6 Things that Impact Body Image

What impacts the way you feel about your body?

We are bombarded with a myriad of messages all of the time about how our bodies "should" look and how we should show up in the world. I have been an eating disorder therapist for almost a decade and I want to share with you some of the most common responses that I get from my clients today about things that impact body image!

1. First up: Diet culture. Diet culture is a set of cultural myths around food, weight, and health. It focuses on thinness as an ideal, and labels foods and behaviors as either “good” or "bad" and "healthy" and "unhealthy". When we get the message that what we are doing is "bad", it can be easy to then feel like we are bad as a result. 

2. Comments about our bodies: "You have lost weight, good for you!" In some ways you think that might feel positive or supportive, but often comments about weight loss and body change can bring up insecurities. 

3. Overly edited images: Is social media even real? It seems like most everything is airbrushed and curated and filtered x10. Some of my favorite images to see are how some folks show the deception of posing. It is normal to have wrinkles, cellulite, etc. but we often don't see that. We often just see the "very best" of others, which can in turn impact how we feel about ourselves. 

4. Privilege of certain bodies: It is obvious the bodies that receive more attention, at least in our culture. Thin, white, young, abled bodies. If you exist outside of that, there is less value subscribed to you and your appearance. Is it messed up and disturbing? For sure, but it absolutely exists. When you don't see bodies that look like yours in the media or you see bodies that look like yours treated poorly, there is detrimental impact to your mental health. 

5. How others talk about food and bodies around you: This is honestly probably the thing I see mentioned most! We learn about food and bodies based on those we are around the most. This often includes or family, friends, teachers, caregivers, etc. If other people are speaking in a certain way about their food and bodies, it absolutely impacts the way we feel about ourselves. Even if we felt more neutrally or positive, it then makes it hard to continue feeling that way if others speak negatively. A lot of my clients are female and identify that the way they heard other women talking about their bodies greatly impacted how they felt about theirs. Especially if they had similarities to those bodies and were told "Oh you look like your mom." Okay, that doesn't feel great if my mom is constantly saying she hates her body or needs to lose weight, right?

6. Size or appearance based sports: The pressure to maintain a certain size body or shape in order to be better at a sport, run faster, or "look the part" is huge, especially in adolescents. Some common activities and sports that are often weight or appearance focused are: dance, gymnastics, running, and swimming. There can be a false narrative that weight loss=better at something. 

What would you add to my list? Leave a comment and let me know!

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