Having a healthy body image

Key points:

  • Body image is the way you see, think and feel about your body - you don't need to "look good" to have a healthy body image
  • A positive body image often accompanies a healthy, balanced lifestyle
  • A negative body image is created by a range of cultural, peer group, family and internal factors
  • With persistence and effort, you can change your body image to be positive

Do you or someone you know:

If you have ticked any of these boxes, you may have a negative body image.

Body image refers to the way you see, think and feel about your body. Your body image can be positive, negative, or a bit of both. It can also change over time.

If you have a positive body image you accept, respect and celebrate your body. You’re more likely to have a healthy, balanced lifestyle, without spending too much time worrying about the way you look.

Sometimes body image does not necessarily reflect reality. If you have a negative body image, you might think of yourself as being larger than you really are or you may fixate on a particular body part, seeing it as being very unattractive. Body dissatisfaction isn’t just about size and weight though; it can also be about skin colour, ethnic diversity, disabilities and strength or fitness.

What can cause a negative body image?

Someone may develop a negative body image for a number of reasons, such as:

  • Low self-esteem or depression
  • Being teased or bullied in childhood (especially about weight or size)
  • Peer pressure to look a particular way
  • Personality traits such as perfectionism
  • Friends and family who diet or are focused on appearances
  • Media and advertising images that show idealised and unvarying body types

8 tips to help you improve your body image

The good news is that with persistence and effort, you can change your body image to be more positive.

  • Emphasise your inner strengths and positive qualities
  • Appreciate your body for what it does for you, not just what it looks like
  • Value the things that make you different and unique
  • Accept that some parts of your appearance are genetic and can’t be changed, and that’s OK
  • Avoid negative self-talk – talk to yourself as you would speak to a friend
  • Avoid critiquing other people’s bodies
  • Create personal goals that are enjoyable and not related to weight loss
  • Be critical of unrealistic images and stories in the media; take a break from magazines and social media if it’s making you feel bad about yourself

learn about body dysmorphic disorder