It’s Getting Harder To Feel Good About Ourselves In A
Social Media Driven Society
A couple of weeks ago I posted some pictures I found on Pinterest and asked people to tell me whether or not the images increased their motivation to exercise. The pictures had motivational quotes with photographs of people working out. If you didn’t see it, you can check out the post here.
Today I was back on Pinterest and put the word exercise in the search bar. I thought I might find inspiration for my morning class, but mostly what the search turned up were more hot – very thin – bodies in low cut jeans and not much else. I did however find the picture below on one my friend’s boards.
The picture of the little girl on the scale seems to be making a statement about how important it is not to let our daughters get hung up on body weight.
Now, check out the collage of pictures I created. These are photos that I found when I entered the word ‘exercise’ in the search bar on Pinterest.
Is there a contradiction here?
I’m wondering how, in a society where people share images on Pinterest (like the ones above) under the label of exercise motivation, is it possible to maintain a healthy, realistic, positive body image? Very few people including those that hit the gym seven days a week, are able to achieve a body that looks like the ones in these pictures.
Side Effects of Negative Body Image
A study cited in Medical News Today.com reveals that people that perceive themselves as fat may be damaging their mental health with ‘fat talk’ which results in lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression.
A study that involved 33 women and 24 men who were on average 21 years of age, were asked to answer an on-line questionnaire that spanned a three-week period. The survey questioned the participants about body satisfaction, perceived pressure from society to be thin, levels of depression and self-esteem, and the frequency in which the participant engaged in ‘fat talk’.
The results concluded that the more someone participated in ‘fat talk’, the lower the body image and overall self-esteem became. The participants that indulged in ‘fat talk’ on a regular basis also experienced higher levels of depression.
In young girls – and even boys at times – ‘fat talk’ can trigger an overwhelming desire to have a perfect body and an unrealistic desire to be physically attractive which can lead to eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia.
We live in a world where we are inundated with conflicting messages. Everyday we see images of super-thin, muscular bodies that make us feel inferior. But, we can take action against negative self-talk and destructive body image thoughts:
1. Practice appreciation. Think about your body as something other than a reflection in the mirror. Your body is an amazing machine that works hard for you everyday. Learn to appreciate the daily functions that your body maintains such as breathing, walking, stretching, sleeping, and dreaming. Look for ways to appreciate all that you are able to do physically each day.
2. Focus on the positive. We all have a tendancy to focus on our imperfections. Spend the next week focusing on the positive things about your body: Your legs, arms, shoulders, eyes, and smile. When you look in the mirror, engage in positive self-talk around your favorite body parts, compliment yourself like you would a friend, and learn to accept and appreciate your imperfections.
3. Take a more holistic approach to health. We can’t tell by looking at someone if they are healthy, how long they will live, or whether or not they are at risk for chronic disease. Some of the people that we are most envious of may have bad habits such as smoking, drinking, or over-using prescription medications; all habits that will damage their bodies over time. Taking a whole-health approach to life will ensure that you don’t get caught-up in the way you look, but instead focus on how you feel and function.
4. Overcome the urge to indulge in ‘fat talk’. It’s not easy to do, but it is key to staying positive. Remember the study cited earlier that determined that ‘fat talk’ leads to low self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders. Spend the time and energy you use to beat yourself up on something more positive: take a walk, enroll in a yoga class, or clean out a closet that needs your attention.
5. Set realistic goals to improve your health. Looking at images in Vogue Magazine or Pinterest and realizing that you will never look like that doesn’t mean you can’t set goals to lose weight, look great in your clothes, and improve your overall health. By setting realistic goals to drink more water, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day, and get adequate amounts of physical activity on a regular basis, you can find ways to challenge yourself in a positive way. The side effects of healthy habits are increased energy, higher self-esteem, and a more positive outlook on life.
Most of all, be careful about how much your let the images that flash in front of you on a daily basis via media – both social and mainstream -affect your self esteem or distort your expectations of what it means to be healthy.
Over To You
What do you think? Are the images that we see in magazines, television commercials and on Pinterest, contributing to body image problems?
If you like this article you might like: 15 Ways To Improve Your Health Without Losing a Pound.
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