Recently, I have been spending a large portion of my days reading and thinking about body image. Some of the things I am working to sort through include: how a woman’s body image affects her internally, where she develops perceptions, ideals, and norms about body image, and how this body image may or may not affect her eating habits. There is so much research out there, tapping into each of these different aspects of body image, the wealth of knowledge is amazing. I think to help myself better understand and really process each individual aspect I am going to take on each separately, giving it, its own post and space to develop. In addition, I would love to hear anyone input who happens to read or come across these thoughts and ideas about the subject. With that said lets get started….
I am going to start first with something that seems so simple, the definition of body image. I think the issue with the phrase ‘body image’ is that as a whole women hear/see the word and immediately make negative connections with it. Even when reading the literature often time you find the phrases body image and body dissatisfaction used interchangeably.
In my eyes this is a problem. How can a young girl ever create a positive body image if every time she is confronted with the word or topic the first thing she reads is negative. Why is it that when ever something pops up in the literature, media, or educational front we are presented with a negative under tone or pathology? I do not understand why it is that so much of the education on body image focuses on the absences of pathology (i.e. eating disorders, obesity) oppose to the presences of health.
Now, listen to me, using such a negative tone about others using a negative tone about something I am so passionate about, sort of a hypocritical! Now, like I said I am focusing here purely on the negative, when there are some really awesome positive body image campaigns out there (hello, Girls on the Run, Operation Beautiful and Dove) but my only grip is that these programs are the minority not the majority. So I guess my thought here is that somehow the phrase ‘body image’ needs to move back into the neutral zone where it belongs. Body image is meant to be something that is comprehensive, something that looks at both ends of the spectrum along with everything in between. It needs to be something that young women, actually all women, are comfortable discussing and not anticipating that the conversation will consist only of pathology, weight and body shape or size.