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Boost Your Body Image

Self-Love and Acceptance at Any Size
  -- By Ellen G. Goldman, M.Ed.
On a recent trip to California, I went on a hike in Runyon Canyon, a park near my daughter’s apartment.  During my climb, I overheard two women chatting behind me.  One was expressing concern regarding comments her teenage daughter had recently been making.  It seemed that she was miserable about her body, feeling ''fat'' and ''ugly'' compared with her other friends.  According to this woman, her daughter's weight was well within the healthy range, and she had ''quite a lovely figure.''
I hiked on and began thinking about body image.  Why is it that so many people in America suffer from such poor body image?  I have watched too many of my daughter’s friends struggle, have met way too many women my own age who still express body dissatisfaction, and have even come across it with male clients over the years.  These days, you can never be thin enough, muscular or toned enough, or beautiful enough.  The effort and energy many are exerting to look better is not only exhausting, but also severely decreasing their happiness and life-satisfaction.
Humans have been concerned with appearance and physical attractiveness throughout history. However, in these modern times, it seems as if normal concerns have turned into obsession for far too many.  In today's media, thin and attractive individuals are portrayed as being wealthier, happier, and more successful and carefree than those who are not thin. The way that we perceive our bodies is largely influenced by our perception of how we stack up against those media ideals, as well as against our peers. Poor body image not only decreases general life satisfaction and happiness, but it can also be potentially deadly if it spurs severe eating disorders or steroid use. Making a targeted effort to improve body image for ourselves and loved ones would be a smart, even life altering, thing to do.  But how?
The answer to this question goes way deeper than just working to improve your body to be the best it can be.  There’s nothing wrong with working to improve your body, especially when weight is compromising your health. These changes in lifestyle habits can be quite helpful, but only if accompanied by a mind-shift as well.
Let’s take a look at some ideas on how to boost body image, both for the short term and the long term.<pagebreak>
Tips to boost your body image each day:
Tips to continue boosting your body image over time:

The road to a healthy body image can be a long one, especially if you have been struggling with poor body image for years. However, by taking deliberate steps to stop the toxic negative self-talk, it is entirely possible to be content—even happy!—with the way you look, at any size. By surrounding yourself with positive thoughts, friends, and images, you'll be one step closer on the road to body bliss.
The Australian Psychological Society.  ''The Man Behind the Mask: Male Body Image Dissatisfaction,''  accessed April 2012.

Cash, Ph.D. Thomas, and Linda Smolak, Ph.D. 2011. Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice and Prevention. New York: The Guilford Press.

Mayo Clinic. ''Body Dysmorphic Disorder,'' accessed April 2012.

ScienceDaily. ''Negative Body Image Related To Depression, Anxiety And Suicidality,'' accessed April 2012.