Positive Body Image

We’ve all had the experience of seeing an example of an “ideal” body—say, on a magazine cover—and feeling bad, if only for a moment, about our own bodies. Worse, we may get messages from the people around us that our bodies aren’t good enough, which can also damage our confidence.

Over time, these experiences can cause one to have a negative body image. Someone with a negative body image may feel “shame, guilt, and anxiety,” about his or her body and may have a “distorted view” of what he or she really looks like. For example, someone may see his body as less muscular or larger than it really is.1

For me, living in a college town, I feel as though I always see people running, and this can make me feel that my body will never attain what these runners have. In these moments, I try to practice a tip recommended by body image experts: I focus on what my body is good at doing. I think about how I’ve gotten better at a particular yoga pose or how I’m trying to sit up straighter at my desk at work (*sits up straighter*). I also try to channel my envy into admiration for those people who use running to stay healthy—bravo!

While it is true that young women are more likely to suffer from negative body image than men or older women, the truth is that anyone can experience negative body image.2, 3 While occasionally feeling a little insecure about one’s body is normal, negative body image can be dangerous when it leads to extreme dieting, weight loss, or exercise.2, 3, 4

When it comes to cultivating a positive body image, feeling healthy and capable should be the goal, not looking a certain way.1


  1. Eboni J. Baugh, Caroline Dunn, and Karla Shelnutt, Improving Your Body Image: Tips for Individuals, Families, and Professionals, FCS2253, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2013, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy854
  2. Eboni Baugh, Males and Body Image: “Weighing In” on a Growing Concern, FCS8849, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2012, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy962
  3. Eboni J. Baugh, Body Image and the Aging Female, FCS2299, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2009, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1090
  4. Jacqueline Endaya and Linda Bobroff, Warning Signs of Anorexia, FAR8055, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2012, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fm373

Photo credit: Photick/Ale Ventura/Thinkstock

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sgrenrock

sgrenrock

Web Writer at IFAS Communications

Sam is originally from California and has her BA in linguistics and MFA in poetry. She loves art, animals, culture, and learning about science.

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