We live in a world where people don't hold back from saying what they feel or think about your looks, size, weight, color, or even height. Some people think their body is great and love it the way it is; for others, it's a struggle to even look in the mirror.
Your body image is your perception of yourself and what you think about your looks, height, shape, and weight. It could be positive or negative. A lot of people today have negative perceptions about their looks.
I'm pretty sure as you're reading this, a friend came to mind. Well, just like you, I know someone with a negative body image, Claire. She was one of the most beautiful girls I've ever seen. Brilliant, tall, great body, but she never thought so of herself.
If she wasn't complaining about how skinny her legs looked, it was about how she was too fat or thin or her tummy was too big.
She clung to compliments throughout her life, and her whole day was ruined if she ever got a negative one. Sadly, she took her life. It was a horrible experience!
There are so many Claires in our lives today, and we ought to help them. But how? Before we talk about how to help people with negative body image, let's look at the possible causes of this.
Causes of Body Image Issues
Several factors could cause one to have a negative body image. These factors include:
- Eating Disorders
These are psychological conditions that are characterized by abnormal eating habits. The most common types are Bulimia and Anorexia. People with these disorders obsess over their weight, body size, and appearance.
You can learn more about Anorexia in the WebMD article "Anorexia Nervosa."
Some people with disabilities feel anxious about attending social events because they struggle to accept themselves and sometimes feel they don't fit into society.
- Bullying and Body Shaming
Many people struggle with physical appearance because family members and society constantly bully them.
Victims of abuse, whether physical, sexual, or verbal, often struggle with self-love. This is because their abusers always make them feel less of themselves.
Victims of accidents, burns, or injuries that result in an obvious scar may experience difficulties accepting their bodies after the incident.
At puberty, teenagers begin to experience body changes. Some teenagers at this stage may find it difficult to accept these changes, resulting in negative body image.
When you're sick, your body changes. It's worse if it's a terminal illness. For instance, cancer patients experience a drastic change in their physical appearance; even the treatment administered results in hair loss.
Effect of Body Image on Health
A person's perception of their body can regularly shift over time. Self-esteem and healthy lifestyle choices are also strongly correlated with positive body image.
People are likely to experience great self-esteem and excellent mental health sentiments when they think positively about their bodies. Additionally, those with a favorable body image frequently approach eating and exercise in a balanced manner.
The building blocks for excellent physical and mental health as children and adolescents develop into adults can be laid by having a favorable body image during adolescence. On the other hand, those with body image issues may experience long-term mental and physical health effects.
How to Help a Friend Struggling With Body Image Issues
It could be you or someone you know who has a negative body image. Whatever the case, here are a few tips that may help:
Avoid Body Shaming
You may not know who is struggling with body image issues, so you need to be kind with your words.
Avoid negative comments about your friend's appearance, weight, or size. Don't use words like 'fat,' 'ugly,' or 'skinny' on people. These are very provocative words.
The saying goes, "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all."
Teach Your Friend Self Acceptance
You must teach your friend to love and accept themselves just like you. Understandably, it hurts when people around you make fun of you, but what's important is you love yourself.
It's your body and yours alone, so you shouldn't let what people say affect your feelings.
Learn how to control your emotions in Ultiblog's 12 Scientific Steps To Raise Your Emotional Awareness.
Encourage Your Friend to Exercise Regularly
As much as you're encouraging your friend to accept themselves to have a positive body image, this shouldn't prevent them from trying to lose weight or keep fit.
They shouldn't hit the gym because people call them 'fat.' Instead, they should do it cause they want to.
Apart from keeping fit, exercise helps them think clearly. Exercise should be seen as a lifestyle, not a stressful activity.
Encourage Them to Eat Healthy Foods
Your friend should avoid junk food and eat more vegetables, seafood, and fruits. The fact is that junk food seems tastier and more inviting, but thanks to several YouTube cooking videos, there are over a hundred ways you could make tastier healthy foods.
Watch the YouTube video 5 High Protein Lunch Ideas For Weight Loss by TheSeriousfitness.
Feed Their Mind With Positive Thoughts
Don't allow them to dwell on rude comments. Instead, encourage them to focus on the positive ones. Also, remind them of how beautiful they are, show them love and support them in their struggle.
Encourage Them to Talk to Someone
If you notice your friend battling low self-esteem or an eating disorder, encourage them to talk to someone. It could be you, a family member, or their partner. Whoever they feel comfortable sharing their feelings with.
Also, speak up if you don't like how your friends make fun of your appearance. Don't laugh it away, only to go home and feel bad.
Seek Professional Help
If all efforts to support your friend's positive body image proved abortive, it's time to see a psychologist.
How to Know If a Friend Has a Negative Body Image
You may notice the following in someone with a negative body image:
- Baggy clothing
- Disordered eating
- Negative self talk
- Negative feelings
- The person avoids social events
- Lack of self-worth
- Love for other people's bodies but never their own body
- Poor mental health
- Negative body thoughts
- Fat talk
- Too concerned about weight, height or size
The Effect of Social Media and the "Fitness'' Industry on Body Image Issues
Social media's growth must be considered when discussing factors contributing to negative body image, as explained by Illinois State University. There are many online groups, websites, and businesses for almost any subject, and " fitness" and weight loss are no exception. These sites are constantly accessible, bringing the occasionally upsetting media into our everyday lives.
Because teens and young adults are continually online in the media, these images may hurt how they see themselves.
A whole business has developed online to encourage poor body image before capitalizing on it. Making people self-conscious about their bodies is crucial to the "wellness" and "fitness" industries. Then, they might offer "solutions" that entice clients to return for more.
Although eating healthily and exercising are admirable goals, these websites and clubs frequently encourage disordered eating and often give people a method to mask their disordered eating.
People with a positive body perception will be self-assured in their appearance and physical abilities.
However, a person may develop a poor self-image due to social media messages, prior events, and life changes, which makes them dissatisfied with their appearance. This may occasionally result in mental health issues like eating disorders and depression.
Seeing a psychologist may be helpful if one's body-related concerns are distressing. They can assist someone in investigating the causes of these worries and figuring out how to deal with them.
How Can I Stop Thinking Negatively About My Body?
Instead of attempting to be flawless, learn to accept who you are. Put an end to evaluating your looks or body image. Focus on your qualities and strengths instead of your weight because there is much more to you than your weight. In addition, try to focus on being thankful for what you have.
Why Do I Feel Insecure About My Looks?
If you are fixated on your appearance, focusing on what you think are flaws, you may be experiencing body dysmorphic disorder.