‘Negative Body Image’ – What does it mean? Simply put, it means to have a negatory image of your own body, wherein you find many flaws with the way you look. However, the repercussions of a negative body image are far from simple.
Women have TONS of negative things to say about themselves each day, according to a recent US survey. The quest for the PERFECT body has become normal for many women. This social issue churns out generations of women who believe they are not good enough.
And we are all responsible for this social issue that costs thousands of women worldwide so much grief and misery because they are discontent with the way they look and hence cannot feel happy about who they are. I am. You are. We all are.
Reality Check On Negative Body Image
A recent research reveals that negative body image is deeply ingrained in women, prevalent in almost all of us. Here are some facts that can support these findings; facts that reveal just how much credit we give to our physical appearance and how they affect the very way we think, behave, and respond.
– 97% of women will say something negative about their body every day. It isn’t uncommon for a woman to look in to the mirror and say things like – “I hate my thighs”, “I hate my stomach”, “My upper body is so fat”, or “I’m ugly”, according to survey reports. I’ll bet no woman reading this post can honestly say she hasn’t done this at some point or the other in her life.
– A UK study of 2000 women found that the very first thing women notice about other women is how ‘fat’ they are. It’s how we gauge if a woman is ‘hot’ enough, totally negating the beauty of her facial features or other physical traits like great hair, amazing eyes etc.
– 90% of women aged between 15 and 64 want to change at least one aspect of their appearance, most of all their body weight, according to an international survey. Well…we have liposuction and plastic surgery for that now. But is that really necessary?
Why Are We So Obsessed With The ‘Perfect’ Body?
Negative body image issues exist across all age groups. “Girls as young as five have strong ideas about weight, such as fat is bad and skinny is good,” says dietician Tara Diversi who has o-authored the book The Good Enough Diet (Wiley).
These ideas that begin at such an early stage can often develop into unhealthy eating behaviours in adolescence and beyond. An international survey found 68% of 15-year-old girls are on a diet today, while an Australian report found 30% of women aged 18 to 23 have experimented with purging, laxatives or fasting to lose weight. To what effect? Why has the word ‘fat’ become such an insult?
Experts believe that there are 4 main factors contributing towards the prevalence of negative body image in women. These are:
1. Parent’s perception of body image
Many parents are dieting and saying skinny is better, even when they have healthy bodies, and this sets up their children to have the same approach. Children are very sensitive to their parent’s distress and can pick up on their parents’ constant quest to be thinner, assuming that to be the ‘right’ approach towards a healthy body.
2. Mixed messages
Education about the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods can actually trigger eating disorders in kids. Common foods like potatoes, breads and any kind of carb or healthy fats can be ‘perceived’ as threats because children and young adults don’t understand that the key to healthy food lies in the way you cook it and the amount you eat. This could leave them deprived of essential nutrients, hence even affecting their growth and hormone production.
3. The portrayal of beauty by media
Research shows the more women see pictures of perfect women in the media, the more they believe they should look like that. This happens even though women know pictures have clearly been airbrushed. The rational brain knows it’s not real, but the emotional brain doesn’t.
4. Get control of an otherwise discontent life
It may not be weight that is causing women to feel unhappy or unsatisfied, but it’s the part that can be perceived as the easiest to control. This is when people make the mistake of thinking the quick-fix diet will help them feel better about themselves. Research shows most people on quick-fix diets put all the weight back on, or more.
Love Yourself…Despite The Flaws
While we all might WANT to be thin, the world is made by all kinds of women. The thin envy the curvaceous, the curvaceous envy the super skinny. However, the key is Body Acceptance. Body acceptance means being approving of and loving your body, despite its “imperfections”, real or perceived, as much as possible. It means accepting that your body is fatter than others or thinner than others, that your thighs might be too chubby or that you have a paunch you just cannot get rid of. You might have physical imperfections that you have to deal with (and can probably ‘mask’ easily if you are smart) but that all of that doesn’t mean that you need to be ashamed of your body or try to change it. Body acceptance allows for the fact that there is a diversity of bodies in the world, and that there’s no wrong way to have one.
If you’ve been saying bad things about yourself and your body, it can take quite some time and commitment to turn that habit around, but it’s a practice worth committing to. Here are some tips on fostering a positive body image:
1. Good food guide
Focus on the health properties and nutritional value of foods instead of what they will do to your backside or thighs. We should be looking at what’s going to give us more energy, make us live longer and experience optimal health.
2. Many healthy body types
People can be overweight but healthy if they’re exercising and eating well. They can also be thin but unhealthy through a poor diet and sitting down all day. So when sizing up your health, consider how happy you are. Why? Being overweight reduces your life expectancy by three years, but being unhappy reduces it by nine years.
3. Measure happiness, not kilos
A powerful practice is to commit to measuring your health, weight and worth based on how happy you are, not how your body compares with others around you.
4. Learn to love yourself
Some people magnify criticism and don’t hear compliments. A powerful way to turn that habit around is to write a list of 10 nice things about yourself and say them out loud. YOU have to believe that there is much more to you than what meets the eye. Then and only then…will others make the effort to find out for themselves.
‘Girls of all kinds can be beautiful – from the thin, plus-sized, short, very tall, ebony to porcelain-skinned; the quirky, clumsy, shy, outgoing and all in between. It’s not easy though because many people still put beauty into a confining, narrow box…Think outside of the box…Pledge that you will look in the mirror and find the unique beauty in you.’ ~ Tyra Banks