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Help dealing with body image


Help dealing with body image
Do you have a negative body image? In this article I’ll discuss all about this often debilitating affliction.

I wanted to approach this subject for a few reasons. Firstly as the author and blogger of this website, I wanted to make it clear that I want to promote health and fitness, at no stage do I want to promote it as a look good blog. Yes the side effect of working out and eating a healthy diet will change your appearance and make you look fitter and stronger. However it’s not its main purpose. So with that, let’s talk about body image…..

What is body image?

Body image is how we and others perceive the way we look. This perception is created by images we see in the media, such as the TV and the internet which affects both men and women.

It doesn’t help that we are constantly bombarded with these image with marketing and advertising throwing beauty/skin/fashion/dieting/weight loss products at us, not to mention cosmetic treatment and plastic surgery. It’s a huge profit marketing industry that we should be ashamed of.

With all this, there has been an increasing pressure on people to look like those so called ideal body types shown through social media, TV, movies, magazines and advertisements.

Another area of body image, is caused by how you and others view you. Often you look in the mirror and see areas you don’t like about yourself, such as your bum, legs, breasts, nose, eyes, mouth, size, shape, muscularity, body fat etc. Often people may also point out these areas and this can reinforce your negative feelings about them.

Views of how we look are often formed quite early on in our younger years with added pressure from our peers from these external influences.

Despite these influences being external, they can often lead to:

  • A negative self image
  • Distorted and exaggerated view of your body’s size and shape
  • Body dysmorphic disorder – which is were you think you have a problem with your appearance
  • Mental distress and depression (often severe)
  • Self scrutiny
  • Self destructive behaviour
  • Insecurity
  • Reduced self worth
  • Reduced self esteem
  • Social anxiety
  • Awkward and complicated relationships
  • Sensitivity to what other people think and say about you
  • Excessive exercising and dieting
  • Other obsessive preoccupied disorders
  • Interference with daily life
  • Meals skipping
  • Various eating disorders
  • Anorexia and bulimia – who often think they look or feel fatter than they are
  • Unrealistic expectations of oneself

Research and surveys conclude that a very high percentage of people are not happy with the way they look. This alone tells us that culture is responsible for the way we feel about ourselves, not what is the more natural normal physical appearance we have.

Let’s talk a little about the so called ideal body types: Let’s get something out the way first, being healthy isn’t about how you look in the mirror. Many of the so called fitness and physique models and bodybuilders you see around the world on the internet are not as healthy as you would expect them to be, given how they look. Having too low a body fat percentage can be unhealthy, as well as carrying too much muscle can also be unhealthy. Trying to look like one of them isn’t worth it. Being healthy is about both mental fitness and physical fitness, not about the way you look.

Many images shown on the internet are airbrushed or photoshopped. fake, it’s unreal, not normal and many of the images used are chosen out of hundreds.

Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to look your best. We all have parts we would like to change. The problem arises when the negative aspects take over our lives and it becomes an emotional situation.

We’ve all been there, looked in the mirror and not liked what we see. How we see ourselves can be one of the most  psychologically negative aspects of our lives. Whether it be a weight issue with being too big or too skinny, a shape issue, not being muscular enough and how attractive you feel ……… Research shows that the percentage of people, especially women who suffer from a body image issue is quite high, well over 75% and may be as much as 95%.

However, even if we had the body we wanted, I can almost guarantee you, you will still not be happy. Most of this comes from when you constantly compare yourself to others you see in the media. Many who despite spending a lot of time and money trying to look like the so called ideal often still try to reach an unrealistic and often self destructive process in doing so.

Remember there is no such things as perfect or ideal, it is invented. They are made up through other people, culture and media.

How to help cope with your body image

Coping with any negative thoughts of your body image does take some effort and for many an enormous amount of mental willpower. It’s all about how you feel about yourself, being able to accept that you are who you are and being able to make changes for you and no one else.

The truth is that many people are actually attracted to imperfections and blemishes. In fact many people actually prefer others who are not seen as the so called beautiful/ideal, they prefer the plain Jane, the average Joe.

In life what others think are just their opinions, sometime they think they are being cruel to be kind. You don’t  need to listen to them and you don’t need to alter yourself. At the end of the day your genetics and ‘natural’ body shape are things you can’t change – and they ‘are‘ natural and normal. Love and accept what you can’t change. You have the right to live your life the way you want to. Find the good in you, the inner beauty, don’t waste time and energy on negative thoughts. Be good to others and don’t worry about other people’s opinions.

People, especially kids at school can be cruel, but often they really don’t or didn’t realise or were mature enough to realise that what was said had/has the effect it does. So ignore it, your an adult now, it does not matter anymore.

For you younger readers….. when I was a young man, I was very self conscious and vain but as I have got older and my body has changed, it doesn’t bother me anywhere near what is used to do. In fact I don’t care what anyone thinks anymore. it becomes so much less important as you get older. Looking for approval and acceptance is in reality silly and can unnecessarily impact you negatively. The fact is there is much and I mean much more to life than trying to make yourself look like the so called ideal.

Remember even those who seem perfect on the outside also have issues, some even worse than yours perhaps, it doesn’t make them any happier.

Here I have listed things you can do to help with your body image:

  • Acceptance – yes, appreciate there are people who are worse off than you. You don’t need to conform to the so called ideal. Very few people are ever happy with the way they look. We are never going to be 100% satisfied. Learn to love you for who you are and appreciate yourself and others.
  • Build a positive body image, learn to love the way you look. Nobody is perfect, imperfections are what makes us individuals. Uniqueness is great. Stop looking in the mirror objectively and appreciate the beauty of the natural body and remember it isn’t about your physical appearance, but who you are inside.
  • Become healthy and learn to live a healthy lifestyle, not just a weight loss lifestyle, but a healthy one.
  • Break the cycle. You have to try to break the cycle of feeling bad and trying to do something about it and then failing and starting over again. To do this you need to become positive in your approach. Don’t think negatively. Stop saying you are fat, or lazy. Think positive about what you are able to do, avoid the negative people, stop watching unrealistic media, reverse your negative energy and use it to attain a healthy lifestyle in mind and body. Use your energy to be positive not negative.
  • Try laughing more, doing fun activities, such as dancing, singing and playing music.
  • Join a help group, talk to others about the way you feel.
  • Don’t be obsessed with all things to do with body image or dieting. Life is about balance, find that balance in all things you do.
  • Stop looking at social media, stop looking at others, reject friends and even family if they are negative about the way you look. It is Ok for them to suggest you get help for health reasons but not to be cruel to be kind, that is bullshit. Don’t believe the media, many images are fake anyway, realise that over 95% of people are not like that. Don’t compare yourself to these fake media images.
  • Surround yourself with people who care about ‘you’, but don’t look for reassurance from others.
  • Get active helping other people who are in various forms of need.
  • Exercise to be fit and healthy, not to look good.

Finally

I wanted to add here, while my website/blog is about getting fit and healthy, there is an overlap in the way the dieting and fitness industry has been used to promote the way people look rather than the health benefits it provides. Therefore it is very difficult to sometimes distinguish between the two and I therefore hope that my articles and posts on this site hasn’t given the former any merit.

Remember being healthy isn’t about simply losing weight or changing your body. It’s about getting your life into a positive process of looking after yourself……think long term health and well being. I’m a big proponent of getting fit and healthy, not to look better, but to change your lifestyle to improve your health.

Plastic surgery isn’t the answer either, I have seen so many terrible examples of plastic surgery, even small amounts can make a person look odd to me. It’s both unnatural, expensive and can often be unsafe.

The truth is the only way we are going to alter our negative body image is to change the way we are constantly bombarded with the so called ideal and embrace the natural uniqueness that makes us individuals. Society needs to change its attitude away from trying to make everyone feel there is an ideal unrealistic way to look and make the idea of getting healthy the priority.

If you feel unable to cope with your body image, then I strongly urge you to seek help from your doctor, who may be able to provide either cognitive behaviour therapy, counselling, psychotherapy or other physical or mental health treatments.