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Men and women often struggle with body image issues, now called body dysmorphic disorder.  If you have an eating disorder you more than likely will struggle with issues related to body image, but you can struggle with body issues and not have an eating disorder.  The definition of body image is our mental representation of us.  It is influenced by our feeling, which influences our behavior, thinking and self-esteem.  These body perceptions, feelings, and beliefs govern our life plan, who we meet, who we marry, the nature of our interactions, day-to-day comfort level, and the tendency toward psychological disorders.  Many issues are involved in assessing your body image.  They include your weight and diet history, your parents’ perception of your birth, the story of your birth, your name, and your parents nurturing style.  Also if you had any medical interventions as a child, peer acceptance, and sexual identification.

In each family we learned how to be male and female and all the implications and factors involved with this affects how we feel about our bodies.  Some of these would be our ego ideals, menstruation, developing bodies, pregnancy, menopause and aging are just a few.  The biggest influence in our society today on young boys and girls is the media where children are being influenced by what they see, which is an illusion. Considering their steady diet of observing children being sexualized, perfect bodies created by computer programs designed to remove any flaws and remove the normal curves of a body, is it any wonder that our children learn to distain their bodies and strive for the perfection that is impossible.  Our youth are selling their souls to buy the right products, get the necessary surgery, and in the process, they disconnect from their bodies and spend the rest of their lives trying to find the answers.  The sadness to me is to observe our youth living their lives as copies and some never find the awesomeness of how they were created to be unique and original.

 To determine how you feel about your body I recommend you write a letter to your body and fill in the blanks, 

 Dear Body:

I hate it when______________.

I do not like it when__________.

I am fed up with____________.

I love you because___________.

Thank you for ______________.

I appreciate you when________.

I want_____________________.

I’m afraid__________________.

I feel scared because__________.

I am guilty for _______________.

I am sorry that_______________.

Please forgive me for _________.

 Once you recognize and accept what you feel toward your body you can begin to make changes: Here are some suggestions:

  1. Develop criteria for self-esteem that go beyond appearance.
  2. Learn to appreciate how your body functions.
  3. Engage in behaviors that make you feel good about yourself.
  4. Reduce exposure to negative media images.
  5. Exercise for strength, fitness, and health, not just for weight control.
  6. Seek out others who respect and care about your body.
  7. Get out of abusive relationships.
  8. Identify and change habitual negative thoughts about your body.
  9. If you are stuck, seek help.
  10. Work on what you can change and accept what you can’t

You have been given your body by God.  No, it is not perfect.  But learning to love it, take care of it and changing your negative views can bring incredible joy as you connect and accept your body and learn gratitude and acceptance.  What a Gift! 

Mary Bellofatto MA, LMHC, NCC, CEDS, TEP, has spent the last 35 years assisting individuals in their journey of healing. Look for up and coming workshops with Mary at Crossroads Programs for Women in Pekin, where you can begin your journey of finding renewal, hope, joy, direction and passion.  It’s called finding the real me.  God made you an original, stop trying to be a copy.

Upcoming Workshops with Mary at Crossroads:

Reclaim Your Hope!

November 15-17, 2013