Distorted Body Image

Many eating disorders start with children or teenagers having a distorted body image of themselves. This article defines body image, distorted body image,  and how it effects your self-esteem. Keep reading for tips on improving your body image.

One of the biggest challenges facing teenagers these days has to do with the way the view their bodies. Many teens have a distorted body image, feeling unhappy about their bodies, and believing that their physical appearance is negative in some way. While this problem of distorted body image is most common in teenage girls, there are growing numbers of teenage boys who are uncomfortable with their bodies, and who have distorted body images.

What is body image?

Body image is a complex psychological phenomenon. It involves the way we feel about our bodies, and how we view them. It includes our perception of our own bodies, how we think others view our bodies, our emotions about our bodies and the physical sensations we have about our bodies. The entire concept of body image is purely subjective. How we feel about our bodies has no basis in objective fact; it is entirely a psychological construct. However, even though body image is psychological in nature, it can have a profound impact in very real ways.

Your body image is often influenced by your self-esteem, and how you feel about yourself. If you do not feel good about yourself, or comfortable with yourself, you are unlikely to view yourself as attractive. Males have this problem, to a lesser extent than females. Part of body image comes from perception of whether or not we fit the images we see of bodies that are concerned attractive. These images are often present in the media, and they teach us that we need to look a certain way to be considered attractive. Fixation on becoming attractive in this manner can lead to a negative body image, and a whole host of problems, including eating disorders, depression, and unhealthy habits.

Tips for improving your distorted body image

It can be difficult to improve your body image, but it is important to develop a healthy sense of your own attractiveness, and to build confidence in yourself. Some things you can do to improve your body image, and stop fixating so much on whether or not you think others find you attractive, include:

  • Decide what you want out of life. Most people would rather have good friends and enjoy the company of their families. Decide that you want to enjoy life, rather than spend so much time focusing on developing the “perfect” body. This is unattainable, and you will likely make yourself unhappy by fixating on it.
  • Develop healthy eating habits. This means eating when you are hungry, and training yourself to avoid eating just because you are stressed or lonely. You can eat for pleasure, enjoying good food, but do not over eat. Eat until you are pleasantly satisfied. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Get the right amount of dairy. What you eat can affect your mood, and healthy eating can result in a more positive outlook.
  • Exercise regularly. No matter your size, regular exercise can help you feel good. Find physical activities that you enjoy, that you may not necessarily consider exercise.
  • Be realistic about your body. Understand that many of the images that you see are unrealistic - and some are even unhealthy. Be realistic about what is a healthy weight and shape for you. Be realistic about your body, based on genetics and your environment. Accept that you may never be as skinny as a model that starves herself, and realize that such an unhealthy outcome is undesirable anyway.
  • Associate with positive people. Do not waste your time hanging out with people who put you down because of how you look. Find friends that you enjoy being with, and who share common interests. Look to be a good friend to others, and look for these qualities in the people you spend time with.
  • Learn to be happy with your talents and abilities. Instead of basing your happiness on your appearance, develop talents and abilities that you enjoy and can be proud of. Develop confidence in yourself as a capable person, rather than relying solely on your looks to feel good about yourself.

It can be difficult to overcome a negative or distorted body image. However, if you look for ways to enjoy life, and if you take a realistic view of yourself and your appearance, you can begin to make the changes in your perception that can lead to a healthier body image and greater happiness.

Related Article: Body Dysmorphic Disorder >>