Body Image | Self Image | Diet Culture | Body Checking | Food | Weight | Eating | Stress | Therapy
What kinds of thoughts or feelings come up for you when you look at yourself in the mirror?
If what comes doesn't sound or feel very nice, know that you are not alone. How we see and feel about our body is complex. Our body image, how we each personally experience being in our body, develops from a variety of influences over time. These influences include thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, feelings and actions. No one wakes up one morning and suddenly dislikes what they see in the mirror. If you watch an infant interact with a reflective surface like a mirror you will easily observe that they are generally quite enamored with what they see. From as early as preschool age though things begin to change. We begin to pick up on how society views various physical characteristics and begin to respond to this information in order to belong. We each have our own story of how our body image came to be through influences from our past and influences currently in everyday life.
All this to say that when you look in the mirror your experience of looking at your reflection is biased. You are perceiving and interpreting through many internal filters. You could wear the same clothes, do your hair the same way etc. and from one day to the next you will likely feel different about what you see.
Assessing yourself in the mirror is something we all do to some extent. Many of us are not aware that we are even doing it. This body checking can become an obsessive behavior however and can contribute to and/or perpetuate negative body image. Historically our brain’s main mission has been to keep us alive. A big part of this has been making sure we stay safe-avoiding pain and discomfort. Another big part of that safety has been to try and make sure that we belong, because our survival was much better if we were part of a group.
Unfortunately in modern times this effort to keep us safe can cause problems for us when cultural beliefs and beauty ideals have dictated that one must be a certain size and shape in order to belong*. Body checking is one way our brain is attempting to keep us safe, but can instead lead to feelings of distress, anxiousness, anger, sadness, disappointment etc.
It doesn’t need to be a mirror either. Body checking might take the form of catching your reflection in a reflective surface, trying on the same clothing item, weighing yourself or other forms of body measurement, grabbing different parts of your body (like grabbing your belly, sides or back of arms).
How often do you notice that you check?
How does this make you feel?
Is this helpful to you living a life you want?
Tip: One thing you can begin doing now is to clean out and curate your social spaces which are within your control to do so. Is there diversity in what you see there? Humans are incredibly diverse. Do the things you see make you feel more accepting of yourself and encourage you to participate in the things that matter to you or do they lead you to feel worse about yourself and that you need to fix yourself or appear different? Unfollow, delete, block etc. the images, adds, accounts that aren’t serving you and begin to add in others that help create a better reflection of human diversity.
If you feel you are struggling with a negative or poor body image or this has brought other things up for you please reach out. Body image is something that with support can improve. It’s important to note that negative body image can be part of a more complex problem and require more support. Reaching out, although it may be scary, is always the first step. You are entitled to seek a happy life. Working with a psychologist and/or a dietitian can help you begin to shift how you feel about your body and around food and eating in a positive way.
*It is sadly a very real experience to feel and be unsafe in ones body because of how it appears. Not because there is anything wrong with it, but because of the still present existence of biases and stigmatized in social justice is important because these are experiences that they won’t ignore and which genuinely impact your relationship with your body, food, movement and the ongoing generational stress you may be experiencing.
Written By Lisa Craigg MS, RDN, APD
Wander and Nourish Nutrition Counseling
If you are looking for a Dietician to help you with your body-image reach out to Lisa from Wander and Nourish firstname.lastname@example.org. Lisa practices at Praxis Physiotherapy, 91 Commercial Rd, Teneriffe, QLD, 4005.
Lisa can provide both Telehealth and in person appointments.
About Lisa Carrigg
Lisa is an internationally credentialed dietitian from Seattle, Washington with a passion for intuitive eating, mindfulness and compassionate holistic care. In addition to completing a Masters degree in nutrition, being a registered dietitian in the U.S. and accredited practicing dietitian in Australia she has also completed training as a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and in Body Image.
Her practice, Wander and Nourish, is focused on supporting individuals in finding a more peaceful relationship with food, body and movement as they get to know themselves and their bodies better.
Lisa believes that every-BODY and everybody deserves compassionate care and spaces that support them in feeling heard, seen and enough exactly as they are.