| 03.18.2018

Challenging body norms – A message of self-love and acceptance of body image


It is time to dispel the myth that there is an ideal body image.  

The “ideal” body type portrayed in advertising is possessed naturally by only 5 percent of American females, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). This distorts the most vulnerable minds, as 69 percent of girls in grades 5-12 reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body.

Nathan Stark
Vandal Health Education intern

Too often we base our self-worth on what other people think of us, instead of the respect we should have for ourselves. This leads to detrimental behaviors such as negative self-talk, body shaming, and can precipitate eating disorders.

While it would be simple to say “love yourself,” this can be difficult in practice.   It is easy to get caught up in the beauty norms seen on multi-media and then spiral down a dark hole of comparisons, judgment and shame. Fortunately, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) came up with lists such as “20 Ways to Love Your Body“ and “10 Steps to Positive Body Image.”

Here are a few of my favorites – count your blessings, not your blemishes. Keep a list of 10 positive things about yourself, without mentioning appearance.   Become a critical viewer of social and media messages.   Pay attention to images, slogans or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Search for the beauty in the world and in yourself. Eat when you are hungry, rest when you are tired and surround yourself with people that remind you of your inner strength.

Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person.   You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones.   The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.Rather than shame our bodies, we should build them up. See each body as a whole, not just specific body parts. Be thankful for what it can do and not just what it looks like.

If you do not struggle with your own body image, then show respect to those that do. Let”s support each other, knowing that self-confidence, acceptance and openness make a person beautiful, not their appearance.

When people are ready to make physical changes, it should be on account of their desire for a healthier lifestyle, not because they want to fit a beauty norm. Aim to eat balanced meals with appropriate caloric intake and exercise moderately.

Constant dieting and extreme behaviors do not successfully create healthy change. According to ANAD, 95 percent of all dieters will regain lost weight within five years and 35 percent of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those normal dieters, 20-25 percent progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders. Rather than sliding down a slippery slope of unhealthy eating behaviors, make small, manageable changes. For personalized nutrition counseling, contact the campus dietitian at mrudley@uidaho.edu.

To learn more, Vandal Health Education has partnered with Vandal Nutrition and the Women”s center to create Body Positive Week Feb. 15-19. The keynote speaker is University of Idaho Alumna Amy Pence-Brown, a body-positive activist whose “Radical Self-Acceptance” video went viral and spread the message of “all bodies are good bodies” around the world. Join us Feb. 17 from 7-8:30 p.m. in the International Ballroom of the Bruce Pitman Center

Nathan Stark is a Vandal Health Education intern.  He can be reached at  vandalhealthed@uidaho.edu

Related Posts
1 comment
  1. Wonderful message. I am grateful for this shift in thinking and hope that it will help save a lot of people from the kind of self-doubt and feeling bad about yourself that has been rampant for decades.