By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
Overweight and obesity are terms used by many health professionals to describe to people if they are above a specific weight range labeled as “healthy”. On top of that, being skinny/thin is a cultural ideal that many people strive to achieve.
Words about Weight
The way we talk about a person’s weight can directly impact the way they view themselves. For example, when a person is labeled as “obese” or “fat” several negative connotations may follow, including being viewed as lazy, unmotivated and lacking willpower.1
This can have a profound effect on a person’s self-esteem and their perception of themselves.
Body image is defined as “the mental picture you have of yourself.”2 You begin building this “mental picture” of yourself from childhood and you take it with you throughout your life. There are so many factors that influence this picture - including your parents, culture and the media.3 The goal for anyone is to have a positive body image, so that you can be confident in your own skin. However, that is simply not the case for all people.
Body image is associated with your self-esteem, which is your opinion of yourself.2 If you hate the way you look; this can negatively impact how you view yourself and result in mood disturbances.
A poor body image can result in risky weight loss strategies, eating disorders, and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.4
Here are some tips from the National Eating Disorder Association on how to build a positive body image.5
- Appreciate your body and recognize the wonderful things it allows you to do (i.e. running, breathing, dancing).
- Look beyond your reflection in the mirror. Focus on your personality and your actions for the things that define you.
- Write a list of things that you like about yourself that aren’t related to your looks or weight. Read this list frequently and think about how great you are!
- Wear comfortable clothes that make you feel good!
- Be critical of advertisements in the media and don’t feel that you have to look like the models featured in magazines. For the most part, magazines tend to airbrush/alter images and portray unrealistic body sizes.
Goal of Good Health
Instead of focusing on weight as your goal, focus on the goal of good health. This means trying to find a place in your life where you are healthy: mentally, physically and socially.6
To achieve a healthy mental state you will need to build a healthy body image, self-esteem and a positive relationship with food. Try to view food as something that you don’t need to calorie count, but that provides you with nutrients to support all the activities that your body does. You can find hundreds of nutritious meal ideas on the recipe page of chicken.ca and narrow your search for recipes to suit your taste and dietary needs.
Focus on living a healthy, active lifestyle through participating in physical activity for enjoyment rather than weight control. Choose activities that you like doing rather than things that you’d like to do just for the purpose of “looking good”. This could mean joining a recreational sports team, doing a Zumba class or even going on weekly walks with a neighbour. You’ll be a happier person doing things you enjoy!
The people you surround yourself with have a direct effect on your overall wellbeing. This makes it extremely important to have a supportive network of family and friends who accept you and share the same positive outlook on life.
In our lives, we strive to feel happy and healthy. There will be some days where this is not the case, but it’s about working towards more of the good days than the bad. It starts by being happy with you, both inside and out.
- Puhl, R. & Heurer, C. (2009). The Stigma of Obesity: A Review and Update. Obesity, 1-24. Retrieved December 29, 2013, from http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/resources/upload/docs/what/bias/WeightBiasStudy.pdf
- NEDIC. (2012). Body Image & Self-Esteem. Retrieved December 29, 2013, from http://www.nedic.ca/knowthefacts/bodyimage.shtml
- NEDIC. (2012). Social, Cultural & Biological Influences. Retrieved December 29, 2013, from http://www.nedic.ca/knowthefacts/scbinfluences.shtml
- Brown University Health Education. (2013). Body Image. Retrieved December 29, 2013, from http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/nutrition_&_eating_concerns/body_image.php
- National Eating Disorder Associaton. (2013). 10 Steps to Positive Body Image. Retrieved December 29, 2013, from http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/10-steps-positive-body-image
- Canadian Mental Health Association. (2013). Connection between Physical and Mental Health. Retrieved December 29, 2013, from http://ontario.cmha.ca/mental-health/connection-between-mental-and-physical-health/