Virtually all little girls have grown up dreaming of being princesses and playing make-believe with their fashion dolls. Once they are too old for dolls, these budding Princesses are bombarded with the coolest Hollywood fashions, and they all want to look like their favorite star.
As adolescents they become increasingly aware of the changes taking place in their body and in all of their friends. Magazines are full of information on how to “hide your flaws” with skillful make-up application or styles of clothing. Entertaining gossip magazines and TV shows love to expose the celebrities who don't dress right or who go out without hair and make-up done properly. They print close-up shots of those “flabby bellies” and “thunder thighs” alongside pictures of all the “beautiful people.”
It is no wonder that having a positive body image (how you feel about your own physical appearance) is really hard to achieve for the majority of women.
So Much to Fix?
Capitalizing on our insecurities, the business of “fixing” your appearance is a multi-million dollar industry. Talk shows, ads, infomercials, and even reality TV shows put mainstream focus on “diets that work,” exercises to help you beat the bulge, “how to have perfect skin,” and even cosmetic surgeries to fix your nose, teeth, lips, and cheeks, remove you wrinkles, increase your bust size, tuck your tummy ... create a new you!
Everyone has their own genetics that will determine their bone structure, body shape, and height. There is nothing you can do about it. Even if everyone ate the same food and exercised the same way for a whole year, they would still look different.
Society's obsession with looks and weight has made women in general afraid of gaining weight or getting old. If you are overweight, people assume you are lazy and eat junk food. Conversely, if you are skinny, you must eat salads and exercise all the time.
Our family and friends also positively or negatively influence the way we see ourselves, and often we are our worst critic. We look in the mirror and see all of our “imperfections.” If you were to ask some of the most gorgeous, fit women about their bodies, they can name several things they hate and would love to change.
An average American woman is 5'4'' tall and weighs 140 pounds whereas a typical model is 5'11'' and weighs 117 pounds.
Instead of trying to conform to unrealistic body ideals, we should focus on what we love about ourselves and emphasize these assets.
Adopting a positive body image is crucial to a woman's happiness and well-being.
Often women believe that if they lose weight they will be more attractive. In fact, all they truly need is to feel good about themselves.
It is vital for us to empower ourselves by learning how to build our self-esteem. Instead of minimizing compliments others gives us, we should accept them graciously and try to see ourselves through their eyes.
Weight is the most common complaint, and there are significant reasons to be concerned. Being overweight or obese is linked to many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer.
It is crucial to understand the value of a healthy lifestyle to maintain a healthy weight and eliminate yo-yo dieting. Unfortunately, in the United States approximately 10 million females and 1 million males are struggling with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, with an increasing number fighting binge eating disorder (out-of-control eating).
The Right Weight
We have to set a goal for a realistic healthy weight and support each other in tuning out all of the media hype about “the perfect body.”
To help achieve your goal and remain positive:
Don't weigh yourself everyday. Weigh yourself once every month at the same time and take your measurements.
Don't wait to buy new clothes until you lose all the weight. It’s amazing how being in a new pair of pants that fit properly will boost your spirit.
Set realistic goals and reward yourself when you achieve them!
Instead of forcing yourself to exercise in order to lose weight, try to find an activity that you enjoy. Exercise can be a social time or personal time to reflect. It is also a stress reliever.
The trick is to enjoy what you are doing and soon you will notice that you are getting stronger, looking and feeling better, with more energy.
Body Image During Pregnancy
Often during pregnancy, women are overly concerned about how their growing body looks. They may fear gaining weight and getting stretch marks.
Focusing on the positive and embracing your body as it changes during your pregnancy will help you enjoy the experience. The birth of a child is a miraculous event. Join prenatal classes and take up yoga or light swimming. You will meet a support group of other women going through the same changes, which can help you focus on your health and your baby.
Teaching Your Kids
Being a parent is a big responsibility. You always have to keep in mind that your kids are learning from you. If they grow up hearing you complain about your appearance and weight, they will learn that these are important concerns.
If your child has a weight problem, make sure you implement positive change in his or her life and avoid any negative comments about how they look. Encourage healthier eating and active family pastimes like walking or biking.
Compliment your family and friends on the things you like about them. Every time you look in the mirror, focus on the things you like about yourself. When you do see the magazines and ads full of “beautiful people,” remember those things you like about yourself. They would probably envy you!
Above Image Courtesy of Jennifer Mansell
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