Developing a Healthy Body Image

Here are some guidelines (Adapted from BodyLove: Learning to Like Our Looks and Ourselves, Rita Freeman, Ph.D.) that can help you work toward a positive body image: 

  1. Listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry. 
  2. Be realistic about the size you are likely to be based on your genetic and environmental history.
  3. Exercise regularly in an enjoyable way, regardless of size. 
  4. Expect normal weekly and monthly changes in weight and shape 
  5. Work towards self acceptance and self forgiveness- be gentle with yourself. 
  6. Ask for support and encouragement from friends and family when life is stressful. 
  7. Decide how you wish to spend your energy -- pursuing the "perfect body image" or enjoying family, friends, school and, most importantly, life. 

Think of it as the three A's.... 
Attention
Refers to listening for and responding to internal cues (i.e., hunger, satiety, fatigue). 

Appreciation
Refers to appreciating the pleasures your body can provide. 

Acceptance
Refers to accepting what is -- instead of longing for what is not. 

Healthy body weight is the size a person naturally returns to after a long period of both non-compulsive eating* and consistent exercise commensurate with the person' s physical health and condition. We must learn to advocate for ourselves and our children to aspire to a naturally determined size, even though that will often mean confronting misinformed family, friends, and media advertising again and again. 

*Simply stated, non-compulsive eating means eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied. This involves being able to distinguish emotional hunger from physical hunger, and satiation from over fullness.

Judy Lightstone, M.F.T. is a licensed Marriage, Family, Child Counselor. She has a private practice where she works with individuals and couples. She can be contacted at www.psychotherapist.org.
For more on this article visit http://www.psychotherapist.org/Index_archives_bodyimage.htm.
Permission for use granted by Judy Lightstone


Bibliography:The Obsession: Reflections on the Tyranny of Slenderness, by Kim Chernin, Harper & Row, 1982. BodyLove: Learning to Like Our Looks and Ourselves, Rita Freeman, Ph.D., Harper & Row, 1988 Transforming Body Image: Learning to Love the Body You Have by Marcia Germaine Hutchinson, EdD , The Crossing Press, 1985 Fat is a Feminist Issue, by Susie Orbach Hunger Strike: Anorexia as a Metaphor for Our Age, by Susie Orbach, Norton Books, 1986 The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf, Doubleday, 1991 Eating Problems: a Feminist Psychoanalytic Treatment Model, by The Women's Therapy Centre Institute, Basic Books, 1994

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