You and your body, together through thick and thin
College students feel constant pressure not only to perform well academically but also to look their best. Body image is defined as an individual’s perception of his or her overall appearance. It includes more than just weight, encompassing shape, hair, skin and even style.
Our body images are formed from the feedback (both negative and positive) that we get from those around us. For college students, peer feedback has the greatest impact. Body image is also greatly affected by how we compare ourselves to the culturally ideal body, which we see in the media. For women, that means a Barbie-like body that measures 36-24-36 and, ultimately, is impossible for almost everyone to attain. Trying to get the kind of body that you see in magazines and music videos is not only unrealistic, it’s unhealthy. Unfortunately, many college students spend a great deal of time and money striving for such a body.
Surveys have shown that the majority of women have a distorted perception of their bodies. Around 75 percent of college-aged women think they’re fat when, in reality, only 25 percent are medically overweight (which is the same percentage as men). Shockingly, 45 percent of underweight women consider themselves to be fat.
An unhealthy body image can lead to a number of negative physical-health effects. Most importantly, it can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. It can also make you more likely to take up smoking as a means of controlling your appetite.
Improving Your Body Image
Try these strategies for building a body image that’s healthy and positive:
- Think about all the things that you like about yourself that have nothing to do with weight or appearance. Write some of them down.
- Look at yourself as a whole, including both the inside and the out. Never focus on one specific body part.
- Wear clothing that you feel comfortable in and that makes you feel confident about your appearance.
- Be critical of the images you see in the media. Don’t buy in to everything you see in a magazine or television commercial.
- Help others feel good about themselves.