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How to foster a positive body image

woman holding tape measure around waist

Looking in the mirror is a very dangerous, rewarding and intoxicating thing for me. At nineteen years old, I am about 5’3” and 136 pounds. I horseback ride several times a week and I like to think I’m in pretty good shape. I eat like a teenager, some days my diet consists of an artery-clogging amount of chips, chocolate, pizza, and mounds of junk food that angers my metabolism.

I don’t know if I’m too skinny or too fat or just right or all of the above.

Although we all have a tendency to worry over our bodies, the concept of body image is relatively new. When I was younger, I loved to play with my Barbie. I didn’t know people thought Barbie was pretty because she had a tiny waist or gravity-defying breasts. To me Barbie was beautiful because she always wanted to play with me, and she had beautiful hair I could braid. Eventually I learned the truth: Barbie was pretty because of the way she looked, and the impossible breast-to-waist-to-hip ratio she possessed.

Throughout Junior High and High School, I listened to constant, varied complaints from my friends about their bodies. Some thought they were too skinny, others thought they were too short or too tall. One friend thought her shoulders were too wide while another didn’t like her knees, and almost all had at least one complaint about their breasts. Through it all, I thought I was above it. I liked my body how it was; I was comfortable with it and it with me. Funny thing is my body hasn’t even changed much in the past few years.

If my body hasn’t changed, it is the way I think of it that’s changed.

How we feel about our bodies has little to do with how they actually look. We always want to be what we are not, and those things are usually unattainable. I will never grow taller, my hair will always be naturally brown, and I refuse to diet every day of my life to avoid a little fat on my stomach.

But how much fat is too much fat?

At what point will people look at me and wonder why I’m wearing the clothes I am when my fat sticks out of it, or pity me because I’m not as perfect as they’d like me to be.

The reverse is also true. I have a couple tall, skinny friends. They are accused of not eating properly, and asked if they even eat.

So where does it begin and where does it end?


The only way to foster a positive body image is to accept the one you have. That doesn’t mean stop eating healthy or exercising regularly. You still need to take care of yourself, but you also don’t need to work out for two hours each day to be a size 2 when you’re currently a size 10.

How do we achieve this?

  1. Stop comparing yourself to people that you will never be. Instead, admire the people who are within the same body type and shape range that you are. Aim to be a healthy you, rather than that photo of Beyoncé or Taylor Swift that looks nothing like you in the first place.
  2. Listen to yourself when you are judging people. Are you noticing that other girl’s belly because you’re uncomfortable about your own? Once we can accept that someone can be beautiful with what you consider to be a flaw, we can begin to see that we, too, are beautiful with and because of our flaws.
  3. Monitor the body negativity around you. Are all of your friends sitting around talking about what parts of their bodies they hate? Put an end to the conversation and move it in another direction. Talk about what you do like about yourselves and each other.

Love yourself and love your body and just let go of all that stress and hate you feel about your body. Be thankful for what you have and treat it right. We’re all going to turn into wrinkly prunes with old age anyways, so why worry about it?

Struggling with your body image? Talk to us.

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