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

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