Body Image

Excerpt from “Promoting Positive Body Image: Clinical and Self-Improvement Guide”

  • Positive body image is unique from negative body image.
  • Positive body image is attainable for all persons of varying social identities

  • It is important to focus on changing internal experiences of body image rather than external appearance. The problem with negative body image is not about the actual body itself but rather viewing oneself as deficient or unacceptable. As a result, we do not recommend weight loss goals for body image issues, given that weight and body mass index (BMI) are rather poor indicators of health [4-5]. Instead, we promote self-acceptance and compassion.

  • Maladaptive behaviors (e.g., chronic dieting, self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise) need to be recognized and addressed in advance of body image work.

  • Negative body image is, in part, a byproduct of societies that idealize appearance and that treat individuals differently based on weight and body size, with higher-weight individuals often experiencing weight stigma. I advocate to reduce weight stigma (as well as other types of stigma) at various levels (e.g., societal, individual). 

  • A weight-inclusive philosophy (supporting the well-being and health of people of all body sizes) is essential for moving toward positive body image.

  • Clinicians benefit from exploring how their own body image issues impact themselves and the clients with whom they work.

  • Self-care (e.g., consistent nourishment, life-enhancing movement) is the essence of moving toward positive body image and requires intentional effort and practice.