How to Have Respect for Your Body and Improve Your Body Image
by Kourtney Johnson, RD, LD
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Poor body image and experiencing difficulty with having respect for your body are rampant. In one study that looked at more than 50,000 adults, 60% of women thought they were too heavy. In addition, 30% said they were uncomfortable in a swimsuit and 20% viewed themselves as unattractive.(1)
Unfortunately, we live in a society that values smaller bodies, and the standards we are taught to obtain are unrealistic. We are constantly fed these messages throughout the day from magazines to TV to social media.
First things first though: let’s define body image and body respect, as they are not the same things.
Dictionary.com states that body image is an idea regarding how one’s body looks, or how someone thinks their body should look.(2) On the other hand, body respect is when you treat your body with dignity and meet its basic needs. Ways to show respect for your body include:
- Making your body comfortable and responding to its basic needs by feeding it adequately,
- Dressing in clothes that are your style, and
- Moving your body in a way that feels right.(3)
How does social media affect the ability to have respect for your body and improve body image?
Social media can definitely influence body image in a negative way. Think about how easy it is to be sucked into videos and posts, only to realize you have spent an hour scrolling without realizing it!
Alas, social media exposes us to many images of people’s bodies. This includes those of celebrities, who don’t usually have the same lifestyle as laypeople. (Gwyneth Paltrow and her IV use, anyone?). We also hear tons of messages from influencers using anecdotal evidence. (Anecdotal evidence is when someone tries to obtain your support or persuade you to buy something by using their individual experience as evidence that it works, even if there isn’t research to support their claim.)
One recent study showed the positive effect on body image that reducing time on social media has. Teens and young adults who decreased their time on social media by 50% for only three weeks saw an increase in the ability to view their weight and general appearance in a positive way.(4) Imagine how much of an improvement we could all experience if we cut down on our social media use!
What can be done to improve body image besides decreasing social media use?
Really digging into body image in order to improve it will take more than decreasing social media time, which likely isn’t surprising!
According to Bri Campos, a body image expert, there are concrete steps to take to finally be able to accept and have respect for your body.(5)
First, we need to understand that many different factors affect body image, including racism, patriarchy, body trauma, and diet culture. Then, it’s helpful to determine our goals around body image, while determining our beliefs and figuring out what the voice in our head tells us, which in turn, impacts what we believe.
Being able to embrace the emotions we feel around our bodies, even the ones that aren’t fun, is another important step in getting to the point where we can have respect for our bodies and improve our body image.
Determining the story, or narrative, we’ve been telling ourselves about our bodies is the next step. Often we are so used to the same old story in our heads that we don’t even notice it or know how it came to be. It’s as if one day the narrative was just there, and has continued until now.
Of course, these steps are much easier with someone who is trained in this work. That’s where a registered dietitian can come in, as we are professionals who are equipped with the tools to help you increase respect for your body while improving your body image as well!
Why it’s important to have better body image and respect your body when pursuing Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is all about meeting each body’s unique needs, which can be hard to do if you have a poor outlook on your appearance and aren’t meeting your body’s basic needs.
However, when you are able to respect your body, as well as really do the work necessary to improve your body image, it’s easier to move forward with intuitive eating and honor your body’s signals. After going through these processes, it will be less scary to learn how to eat intuitively, and you’ll be in a better place to really appreciate the benefits that come with it!
If you are looking for a way to have respect for your body and improve your body image, click here to schedule a free call with Maria. The two of you will be able to chat and determine if you’d work well together to reach your nutrition goals!
- 10 Non-Diet Books That Inspire
- HAES – A Better Approach to Health and Weight
- The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating Help You to be Kind to Your Body
- Help Your Child Establish a Positive Relationship with Food
- Intuitive Eating for Teens
- Lindardon J, Dr. Body image statistics 2023: 52+ shocking facts and statistics. Breakbingeeating.com. Published March 3, 2023. Accessed April 17, 2023. https://breakbingeeating.com/body-image-statistics/.
- Body image. Dictionary.com. Accessed April 17, 2023. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/body-image.
- Tribole E, Resch E. Respect your body. Intuitive Eating. 4th edition. St. Martin’s Essentials; 2020:196-215.
- Reducing social media use significantly improves body image in teens, young adults. Apa.org. Published February 23, 2023. Accessed April 17, 2023. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2023/02/social-media-body-image#:~:text=Social%20media%20can%20expose%20users,with%20body%20weight%20and%20shape.
- Campos B. Body image bootcamp. 2021.
About the Author:
Kourtney is a registered dietitian who is passionate about sharing information related to intuitive eating and the harms of diet culture. She is from Minnesota but now lives in Spain, where she enjoys trying new foods and learning more about the culture there! In her free time, she likes to read, go to the beach, spend time with friends and family, and travel.
This article was edited and reviewed by Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. Maria takes a weight-inclusive approach and helps individuals rediscover the joy of food by helping them heal from chronic dieting and disordered eating. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutrition Science, a Master of Science in Nutrition Communication, and a Master of Public Health.