Body Image - Eternal Battle With Yourself (Part II)
Body image is a multifaceted construct of perception, imagination, emotions, and cognitive components about our relationship with our bodies. The most important word of the definition is "perception" -- It's all about how we see ourselves, not how others see us. It is not dependent on size, gender (although women are statistically more affected), age, and/or ethnicity.
Unfortunately this term is mostly used with a negative connotation in conjunction with topics such as eating disorders, depression, and low self-esteem.Rarely do we hear about positive body image and that is part of the problem.
Here are some stunning facts:
- 50% of 3-6 year old girls worry about being fat
- 80% of girls have tried a fad diet by the time they're in 4th grade
- 80% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance
On a daily basis we are bombarded with artificial, photoshopped images, advertised as "real" women. Even articles in magazines promoting healthy body image and being happy with your body use photos that have been retouched/altered to the extreme.
Reality check: those bodies don't exist in real life!!
Children grow up in a society that glorifies an ideal body that doesn't exist. Every day young girls and women tell themselves they're not thin enough, not pretty enough, not young-looking enough, their breast aren't big enough, that wrinkles, stretch marks, and cellulite are disgusting. Who decided this and why? It surely wasn't based on promoting health. No, it is based on making money. If everyone felt good about themselves, imagine the decline in plastic surgery, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals, not to mention all the other industries benefiting from your negative body image.
The quest for the unachievable body is futile, explaining why more women feel the pressure to resort to plastic surgery in an effort to keep that ideal image alive. The futility of this battle is based in a process that is natural and happens to everyone, no matter your gender, race, and economic status: Aging!!
As we age, our bodies will go through changes and with that, aging inevitably moves us further away from the sociocultural ideal body that is supposed to be thin and young forever. It's a lost battle.
Negative body image is not inborn but learned! Unlearn it!! Chasing approval from others, leads nowhere. "I'm on the patch right now. Where it releases small dosages of approval until I no longer crave it, and then I'm gonna rip it off." - Ellen DeGeneres
So how do we fix it? There is no simple answer to it but here are some tips that can help:
Don't try to look like someone else; Be your own best self
Pay attention to your own body and know what you can and cannot achieve, what's realistic and what's not. Push yourself to be the best you can be but never chase someone else's version of yourself. It's pretty simple: you can't be someone else!
Focus on health and quality of life versus appearances; health has no age limit, appearances will change!
Spend time with real people instead of watching the media's version of what's real
Don't pay attention to the media
Talk to your children about body image. As a mother of a daughter, I am especially aware and mindful of this one. It has taught me to never refer to myself or others in a size, weight, or shape. If you do, it implies that your body is something you're not happy with and your children will follow suit. My daughter is now 4 and every time I pick her up and grunt because she's growing so much, she doesn't think her weight is what makes me take a deeper breath when lifting her up. She says "it's because I'm so strong". You are a big influence on how your children feel about themselves. Make a wise choice in how you talk about bodies.
Two books that I love for girls are: Girlosophy by Anthena Paul & Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo.
Note: I would like to note that this article focuses on women because they consistently report greater dissatisfaction with their bodies than men, but the issue of negative body image does not exclude men.
Stay happy & healthy
- Dr. Maria Luque