By Avni Kaul, Nutritionist & Founder of Nutri Activania
It takes all kinds of people to make the world as beautiful as it is. And happy, confident , outgoing overweight people are also a part of it. It is great to have a positive self-image and accept our body weight but one should never give up trying to be fit. Your health is in constant danger from various chronic conditions and diseases if you have a higher BMI (Body Mass Index) than is recommended . The quality of life gets affected if one is not healthy. So the love you have for yourself should be translated into making yourself fitter and stronger through regular exercise and nutritious food.
Healthy Body Image
Body image comprises of your beliefs, thoughts, perceptions , feelings and how you treat your body and appearance. The image that we have of ourselves influence our mental , physical and social health. Persons with eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia place a high value on their body shape and weight thereby demeaning their self -worth. However, not everybody with negative body image have eating disorders. It can also develop due to obesity, muscularity, sexual functioning, scars, visible facial or body differences, disability and changes in body due to medical procedures or disease.
A person with a healthy body image accepts himself / herself as he/she is while going about his daily business whether social or professional. They don’t compare themselves with the unrealistic standards of models and actors . Though having a positive body image does not ensure good mental or physical health, it does protect against poor self -esteem and irregular eating patterns. Mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphic disorder can also be prevented if one has a positive outlook towards oneself.
Body Image and the Media
The media, which comprises of television, movies, the internet, video games, magazines etc., constantly feeds us the ideal body size, shape, and weight through its models, actors etc. It is upto us to appreciate them and their hard work in maintaining the perfect figure but not get too influenced by them as this perfection is not required in all fields. Good health is more important than having a perfect body. Negative body image may bring about discontentment , low esteem, depression anxiety .A person may be hit with a serious mental health condition like body dysmorphic disorder in which he / she gets preoccupied with their appearance and its flaws.
Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia are complex, serious mental health illnesses which are caused by biological and psychological reasons and also by negative body image.
Body Image, Obesity and the “THE HEALTH” at “EVERY SIZE “ MOVEMENT
The standard size presented in the media is making a lot more people feel obese with their BMI being on the higher side. Weight related stigma is leading them towards depression because even in social settings, they are being discriminated against. This is leading to following extreme diets and vigorous exercising and sometimes even bariatric surgery. It is difficult to maintain the weight loss specially if it has happened due to some tough plans as a result of which the weight returns leading to self-loathing.
I emphasize the acceptance of all body shapes, sizes and weights without shaming any individual. There maybe number of reasons for a person to be overweight or obese and secondly not all of those overweight or obese people maybe unhealthy. On the other hand, not all people with perfect weight or body size maybe healthy. So whatever the weight or size of an individual maybe , they should not be discriminated against. This emphasis should be on :
- Weight inclusivity and acceptance
- Health enhancement through equal opportunity everywhere
- Weight stigma and bias should be acknowledged
- Flexible . individualized , intuitive eating should be promoted without focusing on weight control
- Enjoyable physical activity should be supported , promoted and available to all according to their age , abilities and interests
By changing the focus from weight loss to overall health may bring a positive effect on body image. Hence , an individual’s self-worth will not be dependent on his weight only.
Developing Healthy Body image
The awareness that media promotes unrealistic standard of size and beauty is the first step towards developing a healthier body image.
Taking into account one’s blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol and enjoying a physical activity regularly improves one’s mood thereby improves one’s mood thereby promoting a positive self-image. Parents should encourage self-acceptance by not criticizing food habits, body weight or shape at all times. Poor body esteem followed by frequent dieting and self -depreciating talk should be frowned upon. Instead acknowledge your positive traits and the healthy parts of your body without comparing yourself with anyone.
These changes are sometimes be difficult to follow. So take help , whenever required from a family member or a professional who will help you cope with a negative body image. However, qualified help should be sought immediately if serious mental health disorder needs to be treated. If a person is suffering from depression , anxiety or eating disorder , professional advice should be followed so that the problem can be nipped in the bud.
Love “thyself “ is a motto that we should all follow but it should not be at the cost of endangering one’s health. So while it is important to have a positive body image of oneself , it is equally important to have a fit healthy body no matter what shape or size we may have, which in any case may vary from one individual to another due to several reasons. So the emphasis should always be on consumption of nutritious food and regular exercise.
About Avni Kaul:
Avni, Founder of Nutri Activania (www.nutriactivania.com) believes in a holistic approach to optimal living and considers other wellness factors such as sleep, exercise, environmental exposures, and stress levels to create an individualized nutrition plan. She does not believe in gimmicks or starvation plans. Which is why she insists on being called a ‘wellness coach’ and not just a ‘dietitian’). To consult with Avni, or follow her, you can click on any one of these links: