Both emotional specialists and psychologists generally agree that eating disorders are generally rooted in negative body image. When this happens, sufferers usually see distorted body images when they gaze in a mirror – and as such, feel "fat" or otherwise imperfect regardless of whether these terms accurately describe the structure of their physical bodies.
Negative body images can manifest from one or more of the following factors:
Negative Conditioning Our parents’ and family members’ attitudes toward food and concepts of beauty can significantly factor in our body image. For example, parents who emphasize the importance of outer appearance or who obsessively count calories may have children who retain or develop similar attitudes that can potentially result in negative body image.
Negative Thinking If you have low self-esteem and therefore constantly hound yourself about your appearance or give undue importance to other’s opinions, you can develop a negative body image over time.
Unrealistic Ideals Movies, articles, advertisements and other media propaganda often promote perfection as being attainable – which, of course, it is not. Aggressive marketing techniques seek to create unrealistic aspirations regarding beauty ideals for profit. Children and teens are particularly susceptible to these techniques and can therefore develop negative body image issues due to their desire to conform to media "norms."
Overoming Negative Body Image
You will have to affect a dramatic change in your self-perception to successfully build a healthier body image. I’ll readily admit that negative attitudes firmly entrench themselves in the subconscious over time, which can make this change quite challenging. To meet this challenge head on you’ll have to re-program your subconscious so that positive thoughts replace your knee-jerk negative attitudes toward your body.
One effective way to surmount these negative attitudes is to engage in therapy that includes clinical hypnosis, which will require consistent patience and practice. Your options include self-hypnosis and therapist-assisted hypnosis; which you choose will depend on your comfort level. Ideally you should try the former method first, but the latter is certainly a viable alternative if you feel that you aren’t making much progress.
Positive Body Image Through Self-Hypnosis (Exercise)
What follows is a powerful but simple exercise you can employ to address your negative body attitudes.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe deeply, paying attention to every breath. Imagine that with every inhale you are taking in light and positive energy, while with every exhale you are expelling all your stress and anxiety.
- Visualize a beam of white light entering your body through the top of your skull, allowing the light to course through your entire body.
- Pay attention to each part of the body to which the white light travels, allowing it to relax and soothe every muscle, cell and fiber.
- Let the light leave your body via the soles of your feet.
- Now visualize yourself standing in the middle of a room and gazing into a mirror, allowing the mirror reflect the image you desire to see.
- Now imagine your image stepping out of the mirror and embrace your mirror image, allowing it to dissolve into you.
- Take a few more calming breaths and relax.
- Open your eyes slowly.
Although this visualization exercise might appear somewhat abstract, you will begin to decipher its hidden messages if you pay close attention. For instance, while the mirror reflects reality, you can’t see yourself as you really are because of your negative body image issues. But this exercise requires you to let the mirror reflect the image you desire to see. And although this image may not be completely congruent with reality, over time it can raise your self-esteem rather than destroy it; consequently, you will begin to like what you really see in the mirror even if it doesn’t conform to your previous ideals of what represents perfection.
Most importantly, remember that we are all blessed with beautiful bodies – and we can be comfortable in our own skin even if they don’t meet society’s ideas of perfection.
Until next time, embrace your inner wisdom.