Your body image is how you think and feel about your body. Body image involves your thoughts, perception, imagination and emotions. It does not necessarily reflect what you see in the mirror or what other people see. Poor body image is often linked to dieting, over-exercising, or eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, and to other mental health issues such as low self-esteem, depression or anxiety.

Body Image Is Not Dependent On Weight

People of all shapes and sizes can have poor body image and self-esteem. It is not always a correct representation of what you actually look like. For example, a person may perceive themselves to be fat when in reality they are underweight. Nearly half of all normal weight women overestimate their size and shape. A distorted body image can lead to self-destructive behaviour, like dieting or binge eating

Positive Body Image is Important

People who have a positive body image will generally have higher levels of physical and psychological health and better personal development. It affects self esteem levels which dictates how a person feels about themselves and this can infiltrate every aspect of that person’s life. People with positive body image are more likely to feel comfortable and happy with the way they look and less likely to feel impacted by unrealistic images in the media and societal pressures to look a certain way. Having a healthy outlook can also be influenced by a positive body image as you are more likely to respond to your body and lead a balanced lifestyle with healthier attitudes and practices with food and exercise.

While changing your actual appearance may be difficult and complicated, changing your body image is an achievable goal it will take time and effort. Suggestions for improving your body image include:

  • Focus on your positive qualities, skills and talents
  • Say positive things to yourself every day
  • Avoid self talk that is berating or negative
  • Focus on what your body can do and has done
  • Avoid making body comparisons to others

If you feel dissatisfied with your body or if you feel like you are developing unhealthy eating or exercise habits, professional help is a good idea. Seeing a trained psychologist, social worker or dietitian who have specialised knowledge in the area of body image is a great step towards changing your negative beliefs and behaviours.

For more information about eating disorders please visit the National Eating Disorders Collaboration website.