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How Do I Model a Healthy Body Image?

Meg Mulroy, LPC 

We are constantly receiving messages about body image from the media, family, and friends. Sometimes, diet and exercise talk seem inevitable and unavoidable. These messages often become internalized and we unknowingly pass them down to our own children, friends, or even clients. It is important to model a healthy and positive body image to others in order to prevent eating disorders. Because these messages are so internalized, it can be challenging to develop and model a good relationship with your body. I’ve included some tips here to help on your own journey to developing and modeling a healthy body image: 

Be Curious: The first thing that may help is to be curious about your own behaviors around food, body image, and exercise. Have you ever asked yourself why you may be critiquing your body or how someone else’s body looks before you do? Leaving room for curiosity instead of judgment may help you understand how you feel about your body and may help you to be able to turn towards compassion and acceptance. 

Make Your Environment Safe: By showing that you do not put moral judgments on food and that people deserve food whenever they are hungry can model a positive relationship with your body and make folks who do not have a healthy body image feel safer in your space. Try and have lots of different foods in your home and discourage the notion that a certain diet or body size will lead to happiness and fulfillment.

Encourage Positive Self Talk: Try your best to quiet your own inner critic and avoid self-deprecating and critical statements like, “I’m so fat, I’ve gotta hit the gym,” or “If only I could lose those 5 pounds…” People may hear these comments and be triggered and come to model your inner critic to create their own. Instead, try and say positive statements or even neutral statements about your body like, “I’m grateful that my legs allowed me to walk to work today.” 

Trust Others: Unless directed by a medical professional, trust your children or anyone else you are around that they know what’s best for their bodies and know how to best monitor their eating. If someone says they are hungry, allow them to eat and honor their wishes. Do not police other people’s food intake. 

Representation Matters: Do your best to notice (and point out) health at all sizes and shapes and try to consume media where all body types are represented. By having positive role models that exemplify positive body image, we can more easily model those beliefs and attitudes ourselves. 

Discuss Self-Worth: It’s important to discuss how humans are worthy and deserve to take up space regardless of how their body looks. Love the people in your life based on who they are and not what they weigh. By showing and discussing what you value and how you live a meaningful life can encourage others to see their worth outside of how their bodies look. 

Be Intentional About Movement: Exercising is an important part of living a balanced healthy life, but make sure that you are exercising for the right reasons. Exercise should not be viewed as punishment. Focus on the many benefits of exercise that have nothing to do with how your body looks- how do you feel after a spin class? How did you connect with a loved one during a walk? How does regular exercise positively impact your mental health? 

Modeling a positive body image may be challenging when you yourself struggle with disordered eating or negative body image. Working with a counselor may be beneficial to explore your relationship with your body. Contact Symmetry Counseling to be matched with one of your clinicians today! 

Cited: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/developing-positive-body-img 

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