Love Your Body?
Raise your hand if you love your body! If you are in a room of 99 other women, chances are only 10 of you at most will raise your hands. According to one survey, on average, women have 13 negative body thoughts daily—nearly one for every waking hour. And a disturbing number of women confess to having 35, 50 or even 100 hateful thoughts about their own shapes each day.
Anecdotally speaking, I have noticed that virtually none of my female friends are happy with their bodies. It doesn’t matter how intelligent, successful, beautiful, toned or thin they are.
Think about it: how many women have you heard say “You know, I really like my body”?
This epidemic of body dissatisfaction has affected girls and women of all ages.
A 2009 University of Central Florida study found that nearly half of the 3- to 6-year-old participants said they worried about being fat. Meanwhile, the number of eating disorder hospitalizations for kids under age 12 more than doubled between 2000 and 2006, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
NEDA also reports that as many as 10 million females are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder . In addition, many individuals struggle with body dissatisfaction and sub-clinical disordered eating attitudes and behaviors.
And growing older doesn’t appear to insulate women from unhealthy body images and eating disorders . In fact, data show recent surge in older women at eating disorder clinics. For some women in their 40s, 50s and 60s eating disorders are resurfacing or emerging for the first time. As many as half of the women in eating disorder treatment centers are over 40.
What’s going on? How have we created multiple generations of women who feel so much loathing for their bodies? To be clear, having a poor body image is not the same as having a full-blown eating disorder. But even carrying around negative thoughts about your body day after day can become emotionally devastating.
At Appetite for Health we write a lot about weight management. And most data show that being overweight or obese can lead to serious health conditions. So for health reasons, yes, it is important to maintain a “healthy” weight. And we do have a significant problem with obesity in the United States. But it is also important to keep balance and body acceptance in mind. Even if you are currently looking to lose weight, it is still vital to love the skin you’re in.
What to Do
Eating disorders and poor body image are complex conditions that arise from a combination of long-standing cultural, behavioral, biological, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, and social factors. There are no simple solutions. If you are suffering with eating issues or very low self-esteem, seek help from a professional therapist.
While there is no quick fix, some of the following may help get you started to feeling good, rather than feeling fat:
- Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages: write a letter to the advertiser or talk back to the image or message. Something I did long ago: quit reading ‘beauty magazines’. I have no regrets and feel like I haven’t missed a thing! Recently 8th grader Julia Bluhm took a stand against Seventeen Magazine for perpetuating unrealistic images of girls after hearing her classmates complaining routinely about having “fat days”. If an 8th grader can take this kind of initiative, we can all do something.
- Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you –running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
- Keep a top-10 list of things you like about yourself — things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about you.
- Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin-deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you look like a supermodel. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.