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Perfect Illusions: Eating Disorders and the Family
Eating Disorders
A Healthy Body Image
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Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams.
Honor it. Respect it. Fuel it.

Body Image is:

  • How you see or picture yourself.
  • How you feel others perceive you.
  • What you believe about your physical appearance.
  • How you feel about your body.
  • How you feel in your body.

We all may have our days when we feel awkward or uncomfortable in our bodies, but the key to developing a positive body image is to recognize and respect our natural shape and learn to overpower those negative thoughts and feelings with positive and accepting ones.

People with negative body images have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem and obsessions with weight loss.

One list cannot automatically tell you how to turn negative body thoughts into positive body images, but it can help you think about new ways of looking more healthily and happily at yourself and your body.

1. Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the things your body does for you: running, dancing, breathing, climbing, laughing, dreaming, etc.

2. Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself that aren't related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.

3. Remind yourself that true beauty is not simply skin-deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether or not you physically look like a supermodel. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.

4. Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you: as a whole person.

5. Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.

6. Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not "right" or that you are a "bad" person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few declarations that work for you.

7. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.

8. Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages: write a letter to the ad agency.

9. Use the time and energy you might have spent worrying about food, calories and your weight to do something that is important to you.

10. Create a list of people you admire: people who have contributed to your life, your community, or the world. Consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments and their being.

11. Consider this: your skin replaces itself once a month, your stomach lining every five days, your liver every six weeks, and your skeleton every three months. It's pretty amazing.

12. Think back to a time in your life when you felt good about your body. Tell yourself you can feel like that again, even in this body at this age.

13. Start saying to yourself, "Life is too short to waste my time hating my body this way."

14. Eat when you are hungry. Rest when you are tired. Surround yourself with people who remind you of your inner strength and beauty.

15. Every day, ask: "Am I benefiting from focusing on what I believe are the flaws in my appearance, body weight or shape?"

16. Think of three reasons why it is ridiculous to believe that thinner people are happier or better. Repeat these reasons whenever you feel the urge to compare your body shape to someone else's.

17. Spend less and less time in front of mirrors, especially when they are making you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious about your body.

18. Exercise for the joy of feeling your body move and grow stronger. Don't exercise simply to lose weight, purge fat body, or to "make-up for" calories eaten.

19. Participate in activities you enjoy, even if they call attention to your weight and shape. Constantly remind yourself that you deserve to do things you enjoy, like dancing, swimming, etc., no matter what your shape or size.

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