Body Image – It’s more than how you look
MAYDAYS is a campaign to raise awareness for the prevention and treatment of eating disorders throughout the month of May.
The 2015 Annual Youth Survey recently released by Mission Australia found that young people are most concerned about coping with stress, school / study problems and body image.
Body image is the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result, essentially – how you see your body, how you feel about your body and how you think about your body.
‘A negative body image is when someone is consistently unhappy with their appearance leading to body dissatisfaction. Feeling like this can affect self-esteem and a person’s sense of wellbeing’.
The media, family, friends, advertising and cultural influences can all have an impact on how we feel. People who are teased about their weight/height or appearance have an increased chance of developing body dissatisfaction.
Other factors include:
- Age – body image is shaped during adolescence but body dissatisfaction affects all age groups,
- Girls are more prone to having body dissatisfaction, but rates in boys are increasing
- Those with low self-esteem and / or depression
- Perfectionist type personalities, high achievers and those who compare themselves with others
- Having friends or family who regularly diet and are concerned about body image
- Larger body size increases your risk of body dissatisfaction
People who become fixated on changing their shape can become disappointed with their results and develop feelings of shame and guilt, increasing the risk of an eating disorder.
Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice or a cry for attention. These are serious mental illnesses where eating, exercise and weight become the person’s main focus and interfere with the person’s day to day life. Many people with an eating disorder suffer from depression or anxiety.
Some Warning Signs:
- Rapid weight loss
- Fainting and dizziness, change in menstruation, decreased libido
- Feeling tired, low energy, not sleeping well
- Damage to teeth, bad breath, calluses on knuckles due to vomiting
- Feeling cold
- Irritable or anxious at meal times
- Preoccupied with diet, weight, food
- Change in clothing – wearing baggy gear
- Frequent trips to the bathroom around mealtimes
- Excessive exercising or gym workouts
- Eating slowly, secretive behaviour
Seeking help as early as possible greatly reduces the impact and severity of an eating disorder.
Treatment involves referral for professional help. Psychotherapy is used, helping the person to understand the way they think about food, themselves, patterns and motivation. Educating the whole family on the condition and how to support someone with an eating disorder is important. Treatment involves self-help techniques in combination with nutritional advice and medication is useful if the person has depression or anxiety.
Some body image tips:
- Treat your body well
- Don’t compare the way you look to anyone else
- Focus on the parts of yourself you like
- Don’t try to be someone else
- Go easy on yourself and others
- You are much more that the way you look
- Spend time with others who are positive and help you feel good
- Find your own style
- The Butterfly Foundation
- National Eating Disorders Collaboration
- Reach Out
- National Eating Disorders Association
- Kids Helpline
Sister Margaret Bates