Saturday, February 26, 2011

10 Ways to Develop a Positive Body Image

The end of National Eating Disorder Awareness week is here, but that doesn't mean the conversations on body image should end! In my last post, I discussed some myths and misconceptions of eating disorders, and gave some general information. This is a good place to start. However, moving past this basic knowledge is crucial to changing (and hopefully decreasing) the rates of eating disorders and body image issues.

How many of you, when you were young, heard a parent, sibling, relative, or friend constantly tearing themselves down, commenting on their body imagine (negatively), or engaging in fat talk? As children, we develop patterns of thinking, speaking, and behaving by observing those around us. Because of this, adults have a great responsibility to model healthy behaviors for the next generation.
Although we cannot reduce the causes of eating disorders to self esteem and body image issues alone, these things certainly play a very strong part in the development and maintenance of eating disorders.

Here are 10 ways to Develop a Positive Body image and Increase Self-Esteem:

1.     Avoid labeling food as “good” or “bad”. When you do consume a food you’ve labeled as “bad”, this tends to feelings of being fat, or feelings of guilt. Yes, there are foods that are healthy, and yes, there are “junk foods”. However, the idea of “everything in moderation” tends to work a little better and produce less guilt.
2.     Understand how the media discusses & portrays body image. Comparing to those in the media is unrealistic, because the people themselves do not look like that in reality (or how they are appearing is incredibly unhealthy). Discuss with young child.
3.     Avoid “fat talk”. Instead of focusing on what’s negative about your body, focus on the positives, and what your body (or body parts) allows you to do.
4.     Move every day! It may be really tempting to spend your entire evening or weekend sitting in front of the TV, but this obviously leads to a sedentary lifestyle. Get up and move! This will help you both physically and emotionally.
5.     Remember that skinny is NOT healthy. HEALTHY is healthy! Obviously, there is a correlation with size and health (i.e. obesity is never healthy for an individual), but just because someone is small does not mean they are healthy.
6.     Stand in front of the mirror every day and give yourself 3-5 compliments
7.     Practice reading affirmations on a daily basis to focus on what’s positive instead of degrading yourself daily
8.     Start talking to children when they are very young about a healthy lifestyle., and model what it looks like to live in a healthy manner.
9.     Develop emotional awareness: help yourself or a young child to identify emotions and deal with them (and cope) in a healthy manner. (for example-deal with sadness or frustration in a healthy way, and not turn to food to “make it better”)
10. Identify & Challenge any Cognitive Distortions you might have

So, there are 10 things you can do to increase your own body image & self-esteem, and be a good role model to those younger then you. I'd like to know What do you do to increase your self-esteem or body image? What do you do to decrease your positive body image?

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