Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes, but that doesn’t stop many of us from having a negative body image. According to Andrea Pennington, MD, at any given time almost half of American women are trying to lose weight, and about a quarter of all college-aged women have an eating disorder. Scary—but perhaps not entirely surprising, given today’s dangerously thin models, airbrushed magazine covers and everyone’s-doing-it plastic surgery attitudes.
Body image issues can start even before some kids can tie their shoes, developing as early as first grade. According to psychologist Erik Fisher, PhD, about 42 percent of first, second and third grade girls want to be thinner; 81% of ten year olds are afraid of becoming fat, and 51% of nine- and ten year-old girls feel “better” if they are on a diet.
Feeling Better about Ourselves
A poor body image can lead to emotional distress, low self-esteem, unhealthy dieting habits, anxiety, depression and eating disorders. That’s why Sharecare rounded up tips from leading experts on how to improve body image in kids and adults.
- Do things that make you feel beautiful. According to a study sponsored by Dove, more than half of women say they feel beautiful when they help others or spend time with their children. The study also found that women feel beautiful when they are physically active, are successful or do something artistic.
- Try some yoga. Having a healthy body image also comes from being confident of your body as a whole—the way it looks, the way it feels and the way it moves. Need help in that arena? Trainer Beth Oliver recommends yoga, tai chi and Pilates, all of which can help boost confidence and self-esteem because they allow you to focus on how your body feels, not how it looks.
- Help your kids by setting an example. That means letting them know you feel comfortable in your own skin (if you call yourself fat, stop now) and modeling good eating and exercise habits. And be careful to avoid sending negative messages to your kids about the way they look.