Body Image

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Why don't I like the size and shape of my body?

In our culture, youth, slimness and fitness are valued. People hold the ultra-thin bodies of models and actresses as ideals, no matter how unrealistic and unhealthy they might be. The underlying message is that women need to look slim and "perfect." Otherwise, they are not healthy, competent, desirable and confident.

As a result, many women are unhappy with their natural body weight, size and shape. This often leads to:

  • low self-esteem;
  • poor self-image;
  • too much focus on our bodies, or on specific body parts; and
  • severe eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and compulsive eating.

Even pre-adolescent girls (around 12 and younger) report that they diet to control their weight. Many women and girls risk their health even more by choosing to smoke to control their weight.

Changing your focus

Your size, weight and shape are largely determined by your genetics and lifestyle. Also, as you grow older, it's natural to gain some weight and see your body shape change.

Here are some ways you can lessen an unhealthy focus on your body:

  • Recognize advertisements for what they are–a sales pitch.
  • Look for other ways to feel good about yourself besides physical appearance. For example, you could pursue educational, spiritual and social activities.
  • Focus on health instead of appearance. Be sure that you are eating well, getting exercise, and taking time to relax.
  • See yourself as an entire being and not a "set of hips" or a "tummy.”
  • Admit that dieting doesn't work.

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia and obesity are severe health risks. They need special medical care. If you think you may have an eating disorder, see your doctor right away. Your life and health depend on it!

Where can I go for more information?

Revised April 2013.