What Does “Healthy Body Image” Mean?
Having a healthy or positive body image sounds great in theory, but if you’re not 100% clear on what that would actually look like for you, let alone how to get there, you’re not the only one. Before you can have a healthy body image you need to determine what this is for you.
Body image is having a moment. And while hashtags like #bodylove and #bodypositive started as a way to promote positive body image messages, at this point most of these posts are full of misconceptions and conflicting information (i.e. lots of young, thin, white women posing in bikinis, which – spoiler – isn’t what body positive means). This can make the idea of having a healthy body image even more daunting.
What does a “healthy body image” mean?
Body image is defined as your own perception of your body, as well as the thoughts and feelings you have about your body and about those perceptions. It encompasses thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, feelings, and actions.
Your body image makes up part of your overall self-esteem. Specifically, it’s the part of your self-esteem that relates to your appearance. On average, body image makes up about one-third of a person’s self-esteem. But that number can vary – for some people, what they look like has minimal significance to them, while others find that their appearance has a huge impact on their self-esteem and self-worth.
A healthy body image means that how you look is not the only factor that you use to establish how you feel about yourself. It also comes from determining what you believe is beauty through your own eyes, not society’s beauty ideals or what we see on social media.
And it means that – no matter how you feel about your appearance – you know that this isn’t what makes you happy, worthy, or lovable. It means that you can have high self-esteem and feel confident, no matter what you look like.
Myth: Positive body image means thinking you look good.
This myth is reflective of our society’s obsession with looks. How could you possibly have a positive body image if you don’t like the way you look? As women, we’ve been taught that being attractive is the best chance to finding happiness, love and connection. We’re taught that our appearance is what makes us worthy of love and respect.
But nope – thinking you’re attractive is not a positive body image. And to improve your body image, you don’t have to somehow convince yourself that you are beautiful, or change yourself to try to become beautiful. You don’t ever need to love your body in order to have a healthy body image.
Having a healthy body image doesn’t mean loving what you see in the mirror every day.
What can you do to improve your body image?
It starts by understanding and internalizing that your physical appearance is not what makes you worthy. By understanding beauty ideals, widening your beauty lens, and adjusting your self-worth barometer, you can start to improve your body image – no physical alterations required.
To widen your beauty lens, follow some of our favorite body-positive Instagram accounts, featuring a diverse range of sizes, shapes, skin colors, and appearances.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post about understanding beauty ideals to learn more about this.
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Alissa Rumsey, RD.
Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS (pronouns she/her/hers) is a registered
dietitian, nutrition therapist, certified intuitive eating counselor, and the author of
Unapologetic Eating: Make Peace With Food and Transform Your Life. Alissa is
passionate about helping people reclaim the space to eat and live,
A twice-a-month round-up of inspirational stories, lessons, practical tips and encouragement for living your most authentic, unapologetic life.