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Body image contributes to students’ emotional/mental and physical well-being. Everyone has a body image, check out the information below to learn more about how to cultivate a healthy body image and signs and symptoms that may result in disordered eating or eating disorders.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. It encompasses:
- What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations).
- How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight.
- How you sense and control your body as you move. How you physically experience or feel in your body.
A healthy body image is different for everyone but it includes feeling comfortable in your body, what you think and feel about your appearance, and how you judge your own self-worth.
- Appreciate your body. Instead of focusing on what your body looks like, focus on appreciating all that your body can do for you. Reflect on what your body does for you on a daily basis, such as walking to class or helping you complete a group exercise class.
- Be critical of media. Consider the type of images and bodies that are represented on your social media, shows you watch, or other forms of media you consume. If you find that you have negative feelings about your body or self-worth after consuming media, unfollow accounts and choose media that includes diverse individuals and bodies.
- Focus on body acceptance. You don’t need to love every part of your body to accept it. Body acceptance or neutrality is a journey, focusing on your health and well-being is a helpful step when you are practicing acceptance.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Surround yourself with friends, family, and loved ones that appreciate you for who you are and remind you to appreciate your body.
- Wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good. Wearing clothes that feel good on your body and make you feel confident. Whether that be an oversized sweatshirt, sweatpants, or your favorite crop top or muscle tank. It doesn’t matter the type of clothes as long as you like them.
- Engage in intuitive eating. Intuitive eating focuses on acknowledging and following your body’s cues for hunger and cravings. The core to intuitive eating is eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. In addition, intuitive eating includes eating what your body is craving and not constricting yourself to certain foods. Check out this intuitive eating guide for more information.
- Avoid body checking. Body checking is where you spend a lot of time in front of mirrors to check to see if your body looks a certain way. Body checking often happens after meals, in the morning, and before bed. If you struggle with body checking, avoid mirrors during the times you most frequently look at your body.
- Move your body in a way that feels good. For some that struggle with body image, exercise is seen as a way to change your body rather than a way to promote health and make you feel good. Reflect on the type of movements that you enjoy doing such as dancing, hiking, or stretching. Incorporate those types of physical activities into your routine.
Information adapted from the National Eating Disorders Association.