Body image anxiety is nothing new. For hundreds of years women have been bombarded with images of fashionable bodies and ways to achieve them. Today we have considerable choice and freedom of expression. It’s never been easier to find fashion that fits our shape and size. Yet more than ever women are anxious about the way they look.
So how can we learn to accept, if not love, our body?
Research by Professor Nichola Rumsey, (University of the West of England) shows that children as young as five can show understanding of body image judgments. By seven they are beginning to show body dissatisfaction and by adulthood, 90% of British women have body image anxiety. This appears to be a lifelong issue as many women in their 80’s are still concerned about the way their bodies look.
Experts continue to debate the factors which have led us to have this focus on looks. In the meantime the effects of body image anxiety on women, in terms of stress, eating disorders and even depression, increases. So in a world where many models and celebrities are a size zero how do you stay body positive?
“When I was growing up there wasn’t one woman in my environment who I heard saying something positive about their body. Everything was negative, negative, negative. I accept how I am and make the best of what I have been given. That’s why I only talk positively about my body in front of my daughter.” Kate Winslet
12 ways to love and accept your body:
1. Treat yourself as your best friend. You wouldn’t call your best friend names such as ‘fat’ or ‘wrinkly’ so don’t do it to yourself.
2. Avoid fashion magazines which contain unrealistic versions of what celebrities and models actually look like.
3. Avoid negative self-talk about your body. Instead of standing in from of the mirror and telling yourself how bad certain parts of your body are start focusing on the parts you do like.
4. Get new role models that you can actually imitate. Choose them for reasons other than appearance such as their work ethic, generosity or determination.
5. Don’t compare yourself to others. You’ll always be putting someone down, either yourself or the other person. You may temporarily feel better but both will have a bad effect on your self-esteem.
6. Eat balanced meals, get moderate exercise and be outside more.
7. Throw away the scales. They are just a number and not a measure of your self-worth. If you want to measure something, measure your generosity, number of friends, education or determination.
8. List the things you like about your appearance. You may find this tricky at first, but with practice, when you look in the mirror you’ll only see the positives.
9. When you receive a compliment respond with a sincere ‘Thank You’, then take it to heart and believe it.
10. Stop trying to achieve your perfect body. It is an unattainable goal that will only make you feel like a disappointment or a failure. If you want to lose weight set yourself a realistic goal you can maintain.
11. Understand that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Many other women are struggling to be happy with the way they look. However it is a goal you can achieve.
12. Remember you are an exceptional and beautiful individual and any ‘flaws’ you have are really just reasons why you are unique.