Body Image & Eating Disorders

Body Image

Body image is one’s personal perception about body shape, size, weight, and appearance. Vision, thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations are components of body image. Individuals may feel accepting or dissatisfied with their body image.

Body Acceptance

Body acceptance is having a favorable opinion of one’s body image. Feeling pleased, comfortable, confident, and proud are some of the characteristics of body acceptance. Individuals with body acceptance have a greater likelihood to take care of their bodies and experience high self-esteem.

Body Dissatisfaction

Body dissatisfaction is having an unfavorable opinion of one’s body image. Feeling disappointed, disgusted, uncomfortable, and self-conscious are some of the characteristics of body dissatisfaction. Individuals with body dissatisfaction have a greater likelihood to become preoccupied with food, weight, and appearance and experience low self-esteem.

Body Image Influences

Throughout the lifespan, body image is influenced by individual and environmental factors.  Individual factors include how one views, thinks, feels, and senses their body shape, size, appearance, and weight.  Environmental factors include:

  • Reflections – mirrors, pictures, video cameras, windows, glass
  • Relationships – family, friends, significant others, spouses, teachers, coaches
  • Media – movies, television, magazines, newspapers, books, radio, music, advertisements, the internet
  • Celebrities – actors, musicians, athletes, talk-show hosts, television reporters
  • Industries – advertising, fashion, weight loss, fitness, cosmetic surgery, entertainment, medical, etc.
  • Businesses – restaurants, bars and nightclubs, retail stores, health clubs, tanning centers, etc.
  • Organizations & Institutions – schools, universities and colleges, government, churches, etc.

How to Improve Body Acceptance

Improving body image is a process that involves increasing awareness of and responding to environmental body image influencers while changing individual perception, feelings, thoughts, and behavior. To focus more on health and less on appearance and weight, practice healthy eating, active living, self-acceptance, respect, and appreciation for size diversity.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are extreme expressions of food, weight, and appearance issues that:

  • Arise from a combination of long-standing psychological, behavioral, interpersonal, socio-cultural, genetic, and biological factors.
  • Involve using food, weight, and appearance preoccupation to cope with painful emotions and to feel more in control.
  • Have a negative impact upon physical and psychological health, relationships, and over-all quality of life.
  • Include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and eating disorders not otherwise specified (exercise addiction, orthorexia nervosa, body dysmorphic disorder, muscle dysmorphia, dysfunctional eating, etc.)

Eating Disorder Treatment

Eating disorders are serious, even life-threatening conditions that require professional help. Early diagnosis and intervention may enhance recovery.  Treatment for an eating disorder may include:

  • Inpatient and/or outpatient therapy
  • Support groups
  • Medical supervision
  • Psychiatric medications
  • Nutrition and exercise counseling

How to Help a Friend with Body Dissatisfaction and/or an Eating Disorder

  • Learn more about body image and eating disorders (books, brochures, articles).
  • Research treatment options and gather resources (treatment facilities, therapists, help lines, etc).
  • Communicate concerns to a friend one-on-one in a private place at an appropriate time.
  • Focus on discussing changes in a friend’s health and behavior rather than emphasizing food, weight, and appearance.
  • Recommend treatment and provide resources.
  • Offer support, encouragement, and hope.

Body Image and Eating Disorders Links

Resources for Body Image and Eating Disorders

For more information on Body Image and Eating Disorders, please contact wellness@asu.edu