How do you perceive a perfect body? What is a positive body image? If someone asked you to describe your ideal body size and shape, what would it look like? What made you come up with that depiction? And what would you do to achieve the perfect body you are aiming for? These questions can trigger stress in people who have eating disorders and body image problems.
In fact, anorexia incidents among female teens continue to skyrocket in many parts of the globe. Depression, anxiety attacks, and other psychological issues also haunt people with eating disorders and body image concerns. But still, some people may wonder about their correlation.
Let this article show you the unfortunate connection between our eating disorders and body image issues so we can address them constructively. Let us find ways to break the cycle and maintain a positive body image. Allow us to show you how you can look and appreciate your body image without resorting to eating disorders.
How Body Image Issues Start
How does a perfect body look like? People will always have different perspectives on a positive body image when answering that question. In truth, one can easily describe the ideal body that they would want to have. But what we noticed is that their description is a clear indication of what they would wish to change in their bodies. Chubby and cute adolescent girls would want to have petite figures; skinny guys wish to have a buffed-up physique as if having a bulky build is one full meal away.
For instance, one woman mentioned that she admires ladies with trimmed waist, full bosoms, and long legs. While saying this, we noticed her covering her love handles and getting even shorter when she stooped down, feeling self-conscious. This may start her wrong realizations, like resorting to eating disorders.
Body image: Front and Center
The way you see and recognize your physical traits is your body image. If your identification and familiarity with your size, shape, and appearance mirror how others look at you, then you have a healthy body image. However, if you struggle to see yourself the way others describe you, this can affect how you relate your insecurities and reality.
From the time you began to appreciate your reflection when you look in the mirror during your childhood, you are actually beginning to form your own body image. The way you dress, stand, walk, and make your body gestures suggests how you would want to look, not just for yourself but also for others around you.
As you grow up, several factors trigger your body image perception. People’s criticism, social media influence, and comparison to other people’s judgment in beauty distort your idea of how your body looks like. More often than not, the thoughts that you have — your many if only, I-wish’s, would-be, and should-be — would depict your insecurities and the drastic changes you would want your body to have so you can see yourself as beautiful.
Negative Body Image
Dissatisfied with how you look? Adolescent girls would want to lose weight and look like the models they see in magazines and TV ads. It comes to a point where their desperation leads them to hate themselves and not wanting to look at their images in the mirror. Several studies justify this action. Doctors and researchers find out that more and more males and females develop a negative body image of themselves, the more they get access and exposure to current events, social media, and critics.
Eating Disorders: The Wrong Perception of a Solution
When you see yourself as big and flabby, what is the first solution that you have in mind? I bet it would be that you promise not to eat the whole day. Don’t worry; many people think this way, but it does not mean it’s right.
If your weight is one of the things you think of as your flaw, you may develop the incorrect mindset that starving yourself is the best solution. As you struggle to lose weight, your mind or the destructive criticisms of people around you or on social media blur your mind, leading you to develop a negative body image associated with eating disorders.
Eating Disorders: Sorting the Classification
Several eating disorders made headlines as more and more people, adolescent girls, start to develop these, leading to negative body image and serious health conditions, even death. What eating disorder can we associate with body image issues?
A well-known eating disorder that celebrities have when skinny models get the most attention. Patients with anorexia nervosa pay close attention to their weight, thinking of themselves as fat. The solution they have in mind is to skip meals so they would not gain weight until starvation becomes a habit they cannot overcome.
Anorexia leads to becoming underweight, having a weak and sickly physique, brittle hair and nails, as well as several developing hearts, brain, or multi-organ issues.
If you have anorexia nervosa, you do not want to eat. But with this eating disorder, you tend to eat large amounts of food until you feel sickly full. Somehow, their brains tell them that they cannot stop eating, or they need to eat to mask the frustration of not being thin.
After eating nonstop, patients with bulimia nervosa forces themselves to eliminate what they consumed. They would either fast the next day, take laxatives, force themselves to vomit or exercise excessively until they remove the guilt of eating a lot.
Bulimia causes a lot of digestive conditions, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastritis, throat inflammation and pain, salivary gland infection, tooth decay and staining, dehydration, and hormonal imbalances.
In the US, this may be the reason why so many Americans are now considered obese—eating your heart out? Exactly. Individuals who suffer from this eating disorder guiltlessly consume large amounts of food in a day. Every day.
People with binge eating disorder do not control their calories, and they do not feel guilty after every ‘food fest’. But, the truth is, once they realized the harmful effects of their actions, they begin to feel ashamed and disgusted. However, they do nothing about it. In fact, they would still lose control of their food intake the next day, forgetting about their remorse the other day.
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Sounds new? Well, the term Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) sounds new, but it’s from an established eating disorder. Patients like body-conscious adolescent girls with ARFID, as the name of the condition implies, avoid and restrict themselves from eating.
Unlike anorexia, where the patient wants to eat but starves herself, ARFID patients abhor food all in all. They detest social dinners and would make excuses to pass up on the invitation. As a result, they lose weight, have poor or low growth, and develop health and nutritional problems.
Other Eating Disorders
Do not get us wrong; we know for a fact that there are so many more eating disorders that we did not mention, like pica (eating inedible things), rumination (voluntary reflux), and night eating syndrome, among others. We specifically left them out because we need to concentrate on the eating disorders associated with one’s body image issues.
Eating Disorders and Body Image
How a person sees himself is a reflection of his body image. Suppose you negatively look at yourself, or you fail to see the good in what others appreciate in your body. In that case, you’re definitely a candidate for having a body image problem, typically called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
What do eating disorders and BDD patients have in common? Their obsession with their looks. How they weigh, their shape and size, affect their mood and their appreciation of themselves. When they feel that they do not look good enough, their self-esteem and self-confidence get affected, hurting their interpersonal relationships in the process. Some would isolate themselves and give in to their eating disorders until they feel good. On the other hand, weaker patients tend to succumb to their disappointment and begin developing depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations.
How to Address Eating Disorders and Body Image Concerns
The first step in finding a solution to turn a negative body image into a positive one is acceptance of the patient that she has a problem and that her actions are unhealthy and inappropriate. Adolescent girls need guidance from their parents and guardians, so their perception of a positive body image becomes clear.
Experts recommend counseling and reiterating the importance of having a positive body image and outlook as part of their intervention. A psychological evaluation may help to determine what thoughts trigger their eating abnormalities. They should know what makes them tick, to put it lightly.
With this evaluation, the practitioner can deduce the triggers you encounter. He can then help you find ways to handle them healthily and instill knowledge and understanding of how you should think and act when you encounter such a factor.
What complicates a condition is if a body image concerns combine with an eating disorder. For instance, women who starve themselves are anorexic (fearful of gaining weight) and have BDD (they are already slender but see themselves as overweight). Your therapist may need to customize a treatment plan specifically for your condition, as combing two or three different approaches may be too much and too confusing.
In dealing with body image issues and your nutritional concerns that eating disorders caused, the most important weapon is the strength and love we get from our social circle. Your family and close loved ones should act as your support system because their guidance profoundly affects your outlook in life. Surround yourself with the people who sincerely love and appreciate you.
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