With summer right around the corner, it's time to dust off the patio furniture, pack up the sweaters and dig out the tank tops and shorts. It's the season of backyard barbeques and fun in the sun. With the warm weather and trips to the pool or the beach, there is often an intensified focus on our bodies.
Generally, most people have something they'd like to change about their body - wide hips, short legs, soft bellies - the list goes on and on. Some of this desire for change is ok; it may motivate us to exercise more or eat better, but sometimes body image issues can affect us in negative ways.
Tips for maintaining a healthy body image
- Embrace the body you have. It's easy to focus on the things you want to change about your body, but try spending more time on what you love about it. Maybe it's your eyes, your strength, your good health or the belly that held your children for nine months. Whatever it is, find something to appreciate!
- Stop making comparisons. Remember, the media's portrayal of the human body is grossly inaccurate. The average person does not look like the models on television and does not have the luxury to get airbrushed to perfection all the time.
- Make realistic goals for yourself. If you want to become more fit or healthy, it doesn't help to dwell on the negative. Make realistic, positive changes in your life, and the results will come. This can be as simple as taking a walk every day.
- Spend time around positive people. Hang out with people who love and support you just the way you are and say goodbye to those who make you feel inadequate in some way.
- Compliment yourself every day. Build up your self-esteem by reminding yourself what you love. Your smile, your ability to make people laugh, your exceptional cooking abilities, etc. The more you compliment yourself, the better you'll feel. When you value yourself for many reasons, your view of yourself will be well rounded and less concentrated on your body image.
Recognizing signs of trouble
Most people have moments when they feel down about themselves or what they look like, but it's important to realize when your negative body image may be affecting your life in a bigger way. If you or someone you know has an unhealthy preoccupation with body image, it may be time to seek help from a counselor or another source. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Constantly thinking negative thoughts about your body
- Frequently comparing yourself to others
- Calling yourself names such as "sloppy" or "gross"
- Refusing to accept a compliment
- Believing that a different waist size or weight is the key to your happiness
- Feeling a sense of shame about your body
- Letting your mood be determined by how you look
- Always focusing on what you don't like when you look in the mirror
Negative body image is most often seen in women, but many men suffer from it as well. It often coincides with low self-esteem and depression and can eventually lead to eating disorders. The Military OneSource article About Eating Disorders can provide you with additional information and resources.
Military OneSource offers health and wellness coaching at no cost to help eligible individuals safely improve their overall health and well-being in areas such as weight management, fitness and nutrition, stress management and more. To sign up, call 800-342-9647, and a Military OneSource consultant will register you and schedule your first session right away.