Obsessive Focus on Body Image Leads to Disordered Eating

Obsessive Focus on Body Image Leads to Disordered Eating

There are very few people who don’t spend a little time worrying about their body image including their body weight and shape.

After all, we’re constantly bombarded with messaging that “slimmer is better”. It’s virtually ingrained in us that a thin, fit body is linked with success and happiness, and that gaining weight is something to be ashamed of.

A pervasive “diet culture” has sprung up, with trim and toned celebs spruiking fad diets to ease the shame of being what’s considered “overweight”.

It’s not just the media that’s spurring on unrealistic expectations about how our bodies “should be”. Off-hand comments about you putting on a few kilos, or constantly hearing complaints like “I look so fat in this dress!” can unconsciously contribute to your body image issues.

What is Body Image?

Look at yourself in the mirror or picture your body in your mind. What do you see? How does it make you feel?

Body image is what you believe about your appearance (accurate or not), as well as how you feel about being in your body.

People with a negative or distorted body image are at risk of developing Eating Disorders, Disordered Eating Behaviours and are more likely to experience Depression, Anxiety, low Self-Esteem and social isolation.

It’s not just overweight people who suffer from a negative body image. Even people within a healthy weight range can develop distorted views about their body size and shape or fixate on a particular body part. In their obsessive quest to “fix” themselves, they may become vulnerable to Dieting or restricting calories or food groups which in turn can lead to Disordered Eating Behaviours such as Stress, Emotional or Binge Eating.

Your Own Internal Image of Thinness Drives Your Unhappiness

For both males and females, Disordered Eating Behaviours appear to come from a desire to be thin (known as the internalisation of thinness) or to have the ideal body. Research by Mancilla-Diaz et al. (2012) found that in regards to social body ideals, there is a strong influence from society, culture, peers and social media. In particular, a female’s internalised ideal body is a major risk factor in the development of Body Dissatisfaction and Disordered Eating Behaviours such as Restrict and Binge Eating. The same study found that more so for females that there was a significant peer of friend influence, on their internal body ideal.

Signs Your Focus on Body Image and Weight is Unhealthy

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Maintaining a healthy balance of what you eat and exercise is important to overall physical and psychological well being. When your focus on body image becomes excessive, and you start to find that eating and exercise becomes a struggle, emotionally distressing or perceive that you are a failure, then your mental health can begin to suffer.

Signs of Body Weight and Shape Focus Based on Diet Culture and Behaviours:

1. Feeling extremely self-conscious about your weight, or a perceived bodily flaw, constantly comparing yourself to others and experiencing constant, negative thinking about your body.

2. Prioritising working out over everything else – spending increasing amounts of time exercising, even at the expense of other important engagements and pushing yourself to physical exhaustion.

3. Weighing yourself compulsively (often several times a day) and feeling depressed when you see a result you’re unhappy with.

4. Counting every calorie or weighing every gram, to the point where you’re cutting out a huge range of foods based only on their caloric value.

5. Becoming obsessed over a diet regime and following it religiously. Fad diets that eliminate important nutrients can be highly detrimental to health. In addition, dieting ensures that food, body weight and the need for willpower are always at the forefront of your mind.

6. Avoiding social functions for fear of having to eat in front of other people or succumbing to the temptation of restricted foods.

7. Regularly skipping meals or employing tricks to suppress hunger such as chewing gum or constantly chugging water.

8. A belief that achieving a certain body weight equates to happiness. Believing being thinner will solve all your problems can cause obsessive thought patterns that lead to neglecting the true sources for improving your life habits, career, relationships and happiness.

Are your eating patterns causing a Disordered Eating Behaviour? Read about the complex patterns of Disordered Eating

7 Tips to Improve Body Satisfaction and Acceptance

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While it’s true that focus and consistency play a huge part when it comes to improving your eating habits, if you Stress too much over the negatives, you can fall into obsessive thought patterns. Here’s are some seven (7) tips on how to improve how you think and feel about yourself and your body and avoid the obsessive thinking traps:

Tip #1 – Aim for a Healthy Acceptance

Diet culture and 12-week challenges revolve around unattainable goals for perfection and to get the perfect body shape and weight. This focus will always let you down. Humans possess flaws and blemishes that nothing can fix – and that’s perfectly fine!

Remember, there’s more to a person than their weight, body shape and looks. Beware of your inner critic and counter it by focusing on the positives in life – your strengths and attributes.

Tip #2 – Become Aware of Your Negative Self-Talk and Thoughts

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Pay attention to what your mind is focusing on day-to-day. Are you falling into depressive moods because of negative thoughts about your body? Listen to these thoughts and write them down. Recognising these negative attributions is the first step to positive change.

Tip #3 – Be Mindful of Triggers

If a Youtuber’s healthy living channel is causing you to reflect unhappily on yourself – look away! The same goes with Instagram, TV shows and magazines that can trigger obsessive thinking over dieting, exercising, losing weight and body shape.

Tip #4 – Stop Comparing Your Body

Going around comparing yourself to others is tiring and pointless. Everyone’s body and physiology are totally different. As for bikini-clad Instagram models, remember, loads of them are digitally enhanced and posed to reduce their natural flaws – pretty much nobody looks like that!

Tip #5 – Focus on Who You Are

Rather than focusing on what you hate about your body and yourself, take the time to reflect on what you are good at and why people love you. Remember, your interests and hobbies, as well as the people you enjoy spending time with, represent who you are, not your body weight and shape.

Your Self-worth is connected to your body image, satisfaction and acceptance. Find out how you can improve your Self-worth….. 

Tip #6 – Nourish Your Mind and Body

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A healthy lifestyle equals a healthy body, so make sure what you eat is well-balanced. A good ratio to follow is 80% whole foods and 20% processed foods. If you restrict yourself too much, this could lead to Binge Eating Behaviours. In turn, this will impact your ability to make healthy choices, increasing your Stress levels which often results in cycles of dieting or restriction and Binge Eating and ultimately, weight gain.

Tip #7 – Finding Joy and Happiness

Having an ‘ideal’ body won’t lead to happiness! You need to live your life now and do things which make you happy. Doing things you love can also result in higher Self-esteem, Confidence and Acceptance. The happier you are, the less you will focus on your body weight and shape because you will have more to focus on and live for. Happier people also find it easy to nourish their minds and bodies, live a healthier life and be a healthier weight.

N.B. If your body dissatisfaction is starting to seriously impact your life, seek professional help. If obsessive thinking about body image is affecting your mental health and relationship with food, talk to a Psychologist.

Parents Role Model Emotional Eating

Parents Role Model Emotional Eating

Emotional Eating Starts in Childhood Through Role Modelling

Emotional Eating is an issue that can have many and varied reasons for starting and being maintained.

If you suffer from Emotional Eating you will know that you may eat for many different reasons:

  • Stress;
  • Boredom;
  • Tiredness;
  • Loneliness;
  • Happiness;
  • Reward, and
  • Celebration. 

Each of the reasons you use food, as a coping mechanism, can have a foundation connected to family, friends, teen years, childhood or dieting. 

A study Published in Pediatric Obesity Journal, conducted by the University College London (2017) found that children who struggle with Emotional Eating are not only influenced by their genetic makeup; they are, in fact, largely influenced by their home environment and role models. 

This study found that Nurture can be even more influential than Nature; meaning that the environment one grows up in is more influential in their adult lives than their hereditary genes.

A child’s own relationship with food, and eating behaviours can be influenced by the following issues in the home environment: 

  • A parent who may be overweight or obese;
  • A parent who overeats or under-eats;
  • A parent who stress or emotionally eats;
  • A parent who uses food to soothe, reward or control behaviour in their children;
  • A family that doesn’t have a balanced, healthy eating practice, and
  • Stress at meal times.

Are You a Healthy Role Model?

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Children learn by watching and mimicking the behaviours of those closest to them.

In other words, monkey see, monkey do – and we want to keep our little monkeys as healthy and happy as possible!

Genetic makeup does influence your children, however being a healthy role model has far more power to shape your child’s eating habits, and set up them up to either have a healthy or unhealthy relationship with food in adulthood.

The Heart Foundation provides some worrying statistics when it comes to the dietary habits of adults:

  • 36% of Australian adults are overweight;
  • 50.2% of adults have an inadequate fruit intake, and 
  • 92.9% of adults have an inadequate vegetable intake.

If this is the state of affairs for adults, then what chance do children have?

Whether it is overeating or under-eating, the hard truth is that eating traits are developed in the formative years of a child’s life (pre-school years) and this trait is enduring.

What this means is that you can:

  • Help your children develop a healthy relationship with food and significantly reduce the possibility of Emotional Eating, OR 
  • Create an unhealthy relationship with food by using food to comfort, soothe, reward or control emotions and behaviours, in your children which will inevitably see them collide with Emotional Eating.  

The choice is yours as a parent and role model.

It might seem easy in the moment to bribe a grumpy child with a piece of chocolate, but the long-term consequences of using food as a bargaining technique can lead to childhood and adult obesity, Disordered Eating, and poor emotional coping skills.

To avoid Emotional Eating occurring, families need to find healthy ways to manage stress and find options reward, soothe, and comfort without food.

Related: Mum’s at War: How To Respond To Mummy Bullying  

3 Tips to Become a Healthier Role Model

There are many practical ways you can become a healthier role model for your children!

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Tip #1: Find Other Ways to Soothe, Comfort and Reward

There are plenty of conducive ways to moderate you and your child’s mood without food! 

  • To soothe, try listening to some gentle music, or going for a walk to the park for some productive play and movement; 
  • To comfort, give lots of affection, or run a warm bubble bath for some splish-splashy fun. If your child is sad, watch your favorite movie or play a board game together for some cheering-up, and
  • To reward your child for achieving something positive, try something like an age-appropriate coloring book, or other arts and crafts, as a creative treat.

Spending positive, quality time with your child is something your children really do crave from you, and is not related to food. Quality time with your child strengthens your overall bond and communication.

This can have a long-lasting, positive effect on adult life. 

Tip #2: Watch Your Words 

Children pick up on the language that is used around them. That is why it’s so important not to talk about dieting, restricting/bingeing, or negative body image. Instead, choose to speak positively about body image, shape, weight, and size.

Each and everybody is unique and beautiful, and this needs to be verbalized to create a strengthened, positive sense-of-self early on, in a child’s life.

Some positive things to say might include: 

  • Healthy food for healthy fuel;
  • We eat plenty of fruit and veg so we can grow strong;
  • You are cared for and loved;
  • Your body is unique and beautiful; 
  • You are important, and you matter, and
  • You are capable of achieving so much.

Tip #3: Seek Assistance with Your Disordered Eating

The first step is recognizing that you and your family may be affected by Emotional Eating or other forms of Disordered Eating. You can make a positive impact on your child’s future self, by taking action to change your unhealthy relationship with food now. 

You can be a positive influence on your family by having discussions about fruits and vegetables and get the kids involved in the choosing and cooking process.

Find fun family activities that get the whole family moving and connecting more.

Ask your friends for tips and ideas on how to bring your family closer together, and keep practicing your healthier habits. 

Seeking professional help is courageous, not something to be ashamed of.

Talking with a professional about your food and Emotional Eating issues, to enable you to become a healthier role model, is the most empowering thing you can do for yourself and your family.

Build healthier choices today for a healthier future for your children!

If you want to action positive change and break the negative cycle of Emotional Eating, make an appointment with Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic today to get you and your family on track for a healthier and happier life!

Negative Body Image Causes Obesity

Negative Body Image Causes Obesity

Contrary to earlier claims that Depression causes Obesity among youth, a study from The University of Texas (UTHealth), found that negative body image increases the risk for Obesity among adolescents.

The study found that adolescents who perceived themselves to be overweight, despite not being overweight, were more likely to be Obese one (1) year later.

The study found that negative body image is the mediating risk factor lying between Depression and Obesity, among adolescents.

Females in the study group were found to be three (3) times more likely to be Obese at the one-year mark.

This shows that negative body image has a greater and faster impact on weight gain and Obesity than Depression.

A previous study by UTHealth, only looking at Depression and Obesity, found that participants who were depressed were twice as likely to become obese only six (6) years later, implying a cause-and-effect relationship.

Negative body image has been associated with Depression and other psychological issues including Eating Disorders, disordered eating behaviours, unhealthy eating and inactivity.

Those with negative body image tend to:

  • Overeat;
  • Eat unhealthy foods;
  • Eat less fruits and vegetables;
  • Cutting out food groups;
  • Restricting food intake;
  • Over-exercise, and/or
  • Rarely engage in exercise or other physical activity.

Negative body image and Obesity go hand in hand – when you have a negative and poor body image, it is difficult to create true change for weight loss, health and happiness.

Some things you can do to improve your body image are:

  • Stop or reduce engaging in social media and media;
  • Stop comparing your body to others;
  • Accept the body you were born with;
  • Let go of body shame and hate talk;
  • Praise your body and yourself;
  • Reduce processed foods and drinks;
  • Feed your body unprocessed and healthy foods;
  • Drink more water;
  • Move more for enjoyment;
  • Build self-compassion, and
  • Celebrate yourself for who you are today.

Overcoming a negative and poor body image can be difficult, especially if it is something that has been created over time.

If your body image has resulted in low Self-Esteem, Disordered Eating Behaviours and/or Eating Disorders, then Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic can help you with personal support.

Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic understand your struggles, and provides you with information and support, to help you overcome the behaviours and beliefs maintaining Disordered Eating and/or Eating Disorders

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