Positive Body Image

What has more calories- a banana or a packet of tiny teddies?
Hold that thought and we will return to the answer later.

Body image is “the perception a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception”.

Everyone has experienced some form of negative body image in their lives- maybe not now, maybe only during high school years or maybe the negative thoughts are always luring in the back of your mind. And negativity can be as simple as (males and females) – “I wish my belly was flatter”, “I wish my thighs would slim down”, “I don’t like my eye colour”, “I wish I was bulkier”.

So then what can result of this? Regimented exercising and disordered eating patterns. And I don’t mean extreme psychological disorders (although this is the major concern in which we try to prevent from negative body image), I mean the need to exercise every day or else you feel guilty and the need to restrict foods or feelings of guilt when you indulge in certain foods.

I’m going to share a personal story of when I was in my late teens. I did exactly this, I truly hated my body and wanted to be skinny. I became so obsessed with it that I would run morning and night. I would skip breakfast, eat an apple at recess and an apple at lunch and then my main meal at Dinner. Looking back now I can see how detrimental this was to my health and also the fact that it would have slowed my metabolism right down (ineffective for weight loss). I also lacked energy and struggled to work optimally in class. I was an intelligent young girl back then, and I knew it was wrong back then also, so why did I do it? Body image issues. Not being happy with the way I looked. And did it make me happier? Absolutely not, because every day was like a chore to get up and exercise, essentially starve myself and struggle through the day with little energy. And what I’d most like to point out is- I would have never have been happy or satisfied with myself, because even though I lost some weight, I wanted a flatter stomach and slimmer thighs- nothing was ever good enough when I was in this state of mind.
It is actually shameful to share this story, but I have one motive only in sharing this story- I want to help change the negative perceptions individuals have on their bodies out there. And I want to educate on the safe practices to lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight. I want to help people to learn to love themselves. Because maybe if everyone introduces a little bit of positive body image perceptions into their lives, then we would have a happier and healthier society.

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So the tips I advise to help with a positive self image:

1) Eat nutritious foods and ensure a balance of all the food groups. This includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, low fat dairy products and lean meats, fish, lentils, beans and/or legumes. Enjoy foods such as chocolate, pastries, cake and alcohol in moderation. Don’t feel bad when you have these, instead consume in small amounts an savour the taste of these by eating slowly.

2) Exercise regularly. For some this may mean gym and gym classes, for others it may be walking each day or playing sports. It is now recommended 30-60mins/day of moderate intensity exercise or 15-30mins/day of high intensity exercise (preferably every day of the week).
Don’t make physical activity a chore. If you don’t feel like gym or going for a walk, then consider asking a friend for social support or some incidental activity that day like walking to the shops for groceries, taking the stairs or parking a distance from work and walking.

3) If you’re a parent, don’t mention “dieting” around your children and be positive about your image (it will rub off onto theirs) and their own image.

4) Surround yourself with positive people. You are in control of who you associate with so why put yourself in negative circumstances that put you down and make you feel unhappy about yourself? Decide who is really important in your life and who makes you feel good about yourself.

5) Talk to someone. Don’t let the negative thoughts build up any longer. There are many professionals in which you can seek help from or confide in a close friend or family member- someone who will not judge.

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So now I return to the question posed earlier -what has more calories? A banana or a packet of tiny teddies?
A banana actually has more calories. Of which I was surprised when a friend proudly told me a few years back as she ate her packet of tiny teddies. It wasn’t so much that I was surprised about the calorie difference, more that she was choosing the tiny teddies over the banana BECAUSE of the calorie difference. Now I probably don’t need to educate you all on the fact that a banana is a far more healthy and fibrous option with a lower GI content so would satisfy you for longer and provide sustained energy, when compared to the tiny teddies! But this is exactly the negative state of mind I’m referring to when highlighting negative body image. It’s not about calories and weight. It’s about being healthy and happy.

Adopting healthy lifestyle practices will in turn make you happy. Trust me, it’s life and it’s addictive!

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