Can you improve your body image without changing your body?

In the culture that we live in, we are surrounded by images of cisgender, white women in thin bodies. This is not representative of the population and leaves A LOT of people feeling invisible and ‘imperfect’. Research has shown that seeing those images of thin bodies maintain the female ideal and programme the mind to strive for it. Here are some tips on the first steps towards improving your body image: Reduce imagery of very small women from your media feed. Only 2% of the images we see on a regular basis are plus-size women (size 14+). This distorts our perception of body size distribution in our society. Images of smaller women are absolutely fine as plenty of people are naturally thin. Your goal is not to demonise small bodies, but to make your image intake more balanced. Whichever social media platforms you use most frequently, find people to follow that are different to you. Whether it’s their body size, skin colour, ability or sexual orientation. Let your social media represent the world you live in rather the skewed picture that we are being ‘fed’ every day by the mainstream media. Expose yourself to the new images on a regular basis. The more you see, the more normalised different body shapes will become.

International Women's Day

To mark the international women’s day, I’d like to share some thoughts on Sexual Objectification (SO) Theory. It proposes that SO contributes to mental health problems and disproportionately affect women (i.e. Eating Disorders, depression and sexual dysfuntion) via two main paths: SO experiences and self-objectification.

When media presents women in body parts rather than thinking and feeling humans, we, women, learn to turn that gaze upon ourselves. We internalise this outsider view and begin to self-objectify by treating ourselves as an object to be looked at and evaluated on the basis of appearance (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). This takes away from everything more important that we could be focusing on, such as good friendships, talents, hobbies and dreams...  To all girls out there, I wish the power to overcome self-objectification and start living your life to the full.

Loving your body - self compassion

Many struggle with the concept of loving their body unconditionally, and allow it to depend on how many calories they’ve eaten/ burnt that day or how many compliments they received.. Years of dieting and being soaked in messages and images of ‘perfect bodies’ can make loving your body feel unachievable. Working on self-compassion and recognising that you are an imperfect human with strengths and weaknesses that don’t define your worthiness is the way forward

Do you suspect a food intolerance?

If you suspect you have any other food intolerances, you should see a dietitian who will be able to support you in identifying the culprit for your symptoms. A dietitian’s role is to carefully assess your diet, eating patterns and other potential factors that may impacting on your symptoms and propose dietary/ lifestyle manipulations.
If you are likely to have food intolerance, you may be offered to complete an elimination diet. They require dedication and time, but if done properly, can be invaluable in helping you to find out whether you have any particular food intolerances and how to best cope with these. your digestive symptoms may arise from years of dieting, in which case elimination diets may make things worse, not better. Make sure you see a dietitian with experience in gastroenterology and disordered eating to receive the support that you need.