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Loving your body inside and out

by Hazen Center for Integrated Care
Tue, Apr 17th 2018 08:00 pm

Body positivity is a term that has been circulating the feeds of social media for some time now. It seems like more and more celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Drake are riding the body positivity train. But, what exactly does it mean to be body positive? Well for starters, the definition of body positivity commonly used is the one cited by Alia E. Dastagir, in an article written for USA Today. 

It defines body positivity as the “radically re-imagining of how American culture views bodies, moving from a society where differences are ranked to one where they are celebrated,” according to USA Today. However, changing cultural views on bodies is no small task, especially when looking at the amount of people who believe body positivity is “encouraging obesity” or “putting down people who are thin.” Body positivity is for everyone, and encourages self-love, acceptance, and a healthy lifestyle.

So what is healthy about being body positive? Well, several studies highlight the health benefits surrounding positive self-image. Most prominent, are the mental health benefits of body acceptance. For example, a study done in 2015 examined the connection between positive body image and the mental and physical health of undergraduate men and women. 

The study found that those with greater positive body image reported “less depression, higher self-esteem, fewer unhealthy dieting behaviors, and lower drive for muscularity,” according to pubmed.gov. These results are particularly significant, as the leading mental health illness in college students is depression. Fortunately, these results indicate that practicing body positivity can help in counteracting effects of depression. 

Additionally, the results of the study did not appear to be dependent on the gender of the participant. That is, both men and women displayed similar connections between positive body image and health-related benefits, according to pubmed.gov. This aspect of the study helps us debunk the common myth that body positivity is only for women, which is not true at all. Body positivity benefits all who choose to practice it.

Not only does body positivity connect to mental and physical health benefits, but actively spreading body positivity to others can also be valuable. A different study done in 2010 had five body image experts’ interview 15 college women who identified as having a positive body image, according to an article on semanticscholar.org. Their level of positive body image was determined based on a variety of factors: showing their appreciation of the unique beauty and functionality of their body, taking care of their health, filtering negative information (i.e. comments about their appearance, beauty standards brought on by media) in a body-protective manner, defining beauty broadly, and emphasizing their body’s assets while minimizing perceived imperfections. 

Additionally, the women in the study were able to spread their positive body image to others by “mentoring others to love their bodies, and surrounding themselves with others who promote body acceptance,” according to the same semanticscholar.org article.  However, in no way are these studies saying that developing a positive body image is easy, but there are things you can do to make the valuable switch from body negativity to body positivity.

Similar to the women mentioned in the study, there are a few things you can do on a day-to-day basis that will benefit you and your own body image. The first thing is learning to accept your body in its current state. 

People constantly say things like, “Once I lose 10 pounds I will love the way I look.” Whether you are trying to lose weight or trying to gain weight, it’s important to accept your body as it is in the moment. Your body is not going to change overnight, and there is no use in putting yourself down until you’re where you think you should be. It will only increase your own negative perceptions of yourself. 

Remind yourself of all the great things about your body. Whether that be things you like about your appearance, its functionality (i.e. being able to walk and dance), or reminding yourself of your own uniqueness. At the end of the day, no one’s body is the same, and your uniqueness is what makes you special. 

Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. As humans, this comes natural to us and societal pressures and the media can contribute to those comparisons. But remember that what you see in media is not necessarily the real thing. 

Try using a three-to-one ratio. For every negative thing you say or think about your body, try to think of three positive things about your body. This way, you focus more on the positive aspects of your body rather than the negative aspects. 

And remember, no one is perfect — there will be days where it is harder to be positive, and days where it will be a bit easier. The important thing is not to dwell on the negative. So go ahead, start practicing and you’ll be on your way to a body positive lifestyle in no time.

 

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