Body image is how you see yourself. It is a compilation of the thoughts, feelings and beliefs you hold about your body. Contrary to popular belief, body image is not defined by, nor is it or dependent upon, a person’s specific size, shape or weight. The way we see and experience the form and shape of our bodies reflects the positive and negative experiences we’ve had with our bodies as children and adults, as well as our social attitudes and cultural ideals.
Many people develop a healthy body image as young children. They perceive their physical dimensions accurately and realistically, and are generally satisfied with how they look. They’re able to grow and develop normally, and the people around them support and accept these changes. And despite media messages that glorify thinness and perfection, their self-image remains accurate and whole. However, when this process is disrupted in any number of ways (bullying/teasing, trauma, media messages, dieting pressure, illness, etc.) people may experience their bodies in a very negative way.
Negative body image and body image distortions often play a major role in eating disorders and generally exist in some form across all of the various eating disorder diagnoses listed above. At the Center for Eating Disorders, treatment for the eating disorder involves treatment for body image. In working to help people heal it is important to help them repair the relationship with their body. Through treatment, individuals who struggle with negative body image are able to:
- CHALLENGE distorted perceptions about their weight, size and shape
- Restore TRUST in their body’s ability to regulate appetite and weight
- Develop ACCEPTANCE of perceived imperfections
- Create a new definition of BEAUTY outside of the media’s narrow standards
- Express APPRECIATION for all that the body allows them to do.
For more on the topic of body image, visit the CED blog, read about art therapy techniques for body image and follow CED on Facebook for positive body image updates. Our outreach staff is also available to do positive body image workshops for organizations in the community.