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What is body image

Most people think body image is just about how you look but that is so far from the truth.

Whether you are what you consider “over” weight, “under” weight, or “normal”- whatever that is, you struggle from time to time with body image.

Think about it.  You’ve likely been on a diet and said when you get to this goal, then you will feel comfortable in your body. So many people think when they lose weight, they will feel better about themself. I hear these comments all too often.

After I lose weight my body image will improve.  When I…..

  • lose x amount of weight
  • get to my goal weight
  • get to X size of clothes

….then I will be happy and feel better about myself. But then you got there and say, well, just another 5 pounds. The problem with this way of thinking is that you are forever going to be let down.

Most people still don’t feel good about their bodies after weight is lost.

 This is because body image is not about how you look.

While you may think that the emotions you experience inside your body are about your weight, this is not an accurate way of thinking.

Body image is complicated with many factors contributing to how you feel.

You were raised in a diet culture, the thin-ideal society that tries to simplify things down to you are not good enough the way you are, and you need to change your appearance to feel better.

By exploring what body image is, you will see that there is much more related to your appearance than what meets the eye.

Let’s talk about understanding body image today.

Living in a diet culture with all the messages you hear about being “healthy” gets confusing when it comes to understanding body image. Diet culture is the culture we live in that provides a message that only healthy foods are good, exercise is for changing your body size, and thin bodies are healthy bodies. None of these messages are accurate, yet there is a huge industry that profits off these “not good enough” messages.

For most of the clients coming to me for the Platinum Program, when they think about their bodies, they experience an uncomfortable feeling and begin to think negative thoughts.

They focus too much on the perceived imperfections. Instead of praising all the things their body has done for them, they tell themselves they need to change how they look so they will feel better. This view of themselves and the need to change makes them feel negative about their body.

Having negative thoughts about your body is no surprise when you are living in a society that is constantly focusing on appearance.

Here are 6 areas to understand what body image is and is not.

1. Marketing messages impact how you feel about your body.

Marketing messages are everywhere saying you can be better by buying a product or program. This “not good enough as you are now” message is the cornerstone for so many products and selling tactics out there. By selling the false belief of how life can change after using whatever magic product they are selling, not only do you not feel good, but you see a need to buy another product.

You are constantly being subjected to the “not good enough” message. These messages are enticing and so believable. By shifting your focus and thoughts, you can improve your body image by following the 7 tips to improve body image.”

Because diet culture thrives on people thinking they need to lose weight, there is no surprise that when you feel not good enough, your thoughts are associated with your appearance. You tell yourself you will feel better if you just lose weight or look better.

Let’s explore how your thoughts about your body contribute to how you feel about your body.

2. Body image is what you think about your body.

How YOU think about your body is a contributor to your body image.

Did you notice that there is nothing about your weight here? So many think that with different body weights, they will have a better body image.

You may look in the mirror from time to time and realize you don’t look as young or slim as you used to be. Guess what, none of us are as slim as we were in high school, because we were kids then!

Your body changes over time, and this is meant to happen.

Instead of being the most judgmental person about your own body, try to appreciate all your body does for you.

Did you know that appreciating your body starts with not being so critical about yourself?  You are the only one that sees your “less than your “ideal” body.”

That’s right those glaring wrinkles, body fat, and perceived imperfections you sometimes focus on are characteristics others don’t see the way you do.

3. Body image is not how others see your body.

Body image is also what you think that others see and think when looking at your body. While you may feel like others see your body the same way you view yourself, that is just not true.

Many people do not apply for a job because they fear being rejected based on how their body looks. First, you will never know unless you put yourself out there. Often the confidence, how you present yourself, and your personality are what draw people to you. That’s right, letting your personality shine and feeling confident may lead to job offers.

Your appearance is NOT what attracts people

Do you judge people based on how they look? Why would you be any different? You are not that special! This judgment based on appearance problem is more about the stories you tell yourself about your own judgment and what you think others think of you.

I am willing to bet the stories you tell yourself about how your life will change when you achieve your “ideal” body seem so believable. 

4. Your stories about your body contribute to your body image

Over time you have created many stories about your life and how your body interacts with the world. You have many self-limiting beliefs because of experiences over time and how you made a story about your experience.

Instead of saying to yourself that the boy in high school you wanted to date was shallow and looking for a “trophy girlfriend” to make him feel better about himself, you told yourself he didn’t like you because you were fat.

You could have been telling yourself you did not get a job because of how you looked when the company had a more qualified candidate.

Besides, even if the reason you didn’t have a boyfriend or job was because of how you looked, would you really want a boyfriend or a job at a company that operated with such a superficial lens?

I bet not, yet this line of thinking is so prevalent.

I have heard it so many times. When I lose weight, I will…..

  • attract a partner.
  • have more energy.
  • be happier.
  • feel more comfortable in your skin. 
  • be healthier.
  • not get diabetes. 

You can experience a happier and healthier life and feel more comfortable in your skin without even changing how your body looks.

When living in a diet culture, blaming your body for your struggles with confidence, acceptance, and self-esteem is far easier than going to the root of what you are feeling. These struggles with body image are common and everyone has a bad body image day every now and then.

5. Everyone struggles in some form with their body image from time to time.

Everyone has days where they don’t feel as good as they would like to about their body. You don’t have to be a woman to struggle, this is not an identity-specific or even age-specific struggle.   

So many clients struggle with body image. Guess what? This is normal, expected, and a part of life. Some days you just don’t feel as good. In our society, we find this message far too easy to blame on how we look. Instead of the fact that we don’t feel 100% wonderful about ourselves all the time.

Perhaps the reason you feel bad about yourself is that you have not had the time to practice self-care activities.

These self-care activities could be activities like stress reduction, moving your body in an enjoyable manner, adequate sleep, or social connections.

This lack of self-care practices leads to feeling stressed. This does not mean that something is wrong with your body. By identifying what the challenge is, you don’t blame your body.

While you might not have the “ideal” body you dream of, you can still live your life and feel good, or at least learn to accept your body. You see when you practice self-care, you do feel better about your body. This is because you are taking care of yourself, not because you are changing your body.

This is true because your body image does not come from what you look like.

6. Your appearance is not what attracts people

Your appearance is not what attracts people to you or makes people want to spend time with you. Beauty comes from the inside and works its way out. Even though you may feel your body image would be better if you looked” better,” this just is not true.

There is nothing wrong with your body.

Your thoughts about your body are what create your body image. You can feel better about your body and live a healthier life, regardless of your weight, nutrition intake, or exercise program.

Think about what attracts you to others. I know you can think about an incredibly attractive person, by society’s standards, that has a very annoying personality. Are you still attracted to them, or do you have a tough time being around them because they are annoying?

You are attracted to people who radiate confidence, joy, and energy. Think about it, I am willing to bet you have lots of different body sizes of people you know that fit this description and that you love being around. You do not judge them for their body! And they don’t judge you for what your body looks like!

Your action steps

Body image is the feeling and thoughts you have when you look at yourself, compare your body to other people, or what you think other people think about your body.

You can better understand what body image is by looking at how life experiences and marketing messages impact your perception of your body.

You can start feeling better about your body now, regardless of what your body physically looks like.

By understanding why you think your appearance impacts your body image, you can stop blaming your body.

If you would like some help finding the right balance between improving your nutrition and feeling better about your body, let’s talk about your next steps on a quick call.

Would you like a quick way to impact how you feel in the next few minutes?  Try my Mindful breathing exercises that will help you with emotional eating and feeling better in your body.

Guided Mindful Breathing Exercises

Kathryn Fink Martinez

Conquer food fear and overwhelm! My passion is helping guide people who are embarrassed about their struggle with food and teaching them simple habit changes that lead to a life with more energy, happiness, and the freedom to eat the foods they truly enjoy. Find a realistic food and exercise approach and remove the uncertainty about what to eat. Get started with some of the free resources on my Confidence in Eating website, especially the Bariatric Success Guide., Emotional Eating Quiz, and Binge Eating Quiz resources. I offer telehealth nutrition programs so you can live your life knowing how to nourish your body, mind, and soul.