Body Image and how it affects your Eating Habits
January 12, 2018
As Published in Thrive Magazine
Body image refers to the way we perceive our body based on self-worth and other people’s reactions. This, in turn, affects our feelings, beliefs and attitudes. Body image could be positive or negative. A positive body image implies that one is generally happy with the way they look, having accepted their shape as it is. Contrary to that, a negative body image means that one feels inferior to the role models promoted by media, society or environment and is generally unhappy with the way they look. Most of the times these are unrealistic thoughts and when they exist for a long time they could lead to eating disorders.
Media and even more social media play a very important role on the formation of body image beliefs and role models relevant to ideal weight. Normally the ideal body is the fit, well-built body without signs of defect. Indeed, the way the body is portrayed in social media after all editing and corrections is spotless. As a result, people might set unrealistic targets, which by definition could not be achieved, leading them to vicious circles of unsuccessful efforts, disappointment and guilt.
How this affects eating habits
This attitude affects eating habits in the following ways:
- Following express diet plans which usually lack in necessary nutrients for body function
- Vomiting or adopting other unhealthy behaviors to control food intake
- A feeling that the body is flexible and able to adapt to weight loss and weight gain easily
- Increased amounts of stress
- Elimination of self-esteem and self-worth
Steps to healthy eating
The aim of each person is to learn how to accept and love their bodies and adopt a healthy eating pattern based on nutrient not calorie intake. There are some steps that could help them achieve this. These are:
- Learn to love food. Food is the body’s fuel and the only way to keep active and healthy. People cannot survive without food. So, the question is not about whether one should eat or not but what they eat. There are some many options for a healthy and tasty meal which is full of nutrients. A healthy food could be as enjoyable as an unhealthy snack, it is just a matter of getting the sense of taste used to it. What one should avoid is highly processed foods, saturated fat and sugar which provide the body with “empty” calories.
- Try to find out the connection between food and feelings. Feelings of loneliness, sadness or disappointment could result in binge-eating or purging behaviors. It is quite helpful to keep a diary of these episodes and especially try to track down their stimuli. If one manages to match the unhealthy behavior to a specific event then there is a lot of room for improvement.
- Understand that the way one looks does not prove who they are. It is unfortunately common for people to judge each other according to their looks only. This is a kind of discrimination that could appear in all aspects of daily life. Each person needs to fully understand that they are a combination of mind and body and their personality does not exclude one or the other.
- Find the real reasons. This means finding the real reasons that someone pays so much attention to the way they look only. It could be related to their life experiences, stereotypes, the beliefs they grew up with etc. This is the first step in finding the solution and changing thinking patterns.