Once upon a time, you probably liked your body and appreciated the many things it could do. But en route to adulthood, doubts and insecurities may have crept in. Instead of marveling at your body’s capabilities, you began to chastise its looks. In an environment where the typical female model is 5'10" and 110 pounds, it’s easy to understand why the average American woman, at 5'4" and 160 pounds, may feel she doesn’t measure up.
“Body image is a multidimensional concept,” explains Leslie Heinberg, PhD, director of behavioral services for the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “It includes how you see yourself, your satisfaction with your appearance and the behavioral aspect—for example, if you avoid going to the pool or the gym because you’re embarrassed about your body.”
It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of embracing who you are and how you look, even if it doesn’t match some ideal. “A woman’s body image can make or break her quality of life,” says Leslie Goldman, MPH, author of Locker Room Diaries:The Naked Truth About Women, Body Image and Re-Imagining the “Perfect” Body. “It plays into our physical and emotional health, our overall level of satisfaction, our confidence and our ability to seek out a loving and respectful partner in life.” This is increasingly true for guys too. Research shows that idealized images of men in the media — sculpted muscles, great hair, no sweat — affect the way boys and men view their own bodies and their satisfaction with themselves. Once you redefine the “perfect body” as the “perfect body for you,” you’ll be on the road to developing a healthy body image — and a healthier, more fulfilling life.