What is body image and how can it be improved?
To anyone else Melissa would appear to have a “perfect” body, svelte, athletic. But to this gymnast from Elkins Park, Pa. her body is anything but perfect. “I look in the mirror and all I see is fat. Fat arms, legs. I do what I can to try to change my body, but am always disappointed.”
Melissa has a distorted body image, and her problem has led to a cycle of restricting, binging and purging. Body image distortion refers to a discrepancy between a person’s perceptions, or beliefs about the size or shape of their body and its actual size. Distorted body image is a component in anorexia. Body image distortion is often confused with body dissatisfaction, a dislike of one’s body. Body image dissatisfaction is a component of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Distortion and dissatisfaction often occur simultaneously.
There are a number of components in body image. These include:
• Cognitive—thoughts and beliefs about the body
• Perceptual—internal feelings and sensations (e.g., sensations of hunger and fullness.)
• Affective—feelings about one’s body
• Evaluative—judgments about one’s body
• Social—awareness of others’ attitudes, and beliefs
• Kinesthetic—sensed fluidity of movement (openness, heaviness, gracefulness)
Although it is important to address distorted body image, it is equally important to work on body dissatisfaction. Although healing is a process, the following tips can help:
• Wear clothes you feel comfortable in. Don’t wait to lose that last 10 lbs before buying something you feel good wearing
• Write a letter from the point of view of one of your body parts to you. Allow this part to speak to you. It may change how you think about this part of you.
• Move. That can mean walking, yoga, or any type of sustained movement, which will help connect you to your body
• Make a “why I like myself” list. Think of all the things you like, whether character traits or body related. Hang the list up next to the mirror.
• Ditch the scale.How much you weigh should not influence how you feel about yourself.
• Focus on the positives. Even if you have some things you are trying to improve, see those parts of you that you like. Remember, everyone has something special.
• Affirm yourself and stop negative body talk and self-criticism,
• Stay away from Vogue and Cosmo. Think Photoshop, These models do not have real women’s bodies.
• Do at least one nice thing for your body each week. A massage, a manicure, or a facial help communicate that you are worth it.
• Celebrate your uniqueness. We don’t need to be Barbie dolls. We are all different and we’re supposed to be that way. There is beauty in everyone, especially you!
*This guest post provided by Heidi_PsyD from The Examiner.com