– By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.
Many people start their countdown to summer as soon as their holiday decorations are put away. Beaches, barbeques and backyard parties are just a few of the season’s many highlights, and after being cooped up for more than a year, the opportunity to be out and about has more appeal than ever.
For some, however, the mere mention of a bathing suit creates anxiety. Minimal clothing and maximum exposure to others can be overwhelming for people who are dissatisfied with their appearance. This is particularly true for women who have obesity, and the implications of body image — that is, their thoughts and feelings about how they appear both in mirror and in their mind — can be significant.
Although many people — primarily women — have a negative self-image of their body, obesity makes that image even more severe. This can affect feelings of self-worth and lead to eating disorders, depression and other mental health issues. The expectation of a “perfect” body is understandable. Women are bombarded with messages about their appearance and what they should look like from the time they are young girls. Beautiful hair, made-up faces and too-thin bodies have been the ideal in recent decades, even though that image is both unrealistic and unhealthy.
Define your own Body Image
Fortunately, there has been a push in recent years to recognize a much broader range of body types. With increasing frequency, advertising is featuring beautiful women of all races, colors and shapes. Notably, a major international lingerie retailer recently acknowledged that their advertising was based on what men thought of as “sexy.” In a complete turnaround, they will shift their advertising from traditional images of beauty (read: underweight!) and now focus on achievements and inclusivity, including body type. In other words, “real” women living in the real world!
Every women needs to take this step for herself and define her own body image. Remember that body image is in our heads — it is what we think about our appearance. This is so critical to overall well-being because body image impacts both physical and mental health, and women with a positive body image are healthier and happier. And since we are in control of what we think, we can do something about our view of our own bodies!
Take a (Positive) Look in the Mirror
Admittedly, this is easier said than done. It can be a challenge to look in the mirror and see beyond the tired eyes, messy hair and the belly. But that outward appearance represents just a small fraction of our total selves. So, the next time you look in the mirror, acknowledge what you see, but then look beyond the 20 (or 50 or 100) pounds you have to lose and focus on all the other amazing things within yourself. You are sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, heroes, teachers, caretakers, intellectuals, entrepreneurs and trail blazers! You are smart, savvy, spirited, powerful, resilient, capable, bold, brave, hot-headed, independent and extraordinary! You are you, and that in itself is exceptional.
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.