Negative feelings and thoughts towards one’s body are defined as body dissatisfaction or body image distress. Body image distress usually occurs among those with mental health disorders – including food addiction, depression, and anxiety.
Negative body issues among adolescents have been found to affect 50% of girls and 30% of boys. However, this rises to 80% of women and 40% of men in the adult population.
What is Negative Body Image?
A significant number of people are concerned by at least one aspect of their body; however, a negative body image conveys an overwhelmingly general dissatisfaction towards one’s body shape, weight, size and appearance.
The development of a negative body image is a multidimensional construct that comprises an individual’s conditioning, childhood, beliefs, thoughts, perceptions, feelings and behaviours.
A negative body image can result in numerous psychological and physiological disorders, including:
● Depression, anxiety, stress
● Low self-esteem and self-worth
● Substance use
● Food addiction, anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders
● Social isolation
● Obsessive-compulsive disorder
● Body / muscle dysmorphia
So, how can you tackle a negative body image?
Challenge Your Misperceptions!
Negative body image can become so ingrained that, unfortunately, it is often one of the last symptoms of an eating disorder to go following treatment. Additionally, it’s important to note that it may be impossible to become entirely free of body image concerns as the perfect appearance is a concept perpetuated throughout our society. That said, there are a variety of successful interventions proven to help counteract negative body image.
These interventions are numerous and widespread, so it is vital to find the ones that work best for you.
Stop That Negative Inner Chatter – By listening to that voice in your head which shames you and is hurtful and damaging, you are perpetuating a detrimental cycle. Avoid these judgements, counteract them, argue back, and change the language! Compliment yourself each day. Once you get a handle on your inner critic, you can start to get to the nitty-gritty of change.
Challenge Avoidance and Body Checking – If you are used to body checking multiple times a day or undergo the opposite – hiding your body from yourself and others – try to make gradual steps to change this. Start wearing clothes indoors you are afraid to wear outside in the house to get used to them and build confidence.
Gratitude Interventions – Keeping a gratitude journal is a wonderfully positive daily exercise. By starting each day with five things you are grateful for, you will quickly discover how your mindset shifts.
Buy Clothes That Fit NOW – Embrace your body the way it is today. Buy clothes that you love that compliment you the way you are now. This will increase your self-esteem and self-worth exponentially.
Move More – Exercise is known to boost endorphins and make us feel energized. Improving fitness can also improve body image by encouraging individuals to focus more on their overall health and energy and less on their appearance.
A healthy, positive body image involves having an objective perception of one’s appearance and an ability to separate one’s value as a person from the way one looks.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Bunmi Aboaba is a Food Addiction Coach and leading authority on food addiction, helping clients achieve a healthy relationship with food to meet long-term health goals. Dr Bunmi’s work covers the full spectrum of disordered eating, including overeating, compulsive eating, emotional eating, and other associated patterns. Dr Bunmi is creator of the R4 Method, a Food Addiction Certification to support nutritionists, nurses, teachers, health and fitness professionals, dieticians and medical clinicians to help their clients achieve long-lasting results. Dr Bunmi runs 7-day self-care retreats for clients suffering from food addiction, and is author of ‘Craving Freedom’, a new book for those wanting to build a healthy relationship with food.
Twitter: @ FoodAddicti2
Sources:  Quittkat, Hannah L. et al. “Body Dissatisfaction, Importance Of Appearance, And Body Appreciation In Men And Women Over The Lifespan”. Frontiers In Psychiatry, vol 10, 2019. Frontiers Media SA, doi: 10.3389 / fpsyt.2019.00864. Accessed 3 Aug 2021.
 Kearney-Cooke, A., & Tieger, D. (2015). Body image disturbance and the development of eating disorders. In L. Smolak & MD Levine (Eds.), The Wiley Handbook of Eating Disorders (pp. 283-296). West Sussex, UK: Wiley