A recent study among college students found that most of the normal-weight women -- nearly 90 percent - wanted to be thinner and half of the underweight women want to lose even more weight, or stay the same.
When your image of what you "should" look like doesn't match up with what you see when you look in the mirror it can lead to a vicious cycle of negative emotions and unhealthy behaviors that can spiral out of control.
It doesn't happen overnight but you can change the way you feel about your body. Here are two exercises I personally use that have also helped some of my clients:
Write a letter to your body. It may feel strange but this can be a powerful exercise. In the letter make a list of everything your body can do that you're grateful for. When I made my list I included being grateful that my body allows me to be able to laugh. I'm also incredibly thankful that I'm strong and healthy enough to hike (my favorite activity) and walk all around New York City. I also love that my body allows me to dance, hug the people I love and cuddle my pets. Once you get going you may be surprised just how many things you come up with! At the end of the letter thank your body for everything it allows you to do and stash it somewhere handy. When you experience a negative though, maybe about what you don't like about your body or what it can't do, re-read your letter - it can really help bring some perspective.
Find an activity that's not tied to manipulating your body. Even if hiking didn't burn any calories it would still be my favorite activity. To me every hike feels like an adventure and I love how I feel while I'm moving and exploring in nature. Maybe you feel this way about swimming, yoga or gardening? When you're engaged in a physical activity you enjoy, not because it's going to shrink your fat cells or sculpt your muscles, but because it feels like pure pleasure, it can significantly boost how you feel in your own skin.
Body image is something we all struggle with sometimes. When I find myself focusing on my flaws I have to remind myself that the people I find most attractive are the ones who radiate confidence, warmth and health, not the ones who look perfect.
How healthy is your body image? Are you aware of what feeds those negative thoughts and feelings and what counters them? Please share your thoughts!