I have spent a lot of time on social media and reading women's magazines. It has become more and more prevalent that body image, whether positive or negative, is an issue. Many people like to point and blame, who knows they may be right. But no one has really ever bothered to suggest a realistic solution. Most articles I see are written to abuse or demean one specific person or magazine rather than actually address the issue.
Yet, people tend to forget that those being abused also have feelings and that abuse and bullying is one of the biggest causes of negative body image issues.
What is "body image" or a "body image issue"?
"Body image is the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception"
- National Eating Disorders Collaboration. www.nedc.com.au
I personally think the NEDC have got this definition spot on. They also go on to say that body image and its issues consist of four primary aspects. These can be independent, collaborative and all equally as damaging:
1. Perceptual body image - how you actually see yourself, not necessarily how the rest of the world sees you. Many women who suffer anorexia see themselves as overweight when really they are not.
2. Affective body image - this is the way you feel about your body image. This can be satisfaction or dissatisfaction in relation to shape, weight or even specific body parts.
3. Cognitive body image - cognitive refers to your thoughts and your thought processes around your body image. For example, some people believe that by changing their body that they will feel better about it.
4. Behavioural body image - conceptually this means the behaviours that result from their cognitive body image. For example, those who experience dissatisfaction may exhibit behaviours such as self isolation, eating disorders or excessive exercising.
Causes of poor body image, who is to blame?
Body image can occur in both men and women, and at any stage of life. Typically, poor body image affects adolescent females and even more so, those with perfectionistic tendencies.
The most well known and threatening causes are;
1. Bullying both face to face and online. Being teased is a surefire way to increase the likelihood of developing a body image issue.
2. Friends and family expressing their own body image concerns frequently have a 'contagious' effect.
4. Lack of education around health and lifestyle
Bullying as a cause is by far the simplest. Being poked and prodded or demeaned personally about your image is crushing. Whether its for being fat, skinny, having glasses or braces, it really doesn't matter. This sad feeling can come as a result of many different things.
Friends and family are also a very big cause, but quite simple to understand. If your mother or older sister is constantly making remarks about her "bad body", and you feel you look the same or worse, this can put a lot of pressure on you too (OR you may begin to develop the same about yourself, particularly if you have a similar body shape/type). As a younger child we look up to senior siblings and parents for strength, stability and morals. A lot of people say happiness is contagious, unfortunately so is poor body image.
Media has been named, shamed and blamed for everything negative from A-Z. Poor promotion of body image and health is certainly a major culprit on that list and for good reason. You will see in the powerful video below a perfect example of the lies that are put directly in front of us from a very young and impressionable age.
As I have said above, many people want to name and blame magazines, newspapers, celebrities or individuals for promoting poor body image. A lot of the time it is the use of shrewd marketing which places unrealistic body image visualisations in our mind.
Even for those who aren't using dodgy marketing or advertising, some still get picked out the crowd. Even me for example, for those of you who follow my social feeds and read my captions, I obviously only promote self confidence, health and love of yourself through education and a balanced lifestlye. Yet, even still I occasionally have people trying to say my transformations or "selfies" are unrealistic. This is why I'm so adamant about only using real unedited photos of myself and transformation photos that are taken by my clients. I tag my clients in the photos so that you all know what results are real and attainable, and what aren't. You can even follow my clients and ask them questions for yourself.
Finally, in my opinion the most important point, education. Im a huge advocate of education in all aspects of life. I believe you should get the facts before speaking out. Education is the key to a lot of things such as success, happiness and even confidence with your own body. Many people would probably be asking how can knowledge help me feel better about my body? Keep reading...
My Top Tips to Overcome Negative Body Image
1. Understanding the cause of bullying. I love the saying "what Susie says of Sally, says more of Susie than of Sally". You need to get ahead, and realise that they're probably saying mean things for a reason other than to see you upset. A lot of bullying occurs because the bully is insecure about themselves. It is also important to remember it's not the opinion of haters that matters, it's how you feel about yourself. No single person in the world is loved by everyone. People can only bring you down if they're beneath you.
2. Goal setting. Set positive health and lifestyle focussed goals instead of image-related ones. If you're a mother, set the goal of being healthy and fit enough to play with your beautiful children. If you're tired and exhausted all the time, set a goal to achieve health and great energy levels all day.
3. Move. Sometimes all you need to do, is do something. Sitting around doing nothing can play on your mind a lot too. I highly recommend doing some form of exercise a few days a week. It is proven that low to moderate intensity exercise even such as walking, can relieve mental stress. Give it a shot!
4. Education. Learn about what is real and what isn't. Education around what your body actually needs to eat and needs to do to stay alive, to feel good, to be healthy. Learn that you can gain and lose weight/fat but you cannot make your hips wider or your legs longer. Knowledge is the key to a lot of things. The more you know about your body, the less likely you are to fall into the wrath of false advertising and media lies, listen to those who are qualified.
Educate, accept, appreciate.