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Perspectives on Body Image

Many people believe that body image is a woman’s issue. In reality, it affects so many aspects of our life. What really is body image? How can we cultivate a healthy, refined, and beautiful image so that we can live a more balanced life? Most people have some kind of body anxiety. As a coach, you can help them develop deep-health experiences in their bodies. Being ashamed of who you are can make it harder to do well in school, get a job, or even feel like an outcast. It can also lead to eating disorders.

This condition makes it hard to get romantic or date someone. It can also make it hard to go through the motions of daily life. Being criticized can increase your risk of depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem.

Sometimes, clients with larger bodies feel uncomfortable entering gym or other fitness centers due to their body image concerns. While some gyms are not ideal for people with body types, improving one's image can make finding a supportive space much easier.

Your body image is determined by how you feel about and imagine your body. It is an aspect of your identity that you often segment into different roles. A person can self-identify depending on many factors such as their profession, social connections, and personal interests. For instance, body image can be used to hold conflicting perceptions. Although body image is often focused on a person’s weight and shape, it also encompasses other aspects of their perceived physical appearance.

Body image exists on a continuum, with one end having a positive image and the other a negative one. A person with a positive body image can feel good about their appearance and live a life full of happiness while a person with a negative body image may be prone to self-criticism and low-self-esteem. Most people have varying levels of appreciation for their bodies. While some people have a positive view of their bodies, others have a negative one. When discussing body image, a person may use terms such as “positive” and “dislike” to describe different parts of their bodies. Your body image is constantly changing. It does so throughout a person’s lifespan.

Many factors contribute to a person’s body image.

We are bombarded with body image messages from various sources, which is very prevalent.

  • Before western TV was introduced to some countries, there were no cases of eating disorders in some countries. However, after the medium was introduced, the prevalence of body image disorders started to increase. The rise of social media and new apps such as Plump and Skinny Booth are altering our view of ourselves. They can also lead to extreme measures to improve one's body image. There are a few websites that can help you manage these factors. However, these tools are only as helpful as a trained therapist.

  • People’s history and upbringing can also affect how they see themselves and their bodies. In other words, if a person is raised in a social setting that values their physical appearance, they may start to believe that their bodies are more significant than their achievements. If you were praised for being beautiful instead of your internal performance, you are more prone to thinking negatively about yourself.

  • Culture has long influenced a person’s body image by defining what is attractive and what is not. Other factors such as religion and economic history can also contribute to a person's body image. Back in the days, Higher body mass index used to be a symbol of wealth and fertility, but as more resources have become available, it is now considered a symbol of fitness. Counter-attitudinal marketing is a type of marketing that shows people of various body sizes and ethnicities in advertisements. Counter-advocacy and counter-marketing were once seen as a way to improve body image across culture. However, they are now considered ineffective. The vast majority of media displays we see are not representative of our body type. In most cases, these are altered by the effects of various image editing applications.

There has been a narrowing of the gap between the number of women and men who have negative body image perceptions. The rise of body image marketing has affected every ethnic group and gender. It has raised concerns about eating disorders and body image concerns among all types of people. Studies conducted in the 1980s showed that people tend to feel negative about their bodies.

Does our image impact our choices in life?

Overconcern about appearance can prevent a person from obtaining the opportunities that they deserve. This phenomenon is known as self-handicapping.

A strong enough limiting belief can prevent people from experiencing life fully. Other common self-inflicted techniques that people use are postponing dating or visiting the doctor until they reach a certain appearance. These actions often lead to frustration and make us look unrealistic. People tend to look for ways to increase their access to certain areas of life, such as jobs and relationships. However, due to body image concerns, many of us avoid these areas, which can limit our chances of achieving these goals.

There are many strategies for cultivating a more positive body image. Dr. Kristine Luce, psychologist and clinical associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Standford University School of Medicine, encourages her patients to adopt their values instead of their negative self-beliefs. For example, she might encourage her patients to go to the beach and enjoy themselves despite the fact that they might feel uncomfortable doing so. It can be difficult to get used to the heat and the humidity, but it can help minimize the negative thoughts that can creep in.

It sure is challenging to break free from negative body image beliefs, especially for those with deep rooted notions. Dr.Luce, also encourages us to avoid talking about other people’s bodies in order to influence the world around us. This can be done by choosing to model our values instead. Instead of being influenced by our appearance, we should reconsider our decisions. Although some of us may not be able to do it, everyone can do something to show how comfortable they are in their bodies.

Body image is not static. Throughout life we move along a continuum of how we perceive ourselves. Regardless of how we feel about it at any given moment, we can have a full and meaningful life in the bodies we have.


References: 1. Products – Data Briefs – Number 313 – July 2018 [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2020 Sep 2]. Available from: 2. Fortman T. The Effects of Body Image on Self-Efficacy, Self Esteem, and Academic Achievement. 2006 Jun 1 [cited 2020 Sep 2] 3. Cash TF, Deagle EA 3rd. The nature and extent of body-image disturbances in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: a meta-analysis. Int J Eat Disord. 1997 Sep;22(2):107–25. 4. Markey CN, Markey PM. Relations Between Body Image and Dieting Behaviors: An Examination of Gender Differences. Sex Roles. 2005 Oct 1;53(7):519–30. 5. van den Brink F, Vollmann M, Smeets MAM, Hessen DJ, Woertman L. Relationships between body image, sexual satisfaction, and relationship quality in romantic couples. J Fam Psychol. 2018 Jun;32(4):466–74. 6. Markland D. The mediating role of behavioural regulations in the relationship between perceived body size discrepancies and physical activity among adult women. Hellenic Journal of Psychology. 2009;6(2):169–82. 7. Sarwer DB, Thompson JK, Cash TF. Body image and obesity in adulthood. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2005 Mar;28(1):69–87, viii. 8. Tylka TL, Wood-Barcalow NL. What is and what is not positive body image? Conceptual foundations and construct definition. Body Image. 2015 Jun;14:118–29.

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