Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to hear about people feeling negative, hateful or uncomfortable about their own bodies. A 2019 survey, by the Mental Health Foundation, found that 1 in 5 UK adults feel shameful of their body.
What is body image?
Body image is the phrase used to describe how you feel about being in your own body. Given that body image is about how you feel, it’s subjective. This also means that it cannot be determined by appearance either. Subsequently, you cannot look at another person and know how they perceive their own body.
It’s a common misconception that if someone has a ‘slim’ figure that they automatically must always feel very positive about themselves and their body. In reality, everyone regardless of their appearance, has days of poorer body image. This includes the most confident of people, such as celebrities who have their photos taken regularly.
How you feel about your body can influence your day-to-day life. If you feel negative towards your body, you may feel more self-conscious. In turn, you may minimise or avoid attending social occasions with friends and family, leaving you feeling isolated and further lowering your self-esteem. You may avoid wearing certain clothes, due to a belief that you don’t look good in them. Poor body image may cause you to check the mirror every time you walk past, leading you to pinch and poke your body with dissatisfaction.
Poor body image can be the driving force behind why many people take up diets. It’s well known by many, that to change your body size, that reviewing your diet and exercise can help you to lose weight. Unfortunately, in some instances, this can lead to a negative relationship with food forming, and the potential for eating disorders to develop. This isn’t helped by the numerous fad diets promoted across social media by celebrities and influencers.
Did you know you weren’t born hating your body?
As an early infant, you had no worries about your body. At that age, your body is simply allowing you to do what you need it to do - play, run, colour, and so on. Have you ever noticed a 2 year old commenting on the way they look when they’re playing? It’s very unlikely.
However, as you grow up, you start to become more aware of the world around you.
You start to hear, process and understand the words that your family are saying about themselves. Perhaps you kept overhearing someone in your family picking themselves apart. Maybe they felt their tummy was too big, or that their thighs were too wide, or that their arms were too large. Growing up exposed to these words might have led you to start questioning whether your body wasn’t ‘good enough’ either.
In addition to this, gaining access to the internet and social media can also be a turning point for your relationship with your body. Technology is consistently becoming more sophisticated, making it easier to get away with editing photos or using filters, without anyone knowing. Social media is also flooded with celebrities and influencers who promote unrealistic beauty standards, with some even paid to endorse weight loss products to their young audiences. What’s most concerning is that with children accessing social media, at younger ages than ever before, there may be an increase in the number of children who start to become more body conscious.
Will you always feel this way about your body?
Your body image is moldable. By undergoing the journey to work on and heal your relationship with your body, you can shape your thoughts and beliefs to become less judgemental and more positive.
Healing your body image isn’t about jumping from hating your body to loving it endlessly. Sometimes, the final goal post is to get to a point in which you can accept your body as it is. This means feeling non-judgemental about your body, and acknowledging all the things that it can do for you, regardless of your appearance.
The journey to healing body image isn’t always linear, meaning that a strong network is crucial. Leaning on friends, family or even health professionals, such as a nutritionist like myself, are all good support options. Choose those who you can trust and confide in to be part of your support network. Don’t be discouraged if the journey to healing your body image takes longer than you expected - what’s important is that you take the time to do it properly.
If you’d like to start exploring your relationship with your body image, join my Stop Shaming Your Body workshop on Tuesday 30th May 2023 7pm (Note: If you can’t make it live, you can still sign up to receive the recorded workshop the next day), to boost your self-confidence and body image.
In this workshop, you’ll explore your relationship with your body in just 60 minutes. You’ll learn about the various factors affecting how you feel and act towards your body, and how this can change each day. Together, we’ll also explore how you can identify 4 different tools to help start your journey to healing your relationship with your body. To find out more or to sign up, press here.