Body image

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Learn more about body image and how having a positive body image can improve your overall health.

Key points

  • Body image is how a person feels about and sees their body.
  • A positive body image will help you take better care of your body.
  • Culture and media have shaped the way people think about their bodies.
  • Body dissatisfaction can lead to disordered eating.
  • You can take simple steps to help foster a positive body image.

What is body image?

Body image is how a person feels about and sees their body. People’s body image can be influenced by their own feelings and by the reactions of those around them.

When someone has a negative body image, they are not satisfied with their body. This is also known as body dissatisfaction.

Why body image matters

When you have a positive body image, you will be more likely to:

  • feel good about your body and what it can do for you
  • recognize your strengths and qualities beyond your appearance
  • take care of the needs of your body
  • exude confidence and have higher self-esteem

Body image and the media

Culture and media have shaped the way people think about their bodies. For a long time, being thin and looking a certain way has been advertised as the recipe for success and good health. The media has also played a big part in promoting “diet culture”, which categorizes foods as either “good” or “bad” and praises people who lose excessive amounts of weight. With the rise of photo and video editing technology, the media also often promotes body images that are just not real. All of this combines to put an exaggerated value on appearance and makes people feel ashamed of their bodies.

Body image and health

Teens who are dissatisfied with their bodies are more likely to engage in unhealthy eating practices, such as restrictive dieting and binge eating. Both are forms of disordered eating, which is when a person knowingly ignores their internal cues of hunger and fullness. Disordered eating can put you at risk of developing a range of eating problems, some of which can lead to eating disorders and obesity. Disordered eating is not safe, sustainable, or effective. Therefore, fostering a positive body image is key to supporting your overall health.

Defining a positive body image

Health, weight and size are not connected in the way many people assume. It is possible to have a small body and be unhealthy just as it is possible to have a large body and be in excellent health. We can’t judge a person’s health by only looking at them on the outside. Weight and size are based on some factors that cannot be controlled, like genetics, side effects from medications and as a result of certain health conditions. What can be controlled is your outlook on your body and the people and media you surround yourself with.

People with a positive body image recognize and accept that:

  • Healthy bodies come in different shapes and sizes.
  • Body size and weight do not predict happiness, success, or health.
  • People are more than numbers on a scale; every person is a unique individual with admirable talents, skills, and abilities.
  • Images in the media are unrealistic and are created to sell products.
  • Food is fuel, and it is important to eat a variety of foods that you enjoy.
  • It is healthy to move your body in ways that make you happy.
  • Sleep is an important part of staying healthy.
  • Surrounding yourself with people who love and appreciate you is a form of self-care.
  • It is okay to reach out for help if you are feeling low about your body image.
Last updated: November 23rd 2023