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Cultivating a Realistic Body Image

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 28 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Body Image Negative Body Realistic

The next time you can spare a minute, have a look in the mirror. What do you see staring back at you? How would you describe yourself? How do you perceive your body? This perception is your body image, or what you think you see in the mirror.

Unfortunately a person's body image is often very different from their actual body. It is this distortion, this negative body image, that often pushes people to their limit trying to change what isn't actually there. Rather than fight with this phantom image, cultivate a realistic body image based on what your body can do, and how you feel, rather than how you think your body looks.

The Basis for Your Body Image

Many young people base their body image on what they see in the media. Young women want to be thin and willowy, and young men want bulging biceps and washboard abs. Yet what is wandering onto our TV and cinema screens, and popping up in our magazines and websites, are the exceptions rather than the rule. In reality, base your body image on:

  • Medically accepted standards, such as a total body fat percentage of under 30% for women and 25% for men, or by calculating your body mass index, a ratio of your weight to your height, to see if it is in the normal weight range of under 25.
  • How you feel. When your body feels healthy and strong, then your body image should be as well.
  • Respect for yourself. Don't compare yourself to supermodels or celebrities, or even to your friends who have naturally different body shapes. Respect your shape and enjoy yourself.
  • Your body! Don't let your emotions get in the way of what you see in the mirror.

Changing a Negative Body Image

It's likely that if you sneak a quick peek in the mirror, you'll have at least one criticism of your body. We live in a society fixated on weight, beauty and fashion, and even the most confident of us will feel down at some time or another. If you find yourself fearful of your reflection, you must take measures to change this before you wind up miserable.

  • Participate in a favourite activity. When you use your body, you're more likely to respect it.
  • Walk to the shops. Remind yourself that you rely on your body and should treat it accordingly.
  • Organise a balanced, healthy diet. Your body can only feel as good as what you put into it, so make sure your fuel is fresh and healthy.
  • Quit smoking, drinking and/or taking drugs. Unhealthy chemicals will only make you feel slow and bloated.
  • Plan, and execute, a new exercise regime with a professional. If you feel unhappy in your own skin, take measures to change the situation but only with the advice of a professional.
  • Seek therapy. If you lead a healthy life and your body fat and body mass index are both in the normal ranges, then your negative perception is likely only in your mind. Talk it out with a professional and explore why you feel the way you do.
Body image is a tricky subject. Most of us know in the back of our minds that we need our bodies to be fit and healthy, but if we're honest we'll also admit that we want them to look well and be the perfect peg for designer clothes while we're at it. Rather than letting these unrealistic goals fester, focus on living healthily and enjoying the results!

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