Disordered eating and body image distortion was once thought to be solely the purview of teenage girls. But the truth is that young and middle-age women commonly struggle with this issue. In addition, in the last decade, it has become increasingly apparent that boys and men can be just as susceptible as women. There have been a lot of influences over the years — fashion, media, and most recently a hyper-focus on fitness and clean food — all impact how we feel about our body. No one is immune to the influence. Here are five ways you can help develop a healthy body image (and support one in your children too!):
- Acceptance. A healthy body comes in many shapes and sizes. Not everyone can look like the latest supermodel, fitness magazine cover, or music sensation…and they don’t need to. The differently shaped, colored, and height of our bodies and faces are part of what make us beautiful. Accepting ourselves as beautiful
where we are is an essential part of creating a healthy body image.
- Focus on health, not weight. While it is important to work toward reducing your weight to reduce risks for weight-related disease, but the most important thing is to work toward better health. Even if you remain overweight, you can be metabolically healthier by eating well and exercising. Many individuals experience weight loss, with little effort, when they begin to really focus on eating well.
- Start where you are. Whatever you can do to be healthier, one day at a time, is what you should be doing. You don’t have to do it perfectly. Just start with one thing. Do that. Then do the next right thing. Make it a family affair!
- Clean up your language. Stop talking about your body (out loud and in your mind) in a negative way, comparing yourself to some photos that are probably photo-shopped anyway. Don’t use this negative talk in front of your children.
- Buddy up. There is power in emotional, social and physical support, so find a friend! Research shows that even as adults, our eating behavior, physical activity and diet are heavily influenced by those we spend time with. Choose well.
If you need help with any or all of these five tips, a registered dietitian nutritionist can help. Find one in your area at www.eatright.org (click on “Find a dietitian”).