Body Image and Mental Health
It’s a week into February. That’s about the time the gym starts emptying and people start pretending like they never made New Year’s resolutions at all. Men and women alike have started to find excuses to evade the gym, eat the cookie, buy the shoes, etc.
For those who wanted to get healthy, I’m sure there are plenty of great reasons. We want to have energy, we want to lower our blood pressure, we even want to look good in a swimsuit. For some people, however, the desire to look good puts them at risk for mental health issues.
Poor Body Image
Poor body image is an alarming mindset in our society that has only been exasperated by the emergence of social media. In addition, while makeup companies and body care commercials are striving to show all body types, more and more diet-friendly, health-obsessed products litter advertisements litter grocery shelves.
There is no balance to the body image issue. We are used to the idea that skinny is good, fat is bad, and there seems to be no escape to the middle ground.
For instance, if we go on a diet and someone tells us that we look great, it only reinforces the idea that we were less valuable before we started dieting. The problem is that our new habits last about as long as compliments. Then, we are prone to self-hatred for gaining the weight back AND failing to stick to our plan.
This problem occurs in all age groups, from puberty to middle-age awareness to pregnancy and menopause. Poor body image is linked to high anxiety, suicide risk, and self-harm. While these risks may seem quarantined to individual quality of life, poor body image is actually something that affects our external relationships and can even be considered a public health issue.
It’s a shocking thing that kids show signs of discontentment with their bodies as early as age 5. Scholars attribute this to the way media uses photoshop, promotes surgical enhancements, and celebrates celebrities that just happen to have good DNA.
Look, don’t get me wrong. I care a great deal about eating healthy and being physically active. I work really hard to stay in shape because it increases my capacity to do the things I love the most.
I also know that self-esteem comes from the actions we take to serve others and get out of our comfort zones. What that means is that while we should try to be healthy, we also need to make sure that pursuit doesn’t negatively affect others. It also means that we need to learn to be comfortable in our own skin until we have the mental wellness to pursue a strict health-related routine.
Lastly, if you are reading this and feel overwhelmed with suicidal thoughts related to body image or anything else, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline. From a person who lived through hell and found hope – you are not alone there is a plan for your life!
I’ll end this rant with a quote: “Imagine what you could do with all the brainpower you are wasting on hating food and worrying about food.” Sophie Medlin
Francine D. Ward
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