A good body image is an essential part of healthy self esteem. A low body image, or poor opinion of your body, can be a contributing factor in poor self esteem and eating disorders. A poor body image can even impact your physical health. Here's why it's so important to maintain a healthy, positive body image.
What It Means to Have a Positive Body Image
Your body image is your perception of how your body looks, and it often has little to do with your weight or physical fitness level. Many people have a poor body image even if they have what might be considered an ideal body type, but many people who don't have what's considered an ideal body type have a good body image. If you have a good body image, you feel good about how your body looks and feels.
Factors that Contribute to Body Image
Many people feel unhappy with their bodies because they don't fit cultural expectations regarding height, weight and general appearance. Cultural stereotypes of what constitutes an ideal body type can be so ingrained that many people feel an enormous pressure to be thinner, taller or more muscular. Media images of thin women and muscular men contribute to the societal pressure to attain an "ideal" body type.
However, it's possible to attain a positive, healthy body image no matter what your body type. Eating right, exercising regularly and managing stress can all contribute to a positive body image. Learning to accept and enjoy your body is key to forming a good body image.
Consequences of a Poor Body Image
If you have a poor body image, the consequences can be devastating. Poor body image can contribute to low self esteem, anxiety, depression, bad eating and dieting habits and even eating disorders. Because body image is linked so closely to self esteem and self confidence, a poor body image can lead to chronic unhappiness, damage to relationships and difficulty beginning new relationships, and lack of professional success.
Poor Body Image and Eating Disorders
For many, a poor body image is a major contributing factor in the development of eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Many people with eating disorders begin by feeling deeply unhappy with their bodies. Eating disorders put you at high risk for a number of serious health problems, including:
- Heart problems and heart failure
- Bone loss leading to osteoporosis
- Gastric rupture during an eating binge
- Inflammation of the esophagus
- Tooth decay
- Chronic constipation
- High blood pressure and cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Improving Your Body Image
If you have a poor body image, you can adopt a more positive body image by taking better care of yourself. Eat right, exercise regularly and manage the stress in your life. Taking better care of yourself will help you learn to accept your body as it is, and to enjoy your body for what it can do. Adopt a more critical point of view towards the messages about body type presented in the media and even by your family and friends; focus on the things you like about your body rather than the things you don't.