Physical attractiveness is very important to us, however, the standards of beauty today are incredibly hard to attain, particularly for women. In fact, less than 5% of the female population fits the media’s current idea of beauty. And exposure to thin-ideal magazine images increases body dissatisfaction, negative mood states, eating disorder symptoms, and decreased self-esteem.
Distorted body image is extremely common in our society. This is an unrealistic view of how someone sees their body. We begin forming perceptions of our body’s attractiveness, health, functionality, and acceptability in early childhood. This body image continues to develop as we age and receive feedback from peers and family members. Many women will not see an accurate reflection when they look at themselves in the mirror. It is estimated that up to 80% of women see themselves as being larger than they actually are. Therefore, this type of distorted body-image does not pertain to only those suffering from eating disorders.
Women are much more self-critical than men when it comes to their appearance. This is because women are judged on how they look more so than men, and the standards of female beauty are higher and harder to reach. Women are constantly exposed to idealized images of female beauty on TV, magazines, billboards, etc. So much so, that it is estimated that a woman today sees more images of “beautiful” women in one day than her mother saw throughout her entire adolescence. This constant exposure allows women to think that these (photoshopped) images are normal, and that because they do not look like the women in the ads, they are somehow not as beautiful.
Body image concerns and eating disorders are very connected. Usually, the early dissatisfaction with appearance will lead a young person to believe that losing weight will enhance the way they look and therefore, the way they feel about themselves. Restrictive eating and over exercising will be the next step, which then leads to patterns of irregular eating and weight obsession. This will then develop into anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, compulsive overeating, or binge eating disorder.
Getting treatment for distorted body image is an essential step toward recovery. This problem is not one that will simply go away on it’s own. Self-awareness along with recognition of the feelings that accompany body sensations is very important in this process. I can help you look at the uncomfortable feelings and examine your internal experiences in a safe and effective way, that will give you a greater sense of trust and appreciation for yourself and your body. Contact me today to schedule an appointment in my Longmont or Boulder, CO office.