By Jaclyn Mascia MS, RD, CDN

What is body image? Body image is how you view and feel about your physical appearance.  Everyone has body image, and it’s not always positive.  Having positive body image means accepting your body how it is, including its flaws.  Positive body image is feeling proud and celebrating your own unique physical features.  People with positive body image exhibit confidence and are comfortable with their natural body shape. On the other hand, having negative body image may be associated with embarrassment or shame regarding physical appearance. Negative body image may also stem from having a distorted body image, where you perceive your looks differently from how they truly are.  When you have a distorted body image, you are unable to view your physical appearance realistically.

Negative body image can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and weight and result in exercise and eating disorders. If you have negative body image, it is important to learn how to love and accept yourself as you are. Improving your body image doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to change anything physically, but rather mentally. Tips to promote a positive body image are listed below:

  • Don’t compare. Avoid comparing your body to others, including celebrities and friends on social media. Remember, a majority of the photos used for commercial purposes in magazines and on the internet are photo shopped or air-brushed!
  • What’s on the inside counts. Understand that physical appearance only makes up part of who you are. Create a list of qualities that you enjoy about yourself that are not physical, such as your ability to make others laugh or to play a musical instrument.
  • Respect your body. Know that your body is meant to accomplish many tasks for you in order to function properly, such as walking, talking, and breathing, so treat it with respect!
  • Be comfortable. Wear clothes that you feel comfortable in instead of trying to force yourself to feel comfortable in certain kinds of clothing because others are wearing them.
  • Treat yourself how you would treat loved ones. Manage negative self-talk by asking yourself if you would say such unkind things to a loved one. Turn the negative comments into positive ones by coming up with a few affirmations that promote positivity!
  • Avoid negativity. Surround yourself with positive peers and seek support from them. Avoid spending time with negative friends or family.

These tips can help you view your body and physical appearance more healthfully. Remember, everyone is unique and comes in different shapes and sizes. The key to developing positive body image is accepting yourself as you naturally are and learning to replace negative thoughts about yourself with positive and loving ones.

Jaclyn Mascia is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes who helps our Bariatric and Medical Weight Management patients achieve their health and weight loss goals.