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How to Have a Better Body Image!

Learning How to Have a Better Body Image

What is body image exactly? It is the reaction we have within us in response to what we see in the mirror. It includes our perception of how we look, as well as how we feel about that look. And our perception of our body image impacts our attitudes and behaviors. We can choose to have a positive body image or a negative one.

We are conditioned at a very young age to believe that self-worth is derived from external characteristics such as the type of car we drive, what type of career we have, type of home we live in,  type of clothes we wear, etc. Body image is forever changing because it is sensitive to our mood swings, physical environment and our personal experiences. It is formed out of every experience we have ever had and all the people around us-parents, role models, the media and our peers. I have shared this example before that my oldest daughter has low self-esteem and in HER mind, she isn’t as “worthy” a part of our family because…she is 5’3 and her sister and parents are tall at over 5’8, she has blonde hair and everyone else has dark brown hair, her name begins with a “M” and her sister and parents’ names begin with a “R”, and she can go on and on with a long, descriptive list.  In her mind, she believes that she is a less important member of the family because of her differences. Therefore, body image is not only what you see when you look into the mirror, but also what you feel when you think about your body or circumstances. If you feel ashamed, self-conscious, disappointed or anxious about your body, then you will have a negative body image. If you feel comfortable and confident in your body, you will have a positive body image.

To be successful at weight control, a person should strive to change the physical appearance from both the outside and the inside. We should stop entertaining negative thoughts and “picking apart” the parts of our body that we dislike. This only leads to increasing anxiety at not being perfect. (Which we should all know by now that no one is perfect, right? Hollywood characters and the media photos are touched-up and airbrushed images of perceived perfection and we have to be careful not to buy into that myth).

Instead, we need to focus on our body as a whole and concentrate on what we love about ourselves: our mind, our wit, our personality, etc. Then we should practice walking with our heads high, shoulders back, swinging our arms, feeling the power in our legs and take a moment to appreciate how strong our body is. Remember what most of us were taught as children? “If you can’t say anything nice, it is better not to say anything at all.” Practice this strategy on yourself and lighten-up! Are your imperfections so worthy of all the attention you give them? When you find yourself obsessing about your body, ask yourself how important it really is, then remind yourself to stop taking things so seriously because, honestly… no one else is. Don’t let the scale or mirrors consume you. If you have a well-rounded life, you will have more interesting things to talk about than the last 7 pounds you can’t seem to lose. Start by getting back to a hobby you once had or just doing something you truly enjoy. Surround yourself with people who have a healthy relationship with food, their weight and their bodies. And take time to nurture your inner self: read, take naps, bubble baths, gaze at a sunset, pray/meditate and enjoy life. You only have one body and one life. Imagine yourself at 80 years old–do you think you’ll care about the size of your thighs? Most likely you will be more glad that your legs are still working and love them, saddlebags and all! If you believe in yourself, ANYTHING is possible!

Robin Saunders, RN.

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