Body Image and Eating Disorders

Body Image and Eating Disorders

When patients struggle with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and other eating disorders, one of the most commonly cited causes of the illness is an issue with body image. Too often, and for too many reasons, young women and men feel that they must live up to an arbitrary physical standard and, when they don’t, they develop a dysfunctional relationship with food in an effort to force certain results. Tackling the issue of body image is one of the most difficult parts of an eating disorder treatment program. Here’s what you should know:

Body Image

Body image is the impression that a patient has of his or her body whether they are imagining themselves or looking in the mirror. This impression can be about the look or appearance of their body, how they feel their body compares to others, how they feel in their body, and how they move and function in the world. Accurate or not, it is usually negative when it is the cause of an eating disorder and can cause deep feelings of self-hatred, anger and depression.

Negative Body Image

A negative body image is fueled by an inaccurate or distorted perception of one’s body. Many eating disorder patients believe that they are fat when they are a healthy weight, or view a lack of definition or muscle tone as evidence that they are overweight. Many view the inadequacies that they perceive as a sign of failure – not just a physical failure but a personal failure that signifies inadequacies of personality or character. This permeates everything in their lives, from how they treat themselves to how they interact with others and perform at work, home and school. Eating disorders are often a way to attempt to regain what they perceive as a loss of control over themselves and their lives.

Positive Body Image

A positive body image is the goal of eating disorder treatment and characterized by a realistic and honest self perception. When a patient sees his or her body as it really is, he or she is in control and able to make positive choices in relation to food and exercise. Recognizing that there is no one ideal body shape or size and that “healthy” is different for almost everyone is a huge first step in reclaiming a functional relationship with food, self and others. The confidence that results is life changing.

Getting Help

Altering your body image and learning how to perceive yourself honestly as opposed to comparing yourself to others is a long, difficult process that is best done under the care of professionals who specialize in eating disorder treatment. Call now to find a program that will work for you.