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Understanding the Link between Body Image and Disordered Eating

Body image – the never-ending, tumultuous relationship we have with our physical selves. It's like being in a long-term love-hate affair with the mirror. Body image refers to perceptions, thoughts, and feelings we have about our bodies.

It's like the mental Instagram filter we apply to ourselves, except it's not always Valencia, sometimes it's more like Grunge.

Body image is influenced by a myriad of factors both internal and external. Social media plays a significant role in shaping these perceptions by often presenting idealised bodies, which can set unrealistic standards and contribute to body dissatisfaction.

This dissatisfaction is not a fleeting concern but can start as early as childhood, becoming so prevalent among women that it is often seen as 'normal'. It's a sphere where self-esteem, eating disorders, and personal acceptance engage in a delicate dance, often influenced by age, gender, societal pressures, and media.

Picture this: you're minding your own business, enjoying a delicious meal, when suddenly, society swoops in like an uninvited guest and starts bombarding you with unrealistic beauty standards.

Before you know it, you're questioning every morsel you put into your mouth, wondering if it will expand your thighs like an over-inflated balloon.

This constant scrutiny and pressure to fit into a narrow definition of beauty can lead to disordered eating patterns.

Suddenly, you're skipping meals, obsessively counting calories, or diving headfirst into the latest fad diet like it's the fountain of eternal skinny-ness. It's like trying to fit into a pair of jeans two sizes too small – uncomfortable, restrictive, and slightly ridiculous.

And then, there are the eating disorders, the real showstoppers of the body image complexities. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder – these conditions are like the villains in a soap opera, wreaking havoc on both physical and mental health. It's a bit like watching a horror movie and simultaneously being in it – terrifying, disorienting, and exhausting.

These disorders often stem from a deep-seated dissatisfaction with one's body, and a desire to attain an unattainable standard of perfection (that does not exist, obviously).

And let's not forget the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it – guilt, shame, and a side of self-loathing.

Factors Influencing Body Image

📺 The Media.

The magical land of airbrushing, filters, and unrealistic beauty standards. Thanks to our dear friends in the media, we're constantly bombarded with images of unattainable perfection, leading to a delightful little phenomenon called comparisonitis.

Suddenly, our perfectly normal bodies just don't seem to measure up to the flawless creatures gracing the covers of magazines.

🧠 Our Lovely Brains.

Our brains, those sneaky little rascals, play a significant role in body image. They love to latch onto negative self-talk, amplifying our insecurities.

👯‍♀️ Social Influences.

Ah, the opinions of others. External influences can make or break our body image, whether it's a well-meaning friend, a judgmental aunt, or the oh-so-helpful comments section on social media.

Are you really going to eat that? Why don't you try this new diet?

Thanks, society, for the unsolicited advice.

🍦 Emotional Well-being.

Stress, anxiety, and emotions. Our mental and emotional state can take a toll on how we perceive our bodies.

Emotional eating, anyone? Stress-induced skin breakouts? Our emotions know how to throw a curveball at our body image.

🏋️‍♀️ Physical Changes.

The ever-changing landscape of our bodies. Whether it's puberty, pregnancy, ageing, or simply the natural fluctuations in weight, our physical changes can send our body image on a wild goose chase.

🥗 Cultural and Family Influences.

The wonderful blend of cultural expectations and family dynamics. From "clean your plate" to "real women have curves," these influences can shape how we view our bodies.

Understanding these factors is the first step towards reclaiming a healthy body image. Embrace your uniqueness, challenge those negative thoughts, and remember that perfection is overrated. After all, who wants to be a flawless, airbrushed magazine cover when you can be a beautifully imperfect masterpiece?

Link Between Body Image and Eating Disorders

The intricate relationship between body image and eating disorders unveils a complex web of emotional and psychological dynamics. For instance, during the unsettling times of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a notable uptick in disordered eating behaviours, particularly among women, highlighting how external stressors exacerbate these issues.

This period saw an increase in restrictive eating due to weight concerns and emotional eating driven by heightened body dissatisfaction.

Studies show a significant correlation between body image perception, eating disorder behaviour, and self-esteem, affecting overall quality of life. Moreover, body dissatisfaction not only triggers unhealthy weight-control behaviours but also paves the way for severe eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Addressing these concerns early is key to preventing more severe mental health issues.

Impact on Mental and Physical Health

Approximately 50% of preadolescent girls and 30% of boys report disliking their bodies.

This extends into adulthood with about 60% of women and 40% of men viewing themselves negatively. This dissatisfaction significantly correlates with psychological distress and a diminished quality of life.

Furthermore, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which affects individuals obsessed with non-existent or minor physical flaws, and muscle dysmorphia, a desire among men and boys to appear more muscular, highlight the severe mental health challenges linked with body image issues.

In terms of physical health, the impact is equally alarming. Individuals with negative body image are more likely to engage in unhealthy eating behaviours, increasing the risk of developing eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. These disorders not only exacerbate body dissatisfaction but can lead to serious physical health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, heart issues, and even premature death.

Social media also plays a critical role in shaping body image.

21% of adults and 40% of teenagers admit that online images have made them more concerned about their appearance.

This digital influence often leads to emotional distress, with significant percentages of both adults and teenagers reporting feelings of shame, disgust, and even suicidal thoughts due to their body image.

These statistics paint a stark picture of the critical need for interventions that promote a healthier, more accepting society.

Strategies for Improving Body Image and Eating Habits

Are you ready for a delightful journey filled with twists, turns, and the occasional chocolate temptation?

🍏 Nourishment. Not Punishment.

Let's reframe the idea of punishing ourselves for enjoying a delicious slice of pizza but, instead, enjoy it fully. Let's focus on nourishing our bodies with whole, nutrient-dense foods. Think of it as a love affair with your taste buds and cells.

🧘‍♀️ Mindful Eating.

Picture this – you are sitting down, savouring each bite, and actually enjoying the food you are putting into your mouth. That's mindful eating for you. No more inhaling your meal like you're in a hot dog eating contest. Take a moment to appreciate the flavours, textures, and effort that went into creating your culinary masterpiece.

🏋️‍♀️ Move Your Gorgeous Body.

Exercise shouldn't feel like a punishment for the extra slice of cake you devoured. Find an activity that makes you feel like a graceful unicorn prancing through a field of daisies. Whether it's dancing, yoga, or powerlifting, move your body in a way that brings you joy and makes you feel like the superhero you are.

📝 Journal Your Wins.

Keep a journal to document your victories – big or small. Celebrate that time you chose a salad over fries or resisted the urge to devour an entire bag of chips. It's like your very own highlight reel of healthy choices.

🛒 Stock Up on Goodness.

Your pantry is your treasure trove of health. Fill it with nourishing foods that make your body do a happy dance. Fresh fruits, vibrant veggies, good fats, and lean proteins – they're all part of the superhero squad that keeps your body feeling fantastic.

🧠 Challenge Your Thoughts.

Our minds can be tricksters, convincing us that we're not good enough or that we should indulge in a pint of ice cream for emotional comfort. Challenge those thoughts, reframe them, and remind yourself of your worth and the power of making positive choices for your well-being.

🤗 Seek Support.

Surround yourself with people who uplift and support your journey. Whether it's a friend, or a support group, having a support system can make all the difference. Share your wins, seek advice, and remember that you're not alone in this adventure.

***If you are struggling with significant body image concerns, therapeutic approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) offer substantial support, helping to navigate and alleviate these challenges.

The tangled web of body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders. It's like a twisted game of emotional Twister, where the rules keep changing, and nobody's having fun.

With a sprinkle of self-love, a dash of body positivity, and a generous serving of therapy and support, we can start to untangle this mess and rewrite the narrative. Because at the end of the day, we all deserve to have a healthy, loving relationship with our bodies – no Instagram filter required.

Ask yourself this:

  1. If a car's exterior is a bit dented, would you stop maintaining the engine, or would you address both the bodywork and the engine for optimal performance?

  2. Imagine a garden - if the flowers look different, would you stop watering them, or would you nourish each one so they can thrive in their unique way?

  3. Consider a smartphone - if the screen is cracked, would you neglect the software updates, or repair the screen and ensure the software runs smoothly for a better overall experience?

If you’re ready to embark on a quest for better health and a more harmonious relationship with food, book a free 30-min non-obligatory discovery call. It’s time to turn those nutrition question marks into exclamation points!



Corno, G., Paquette, A., Monthuy-Blanc, J., Ouellet, M., & Bouchard, S. (2022). The Relationship Between Women’s Negative Body Image and Disordered Eating Behaviors During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional Study. Frontiers in Psychology, 13.

Jiménez-Limas, K., Miranda-Barrera, V. A., Muñoz-Díaz, K. F., Novales-Huidobro, S. R., & Chico-Barba, G. (2022). Body Dissatisfaction, Distorted Body Image and Disordered Eating Behaviors in University Students: An Analysis from 2017–2022. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(18), 11482.

Mallaram, G. K., Sharma, P., Kattula, D., Singh, S., & Pavuluru, P. (2023). Body image perception, eating disorder behavior, self-esteem and quality of life: a cross-sectional study among female medical students. Journal of Eating Disorders, 11, 225.

Mental Health Foundation. (2019). Body image report - executive summary.; Mental Health Foundation.

National Eating Disorders Collaboration. (2022). Body Image.


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