2019 was the year I did a serious detox of my social media pages, as I couldn't help but notice everyone is trying to look the same these days. What's trending in the "standard ideal of beauty" department seemed to be everywhere. When you step back and reduce your exposure, you are less wrapped up in these ideals, and more grounded in reality.
The following are some examples from an article from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA):
"People get positive attention in the world by losing weight. And you can do it to an even greater extent on Facebook.” --Anika, 18
"It's only the 'standard beauty' who gets the 'likes.' I feel like to be the hot girl, you have to be like that, or wear your shirt too low and your skirt too high." --Kirby, 18
"The less clothes you have on, the more popular you are.” --Dayton, 17
"People create a fake self." --Daniela, 18
Pretty powerful and intuitive words from such young individuals. From a dietitian's perspective, I insist on exploring their comments much more deeply. From a young age, it is drilled into girls that society values women most (if not only) for their appearance. On the flip side, there are a set of ideal standards for men's bodies as well. Everyone has a perception of their physical selves. Body image and nutrition are heavily intertwined, and body image is highly connected to one's mind- playing equally important roles on our overall health.
There are so many influences on how our body image has become what it is. Think about your childhood, where your beliefs & relationships with food and your body stemmed from, the attitudes of those you surround yourself with, your culture, social media, and so on. A lot of these factors have become subconscious to us, but play such an important role on our attitudes and everyday behaviors. While most think the key to changing your body image is changing the appearance of your body, it is really about increasing your self awareness of your body. Just because we have been conditioned to think one thing, doesn't mean we have to agree with it--- OR live by it.
Self acceptance is radical. While very few people are 100% positive about every aspect of their body, it is essential to accept the fact that how you look is only one part of who you are. Working on accepting yourself as a whole individual is healthier than constantly working to change how you look, especially when the intention of changing your body is coming from a harmful place. When we accept that the physical is just one piece of us, we also make room to nourish the other aspects of ourselves that we tend to neglect.
If healthy body image is something completely unfamiliar to you (to most it is), start by finding a positive body image role model. Characteristics include:
- Those who incorporate balanced eating and physical activity into their unique lifestyle
- Those who avoid fad or crash diets
- Those who appreciate their own body's abilities, and not just how it looks
- Those who are proud of who they are on the inside as well as their accomplishments
- Those who accept and value others no matter how they look
When working to change our relationships with food and our bodies, it is 100000% okay to need help. This is why Registered Dietitians as well as mental health specialists do what we do. One part of self acceptance is acknowledging where we need help, rather than resisting it. The result is always growth in one way or another.