve proper care and respect. 

They both begin with your state of mind, not in the mirror. They directly influence each other, and your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and can change the way you understand your worth. 

What are the factors that affect body image?

Do you think that not achieving the six-pack abs in time, or the increasing body fat are the hurdles that come in the way of reaching your fitness goal? If you are nodding your head yes, you could be wrong! These are all merely minor imperfections; the real culprit is a “negative body image.” That’s what steals your self-confidence and your personal growth. 

These are some factors that affect your body image and make you think negative about it. Try to stay away from them.

  • Peer pressure.
  • Age
  • Gender: Adolescent girls are more prone to body image problems than boys.
  • Criticism of relatives.
  • Low-self esteem
  • Body sizes
  • Personality traits: People with perfectionist tendencies, ‘black and white’ thinkers or high achievers.
  • Viewing media images of ideal body shapes and comparing yourself with them.
  • Being teased or get bad comments about appearance in childhood.
  • Having a mindset to judge people by their looks.
  • The unattainable standards of beauty and shape that make many girls and women think that “skinny” is the ideal figure.
  • The trend of posting selfies and photos onto social media which makes generation obsessed with their looks. 
  • Not being mindful or stuck in past thoughts.
  • Having unrealistic goals.
  • Surrounded by unsupportive (negative) people.

How does body image Issues relate to eating disorders?

eating disorder and body image

In this digital age, many young people have body image concerns and are conscious about their diet, weight, and attractiveness. 

When you suffer body image problems, nothing can satisfy you with your urge to change. Even being at a healthy weight seems too overweight to you.

These body image concerns can lead to unhealthy preoccupations with body weight and eating; affecting self-esteem, wellbeing, and vitality. When the preoccupations become severe, they can lead to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. 

Anorexia and bulimia are clinical disorders that affect 3 to 4% of college students, with the prevalence highest among young women. 

In Anorexia nervosa, a person may restrict themselves from eating or exercise too much, and get obsesses about their weight. 

In bulimia nervosa, a person compulsively overeat and purge after doing so, causing more significant health problems along the way.

In binge-eating disorder, a person frequently consumes abnormally large amounts of food and feels unable to stop eating.

How can you improve your body image without losing weight?

improving body image

Do you want to raise your body confidence? You can do it with proper nutrition, positive self-talk, meditation, etc. One of the best ways to feel excellent about your body is to invest in having a healthy one! Eating a healthy meal and exercising are key to developing a fit body, and a positive attitude towards yourself. 

Here are some sure-fire methods to improve your body image.

  • Mindful eating

Mindful eating

If you want to gain overall wellness, you need to develop a healthy relationship with food and your body. Cut out that “Should” from your head when you think of eating; why you "should" eat this and why you "should not" eat this. 

Instead of being guided by these “Should” in your appetites, start practicing mindful eating. Just focus on what you are eating at the moment without any worries about gaining weight. 

Give yourself permission to eat when you are happy, sad or bored. And the most important thing is, trust your body to balance your mistakes you make in eating. Consult with your nutritionist and get a healthy meal plan for you. This healthy and mindful eating can lead you to the path of healthy body image and thus a happier life.

  • Meditate often

Want to improve how you feel about your body? Take time out from your hectic routine to relax and meditate. According to a research conducted at University of Texas–Austin, 

“Finding inner peace can help drive off the feelings of body dissatisfaction. Meditation for 20 minutes daily for 3 weeks can increase the appreciation for your bodies.”

“With meditation, you practice to being present in the moment, which has a cleansing effect on your subconscious mind. It clears out the self-hating, body-shaming garbage that gets stuck there.” 

Listen to audios of the specific meditation practices and learn the techniques of breathing from different audios available at Scribd. The site has a guided step-by-step explanation of meditation based approaches in audios. You can download these meditation audios at a reasonable price by using Scribd Coupons and commit to a daily practice.

  • Avoid negative self-talk

Avoid negative self-talk

 “My belly is getting fatter”, “I wish I could have an ideal figure.”

Are you also from the one who does these kinds of self-talks daily while looking at the mirror? You must do that I can bet. Living in an environment of perfectly Photoshopped people, it’s not uncommon to have these thoughts. But these negative self-talk can have a detrimental impact on your confidence and mood, says Lindsay Henderson, a psychologist at live health.

Start paying attention to each of your self-talk, and track both the negative and positive ones. Observing your self-talk is the first step toward changing it.  The act of challenging your own thoughts can have a remarkable impact on your emotions. 

  • Hit the Gym

Improve your body image by getting more into strength training. A meta-analysis in the journal Psychological Reports states that “Strength workouts tend to deviate your focus from a number on the weighing scale to healthy self-competition, and determination, to your personal growth.” 

Weight training, helps you realize your inner strength and prove to yourself that you are much more capable of what you thought you were. Reach out to personal trainers or join a club that specializes in weight training. This confidence trick is worth stealing.

  • Learn to love your body

Learn to love your body

Don’t feel sorry about any of your body part, if you don’t have slender thighs or have ten pounds more weight than your friend; it’s okay! Appreciate your other body parts like your neck, nose, eyes, etc. Practice body-focused gratitude daily. It helps you feel better about your body regardless of your BMI. 

Spend five minutes every day writing down things you love about your body. Maybe you like your arms or are really proud of your sexy curvy legs. Stay kind to yourself and be consistent with your practice.

  • Accept that nobody is perfect

If you can realize that perfection is not a reality, it is just an idea; you will be successful in achieving a healthy body image. Remember that no one is 100% flawless and aiming for perfection will only demoralize you and takes you toward negative body image.  

While looking at magazines or Instagram photos, keep in mind that almost every picture you see is edited.

  • Interact with people who aren’t obsessed with their bodies

The research was supervised at the University of Waterloo,in which researchers examined how social interactions can influence body image. They observed that spending time with people who are non-body focused can have a positive impact on your eating habits and body image. It can protect you against disordered eating and promote more intuitive eating.

So, try to interact with the people who have positive virtues about life, who always encourage and compliment your positive personality traits. Try to be the one as well. 

The Final Verdict

Body image can seriously affect your lifestyle. It’s up to you in which direction you want to shift it-positive or negative. Having a negative sense of body image can affect your self-esteem, health, and well-being. Start appreciating yourself today; embrace your flaws, and get back your body confidence to thrive the best from your life. Always remember that you are worthy and your body is impressive exactly as it exists. Your authenticity doesn’t need any approval. 

You are Beautiful

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how to improve your body image