In many households mirrors are used as decorations. For some people mirrors are their allies, but for others they are their worst enemies. For some teenagers, looking at themselves in the mirror can either boost confidence or cause a moment of panic.
Similarly, many adults dread looking in the mirror. Even those with a positive body image have days when the experience is just depressing.
Body image (the perception we have of our own body) is something that changes constantly as a result of growth and development and external influences. Other people’s negative comments and the internalization of each culture’s “ideal body” have an impact on one’s body image.
Although we must adapt to the society we live in, we should never let it, or other people’s comments, influence how feel about ourselves.
In the United States, most people would agree that looking good is important to us. Though looking good certainly boosts our self-esteem, being healthy is more important.
Many people believe they need to be a specific weight to “look good,” but this is false and irrelevant. Maintaining the right body weight should be more a matter of health than aesthetics.
If your weight is proportionate to your height and you exercise to keep your muscles toned, you will certainly look and feel better. You will also be less likely to develop chronic diseases, and other medical conditions, than someone who is obsessed with their weight and disregards their health. Eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, are becoming increasingly common. These are psychologically-based illnesses in which the individual has a distorted body image.
For years these eating-disorder-related illnesses were reported as isolated cases, but they are now becoming more common in all socio-economic groups and younger age groups. The number of men suffering from these disorders is also growing. There has even been discussion about an “Adonis complex.” This is when men, regardless of how muscular they are, feel puny and become obsessed with bodybuilding.
The following are measures that can be taken to avoid negative feelings about your body:
- If you or your teenagers are obsessive about their weight or their body image to the point that it is the main focus in your/their lives, consult an expert (a psychologist or psychiatrist).
- Willpower, not physical force, will help you lose weight and be healthy. Maintain a body weight that is right for your size. Remember that first and foremost, your health is most important. If you are healthy, you will also feel good about the way you look.
- Don’t believe advertising. Many models you see in commercials suffer from seriously disordered eating. These are not body types that the general public should try to achieve.
- Accept yourself as you are. There are some parts of our body that we can shape, but our genetics determine our basic build. Accepting is easier and will make you happier than spending your life trying to change.
Look around. Maybe there’s a mirror nearby. Go up to it and take a few minutes to think about whether you really need to change something about that image for your health’s sake. If there is something that needs changing, remember that in most cases the first step is likely to be a good exercise routine accompanied by a well-balanced diet. Accept yourself as you are. There is no other image in the world identical to the one you are looking at right now.
*Nutritionist from MyDiet™ Team President of the Venezuelan Society of Nutritional Education
© 2016 HolaDoctor