The media is a forceful transmitter that feeds ideas and sometimes values into the minds of its consumers, and despite the recent push to diversify the size of models, body image issues continue to reign in women of all ages.
In a recent Brown University study, 74 percent of healthy-weight women reported they thought about their weight frequently, if not all the time. The study also found that when having a poor body image, one is subject to extreme weight/body control issues, such as severe dieting, exercise compulsion, laxative abuse, smoking and vomiting.
The research showed that while many women have a negative body image, having a positive body image was essential for the health of an individual.
“Negative body image is a process that is created by a series of messages that are outside of a person’s awareness at first,” says Sarah Katula, PhD, advanced practice nurse in psychiatry at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “The media will dictate over and over again what is beautiful, often objectifying women.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a healthy weight for height, age, and gender can be determined by calculating a person’s body mass index.
Study leaders said that every time people displace distress onto their body and then try to “fix” it, they not only enter into a process that has the potential to significantly disrupt their relationship with eating, activity, and body image, they also shut down any possibility of getting real perspective, mastery and peace in their wider lives.
Katula says that other factors that can influence negative body image are family and friends.
“Does the mother always talk about being on a diet and wondering out loud if she looks fat?” Katula poses. “Does a group of friends talk mostly about weight, diet and focus on appearance?”
Despite the many sources that can affect one’s sense of self image, it’s important to acknowledge ways in which an individual can change their views or actions to strive to have a positive body image.
Katula recommends the following:
- Watch your negative self-talk and alter it to something positive.
- Gain awareness about what the media is sharing.
- Become a better consumer of what you take in.
- Practice being others-centered, rather than self-centered.
- Be conscience of when you are on your phone and starting to have those negative body image thoughts. It will help you to stop comparing yourself to how others look.
- Take stock and be grateful for who you are and what you have.