By Danielle Johnson RDN, CDN, RYT
Negative body image can affect our overall health and quality of life, including our health habits. Negative body image does not affect only those with eating disorders. It is a struggle that can be experienced by anyone. It’s important to note that you have to meet specific criteria to be diagnosed with an eating disorder, but you can still experience disordered eating without having an eating disorder, which can affect your overall health and quality of life. The purpose of this article is not meant to diagnose anyone, but to raise awareness of how the way we view ourselves can impact our behaviors. If you are concerned about your own wellbeing, reach out to a professional for assessment and advice.
It’s important to raise awareness about your own behaviors to be able to notice any problematic ones that can be treated and improved upon. The behaviors we partake in due to our negative body image can range on a spectrum from body avoidance to body obsession, as well as behavior avoidance to behavior obsession. These behaviors can be related to food, exercise, social settings, mental health and more.
Negative food related behaviors:
- Fad diets, extreme dieting, fasting
- Meal skipping
- Taking dangerous supplements like ‘fat burners’ or ‘metabolism boosters’
- Overeating (recurring), mindless eating, binge eating
- Eating to numb, distract
- Eliminating foods/entire food groups
- Compensation for eating or overeating (vomiting, using laxatives)
Negative exercise related behaviors:
- Over exercising & ignoring signs of burnout
- Ignoring bodily injuries due to fear of gaining weight
- Complete avoidance of exercise
- Using as compensation for eating or overeating
Negative social related behaviors:
- Avoiding social activities
- Avoiding celebrations or special occasions
- Avoiding friends and family
- Avoiding social and professional support
Negative mental health related behaviors:
- Ruminating thoughts about body, weight and value as a person
- Irrational thoughts about body, weight and value as a person
- Anxiety/fear/guilt around food choices and eating
- Ignoring life problems through distraction and numbing
- Obsessively check self in the mirror, pinch parts of the body, weigh self excessively
This list is incomplete but shows how negative body image can affect different areas of life. When negative body image is left untreated it continues the cycle of unhappiness, unsupportive behaviors and increases the risk of yo-yo dieting, weight cycling and eating disorders. Improving body image by separating value as a human being from true health allows you to enjoy your body and support it in a healthful way!
Danielle Johnson RDN, CDN, RYT is a registered dietitian who works in the Bariatric Center of Excellence at Mather Hospital, where she specializes in surgical weight loss and medical weight management. She graduated from Long Island University CW Post and is completing her Master of Science degree in Integrative Nutrition at Stony Brook University.