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Student Health Services

Body Image

  • Fast Stats

    Previous studies have shown that 1 in 3 college students report being concerned about their weight and body shape. College students are at high risk for body dissatisfaction for many reasons – biologically, socially and emotionally. Furthermore, both male and female college students report body image concerns at a similar amount.

  • What is body image?

    Body image can be defined as “the subjective picture or mental image of one's own body,” though there are many factors that contribute to the way we see ourselves including: 

    • What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions and generalizations). 
    • How you feel about your body, including your height, shape and weight. 
    • How you sense and control your body as you move/how you physically experience or feel in your body. 

    We begin internalizing messages about body image from a young age, leading to either a positive/healthy body image or a negative/unhealthy one. This is important as body dissatisfaction is the best-known contributor to eating disorder development.

  • What does it look or feel like?

    Negative/Unhealthy Body Image

    A negative body image, or body dissatisfaction, is a distorted view of one’s shape. It involves feelings of shame, anxiety and self-consciousness as well as a feeling that their body is flawed compared to others, which can lead to feelings of depression.

    Positive/Healthy Body Image

    A positive body image, or body satisfaction, is a clear, true perception of body size and shape – seeing the parts of your body as they really are. Body satisfaction involves:  

    • Feeling comfortable and confident in your body.
    • Accepting your natural body shape and size.
    • Recognizing that physical appearance says very little about one’s character and value as a person.
  • What can I do?

    The National Eating Disorders Association gives 10 Steps to Positive Body Image:

    1. Appreciate all that your body can do.
    2. Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself (outside of appearance).
    3. Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin-deep.
    4. Look at yourself as a whole person.
    5. Surround yourself with positive people.
    6. Shut down the voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person.
    7. Wear clothes that are comfortable and make your feel good about your body.
    8. Become a critical viewer of social and media messages.
    9. Do something nice for yourself.
    10. Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories and/or your weight to do something to help others.

    Stop “Diet Talk” and Appearance-Based Ideals

    We live in a culture where we are bombarded with information about diets and which foods to eat/not eat in order to lose weight or look a certain way. Speaking up and letting others know that you are uncomfortable with it is a good place to start changing the conversation around food and weight.

    Every Body is Different

    We all have different genetic makeups and cultural traits, as well as different needs to keep us at our healthiest self. Ultimately there is no “ideal” body weight as just one number or range would not be able to encompass all of our differences. It is important to remember these things for your own “ideal” body:

    • Treat your body with respect.
    • Give it enough rest.
    • Fuel it with a variety of foods.
    • Exercise moderately and in an enjoyable way.
    • Resist the pressure to judge yourself and others based on weight, shape or size, as well as compare.
    • Respect people based on the qualities of character and accomplishments.

    Learn More

    National Eating Disorders Association

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Student Health Services | Redfern Health Center, 735 McMillan Road, Clemson, SC 29634