This is not just a client issue. It’s a child and adult issue. It’s seen as political warfare. The media continues to have a heavy influence on what is seen as physically beautiful. Skinny, symmetrical faces tend to be placed on a pedestal. Extra bonus if you are a light complexion within your race. Super extra bonus points if you can reach a Kardashian figure 8 look.
So what do these social media messages mean for young children that still developing physically, mentally, & emotionally? Researchers seek for answers, and these are the following relationships found:
- Girl Scouts did an online survey in 2010 with over 1000 girls ages 13-17. 9 out of 10 girls felt pressure by fashion and media industries to be skinny.
- Numerous correlational and experimental studies have linked exposure to the thin ideal in mass media to body dissatisfaction, internalization of the thin ideal, and disordered eating among women.
- Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight. (Martin, 2010).
- Pressure from mass media to be muscular also appears to be related to body dissatisfaction among men. This effect may be smaller than among women but it is still significant.
- Conversely, Black-oriented television shows may serve a protective function; Hispanic and Black girls and women who watch more Black-oriented television have higher body satisfaction.
- Body image concerns often begin at a young age and endure throughout life. By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape, and 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. (Smolak, 2011). Furthermore, over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (Neumark- Sztainer, 2005). It is important to note that the age of onset differs depending on the individual, and these body image concerns may start younger, or never come up at all.
These statistics is to spark a conversation between you and your loved ones. There is no sole reason as to why negative body image runs rampant among youth and adults. We can only see its impact from our point of view. We see the messages play out in our lives and in our loved one’s lives. Please take note that the media, your cultural background, and your social connections can all play a direct and indirect part into one’s body image development. If you find yourself, or someone you know trapped in the following cycle, they may have an issue with how they love their own body.
- You physically pick at your body and focus on the things you do not like about it.
- You look at your body and feel disgusted.
- You feel bad after eating a meal. (And you know you are supposed to eat 3 meals a day for a balanced diet.)
- You have a hard time looking in the mirror. Or, you may avoid mirrors entirely.
- You consistently find yourself going on the scale to then base your mood off of how much you weigh.
- You have automatic thinking patterns that circulate shame: ” I hate my body…” “Look at how fat I got…” “I shouldn’t have eaten that…”
- You are upset/disturbed by comments of others when they make a statement about your body. (“You’re too skinny…”, “You’re too fat…”, “You used to be smaller…,” “You used to look so different…”, “Wow your legs are super toned…”, etc.)
- You believe your value is based off of how you look.
- You compare your body to other.
- You compare the old you to the current you, and putting yourself down makes you feel frustrated and sad.
It is time to learn new ways and move from being a victim to becoming a victor at building a healthy body image. An image you feel proud of–flaws and all. To let go of perfection and to appreciate your body is the way to a healthier mindset and action towards a happier you. If you tend to ignore your thought life, your current beliefs will crystallize overtime. Any message from others that agree with how you see yourself will become stronger, creating a stronghold. Being a prisoner to your poor mindsets will not get you far in life. Using a lens of negativity towards your body image can lead to long-term harm. Not caring can get you caught up in fad diets, unhealthy eating patterns, poor boundaries with how people treat your body, overexercising, depression, and anxiety. If a distorted body image continues, it can be diagnosable towards an eating disorder, or a body dysmorphic disorder. Not only is this a mental health issue, it is also a medical health issue. Truth be told, not everyone you see is skinny on purpose. They can also be bullied about their body image. There could be a chronic illness that is making them struggle with their smaller weight, and they will need guidance on how to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.
This brings me to my first point on how to build a better body image that is loving and affirming.
#1) Do NOT judge what you see. Some of us may be having a thyroid issue or another chronic illness that is frustrating. Bullying people who are small is just as bad as bullying people who are bigger. A judgment made towards someone’s body is a curse. Focus on blessing others and being kind to them and to your own body. Radical acceptance requires you to let go of how you and others see. You let go of that right to judge your body for the worst. It is time to just it through a lens of self compassion and loving honesty. Love every part of you, inside and out. Even if you have to say it in the mirror and hold yourself until you believe it. Just do it; you and your body are worth it.
#2) Focus on what you love about your body. Can you quickly name 10 body attributes you love about yourself? Did it take you some time to answer that question? Identify what you love and repeat it out loud. Keep it in a journal. Do this Daily. Work out your mind so it aligns with your body. Need help with mindfulness and body image? Check out this resource.
#3) No more watching the scale: Say bye to your scale and remove it from your house. We fluctuate between 5 pounds daily, and to have your mind on the number is not a healthy way to change anything about your body. When losing weight the right way, you look at how clothes are fitting you rather than a number on a scale.
#4) Enjoy your body… NOW! You may have a goal to lose or gain weight in a healthy way, but do not wait for the end goal to finally like your body.
#5) Remember, your body image is only a component to your self esteem. This falls under the ‘do not judge what you see.’ Many people are very successful with their work and life passions, but they may have a hard time loving their own bodies from time to time. To assume a low self esteem would be wrong. They have shown high capabilities in other ways that helps their self esteem. Think about enhancing our self esteem by working your body image. If you can succeed in other things, you can defnietely build loving body image and enhance your quality of life. Don’t lose yourself in what you have already accomplished while trying to get better in this area.
#6) Let go: Do you have old clothes that you are waiting to fit again? Let it go. Collect it and donate it. Are you living in the ‘glory’ days of when you were a different size? Let it go. No more meditating on it. You only have the present moment. Tomorrow is not promised, so why stay in a fantasy world of ‘how it used to be’?
#7) Do not become your worst enemy: It’s not attractive to body shame yourself. It may be easy to do because it’s where you find false comfort; however, the consequences are long-lasting. Just think about it – if your current partner or potential suitor is trapped in your messages of you saying ‘I’m too big’ or ‘I’m too small’, you are going to push them away. Can we say pity party for one? I think so. Have good boundaries and seek support in a different way. Find a supportive friend that has been shown to be trusting to talk to and to assist you in getting better with what you say about yourself. Having that accountability can quickly change things as they can help you pinpoint how frequent you make negative statements about your body. Eventually, you will get better at catching it for yourself and make better verbal remarks.
#8) Make Exercise fun: Exercise should never be a chore! Find something that brings you joy and do it! Some things my clients enjoy: Running, Deep Sea Diving, Dance Fitness, Martial Arts, Hiking. No matter the activity, the only motivation should be to have fun.
#9) Enjoy your meals by taking out that extra guilty conscience. We eat to nourish our bodies, not condemn. If you need help in planning meals that better suit your overall health, I recommend making an appointment with a nutritionist, or a specialized representative that focuses on weight management. It’s all about mindset and self control. Take action and follow through with things that enhance your quality of life.
#10) Dress in a way that is fashioned for you.
Developing your own personal fashion style according to your lovely body type is key to feeling good about your body. Putting on clothes that are too loose or too tight can make you feel the discomfort. These feelings of discomfort can lead to negative thoughts about your body and how you feel about it. Remember, clothes should never own you, you own the clothes! If you need to book a stylist, contact me for fashion therapy services.
#11) Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. The visual arts is very powerful. Become a critic, and control how much you see. For example, if #fitnessmotivation on instagram is making you feel less than, you need to cut it entirely. Become an advocate for body positivity by sharing statistics. Inspire a change. Someone out there needs a voice that will bring light into this topic.
#12) Surround your self with uplifting people.
Anyone that makes you feel low, or if you feel like you have to lower yourself to feel as if you belong is not a good fit for you! Find your tribe that uplifts you and nurtures you. Find that tribe that also corrects you for the better. Anyone in competition of you, especially with body weight is NOT a true friend.
If this article helped you in any way, let us know below. Sharing your story brings a voice into the conversation and can bring good health and healing for others.