Before we delve into the benefits, let’s define this often misconstrued term – Positive Body Image (a.k.a. body acceptance) is critical to emotional & physical well-being. It’s about redefining what worthiness in our bodies means by a personalized, healthy standard and not by the definitions of others (society, family, peers). Often the idea gets misrepresented as ALWAYS feeling unwavering love and admiration for one’s body – but really, it’s about accepting the whole of it and taking care of it, without the shame piece.
1. Increased feelings of connection – When people increase the positive body image, their levels of social and appearance anxiety plummet. This means = less thoughts like, “They must be looking at how ugly/awful my nose is…” and more thoughts like, “This person is fascinating…?” By default, you free your mind of the body bashing and are able to feel more connected with others. More friends. More support. Good stuff.
2. Better focus in school & work – Another benefit of clearing your mind from body bashing? More focus on the things that you really care about. This includes opening up more space for creativity and focus in learning, life, and work. Side effects include increased productivity.
3. Increased Gym Attendance – When you take away appearance anxiety, rates of gym attendance sky rocket. Increased exercise correlates to lower rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and much more physical ailments) and a bonus — a healthier, toned bod.
4. Healthier Diet Habits – By now you may be noticing a theme. Yes, it’s all connected. More gym time, more wow- my body is awesome does correlate to BOOM better diet habits. You’ll crave healthier foods, regulate hormones, and decrease the stress levels you feel about your body enabling your body to eat more regularly sized and balanced meals.
5. Increased Connection to body – Not only does this relate to being able to understand your bodies natural hunger cues, but also increased doctor visits (versus avoiding necessary ones) and prevention care of body ailments (getting massages, stretching, yoga, stress-relief).
6. Healthier Sex and Relationships – This means more healthy sex AND less risky sex (using condoms, safer partners, etc.). Knowing how important it is to feel safe and comfortable in our intimate relationships, body love is crucial.
7. Less binge/comfort eating – When people feel isolated (even if they aren’t) such as feeling alone in their body discomfort, many are triggered to seek connection they can’t find in society with food. Overeating and Binging often leads to weight gain which can fuel this viscous cycle. However, when you’re more in tune with your body, and not so isolated – overeating becomes less necessary.
8. Decreased rates of Depression, Anxiety, Suicidality – Unfortunately, studies have found that a bad body image is a good predictor of depression, anxiety, suicidality and… yes, childhood bullying. It’s easy to get into the chicken-egg debate here, but it’s likely bi-directional, as in, they feed upon one another.
9. Lower Rates of Eating Disorders, Diabetes, and other life-threatening diseases – Positive body image is negatively correlated to rates of eating disorders, diabetes, and even suicidality (as mentioned above). It is literally, a life-saver!
10. The benefits are for all – Studies have found that positive body image is related to well-being across age, gender, and culture. That’s right, it’s not just for women or teens, or “lazy Americans”, this applies to us all.
Until next time, Eat your Heart Full,
Empirical Sources (other than self-knowledge):
Lifespan. “Negative Body Image Related To Depression, Anxiety And Suicidality.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 June 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060606224541.htm>.
Olivardia, R., Pope Jr, H. G., Borowiecki III, J. J., & Cohane, G. H. (2004). Biceps and Body Image: The Relationship Between Muscularity and Self-Esteem, Depression, and Eating Disorder Symptoms. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 5(2), 112.
Romelus, T., Willis, D., & Torres, J. (2015). Risk and resilience among pre-teen girls: Examining the relationships between body image, self-esteem, and bullying.
Tiggemann, M. (2015). Considerations of positive body image across various social identities and special populations. Body image.
van den Brink, F., Smeets, M. A., Hessen, D. J., & Woertman, L. (2015). Positive Body Image and Sexual Functioning in Dutch Female University Students: The Role of Adult Romantic Attachment. Archives of sexual behavior, 1-10.