How to Help Someone With Body Image Issues

Last Updated
December 12, 2023

Learning how to help someone with body image issues is vital in today's world, where people often openly criticize others' looks, size, weight, color, or height. While some embrace their body confidently, others find it challenging to even glance in the mirror.

Body image is your perception of your physical self, including thoughts about your looks, height, shape, and weight, which can be either positive or negative. Many people currently harbor negative views about their appearance. As you read this, you might think of a friend who struggles with this. I recall Claire, who, despite being stunningly beautiful, tall, and intelligent, never saw herself in that light.

She constantly critiqued her appearance, whether it was lamenting over her skinny legs, feeling too fat or thin, or worrying about her stomach size. She depended heavily on compliments and felt devastated by any criticism. Tragically, Claire took her own life, a profound loss.

There are many more like Claire in our lives, needing our support and understanding. But how do we start? Before delving into supporting those with negative body image, let's first explore its potential causes.

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Effect of Body Image on Health

A person's perception of their body can regularly shift over time. Self-esteem and healthy lifestyle choices are also strongly correlated with positive body image. People are likely to experience great self-esteem and excellent mental health sentiments when they think positively about their bodies.

Additionally, those with a favorable body image frequently approach eating and exercise in a balanced manner. The building blocks for excellent physical and mental health as children and adolescents develop into adults can be laid by having a favorable body image during adolescence.

On the other hand, those with body image issues may experience long-term mental and physical health effects.

How to Help a Friend Struggling With Body Image Issues

It could be you or someone you know who has a negative body image. Whatever the case, here are a few tips that may help:

Avoid Body Shaming

You may not know who is struggling with body image issues, so you need to be kind with your words.

Avoid negative comments about your friend's appearance, weight, or size. Don't use words like 'fat,' 'ugly,' or 'skinny' on people. These are very provocative words.

The saying goes, "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all."

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Teach Your Friend Self Acceptance

You must teach your friend to love and accept themselves just like you. Understandably, it hurts when people around you make fun of you, but what's important is you love yourself.

It's your body and yours alone, so you shouldn't let what people say affect your feelings.

a person standing in front of a mirror in a post about how to help someone with body image issues

Encourage Your Friend to Exercise Regularly

As much as you're encouraging your friend to accept themselves to have a positive body image, this shouldn't prevent them from trying to lose weight or keep fit.

They shouldn't hit the gym because people call them 'fat.' Instead, they should do it cause they want to.

Apart from keeping fit, exercise helps them think clearly. Exercise should be seen as a lifestyle, not a stressful activity.

group of friends preparing and enjoying a variety of healthy meals together in a post about how to help someone with body image issues

Encourage Them to Eat Healthy Foods

Your friend should avoid junk food and eat more vegetables, seafood, and fruits. The fact is that junk food seems tastier and more inviting, but thanks to several YouTube cooking videos, there are over a hundred ways you could make tastier healthy foods.

Feed Their Mind With Positive Thoughts

Don't allow them to dwell on rude comments. Instead, encourage them to focus on the positive ones. Also, remind them of how beautiful they are, show them love and support them in their struggle.

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Encourage Them to Talk to Someone

If you notice your friend battling low self-esteem or an eating disorder, encourage them to talk to someone. It could be you, a family member, or their partner. Whoever they feel comfortable sharing their feelings with.

Also, speak up if you don't like how your friends make fun of your appearance. Don't laugh it away, only to go home and feel bad. [1][2][3]

Seek Professional Help

If all efforts to support your friend's positive body image proved abortive, it's time to see a online psychologist.

a person looking at their phone in a post about how to help someone with body image issues

How to Know If a Friend Has a Negative Body Image

You may notice the following in someone with a negative body image:

  • Baggy clothing
  • Disordered eating
  • Negative self talk
  • Negative feelings
  • The person avoids social events
  • Lack of self-worth
  • Love for other people's bodies but never their own body
  • Poor mental health
  • Negative body thoughts
  • Fat talk
  • Too concerned about weight, height or size [4][5]

The Effect of Social Media and the "Fitness'' Industry on Body Image Issues

Social media's growth must be considered when discussing factors contributing to negative body image, as explained by Illinois State University. There are many online groups, websites, and businesses for almost any subject, and " fitness" and weight loss are no exception. These sites are constantly accessible, bringing the occasionally upsetting media into our everyday lives.

Because teens and young adults are continually online in the media, these images may hurt how they see themselves.

A whole business has developed online to encourage poor body image before capitalizing on it. Making people self-conscious about their bodies is crucial to the "wellness" and "fitness" industries. Then, they might offer "solutions" that entice clients to return for more.

Although eating healthily and exercising are admirable goals, these websites and clubs frequently encourage disordered eating and often give people a method to mask their disordered eating.

Conclusion

People with a positive body perception will be self-assured in their appearance and physical abilities.

However, a person may develop a poor self-image due to social media messages, prior events, and life changes, which makes them dissatisfied with their appearance. This may occasionally result in mental health issues like eating disorders and depression.

Seeing a psychologist may be helpful if one's body-related concerns are distressing. They can assist someone in investigating the causes of these worries and figuring out how to deal with them.

FAQs

How Can I Stop Thinking Negatively About My Body?

Instead of attempting to be flawless, learn to accept who you are. Put an end to evaluating your looks or body image. Focus on your qualities and strengths instead of your weight because there is much more to you than your weight. In addition, try to focus on being thankful for what you have.

Why Do I Feel Insecure About My Looks?

If you are fixated on your appearance, focusing on what you think are flaws, you may be experiencing body dysmorphic disorder.

References

  1. St Andrew's Healthcare: How can I help someone with body image issues?
  2. Karen Eddington: How To Help Someone With Body Image Issues
  3. Eating Enlightenment: How to Help Someone With Body Image Issues
  4. appliedsportpsych: Signs of Body Image Disturbance
  5. Natalie Trusdale: 6 Signs of a Negative Body Image
  6. psychcentral: How Does Social Media Affect Body Image?

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