Body Image

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What do people see when they look at you? What do you see when you look at yourself? And what do you actually look like? Body image is all about how you feel about your body, and what you think your body looks like.

Body image is affected by many influences including:

  • A changing sense of who you are, where you fit in and what you want
  • Competing or comparing yourself with other people, or feeling judged by them
  • Advertisements, magazines and films that bombard you with images and ideas about how you think you should look
  • Your own sense of what's important

Research studies (new window) have shown that approximately nine out of 10 young Australian women have dieted at least once in their lives. And according to one study (new window), around one in four Australian men in the healthy weight range believe themselves to be fat.

Get Some Perspective

Negative body image can affect anyone. To feel at home in your own skin you can make positive choices about:

  • Exercise and fitness
  • What you eat
  • Taking care of your body and mind
  • Being clear about what's important to you

It's only natural to be aware of how you look and to care about your appearance, but there's a lot more to you than the shape of your body. Keeping a healthy perspective is important.

One way to get a different perspective is to do the body image quizzes on the Better Health Channel - there's one for men (new window) and one for women (new window).

The Consequences of Negative Body Image

Your thoughts and feelings about your body can be affected by many things, including:

  1. A changing sense of who you are, where you fit in and what you want
  2. How you deal with a changing body
  3. Competing or comparing yourself with other people, or feeling judged by them
  4. Images and ideas from advertisements, magazines and films telling you how you should look
  5. Your own sense of what's important

Most people have a few little things they don’t really love about themselves - that’s pretty normal. But if you really don't like the way you look or find yourself obsessing about your body - then you've got a poor body image.

Negative feelings about your body can lead to crash dieting, developing an eating disorder, and even using drugs to try to achieve an 'ideal' body.

Issues with body image can often arise out of something a lot deeper. Sometimes people try and change things on the outside because of tough personal issues such as stress, a difficult home life, or another crisis.

Changes such as dieting, overeating, constant exercise or taking drugs don't actually fix the deeper problem. This stuff can quickly get out of hand and muck around with your moods, your abilities and your relationships. It only adds to any existing problems.

If any of these situations sound familiar, you need to take action - for yourself or for a friend in need. Nobody has to go it alone. There are heaps of information sources, qualified professionals and support groups to tap into.

Where to Find Help

Use the following resources as a starting point to help you find the body image help you need. All of the links below open in a new window.

Better Health Channel
This vast resource has detailed information on body image issues, including body image fact sheets for men and for women as well as advice on healthy weight management.

SeeMe
Developed by the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre Trust, SeeMe promotes positive body image and tackles the impact of media portrayals of beauty and gender stereotypes.

The Butterfly Foundation
The Foundation helps sufferers of eating disorders and supports education programs. The help page lists support services in each state and has links to other websites about eating disorders.

Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria
Information about eating disorders, why diets don't work, what to do if you think you have an eating disorder, and recovery stories.

Reach Out
Information for young people, including a fact sheet about body image.

Victorian Centre of Excellence in Eating Disorders (CEED)
Information about eating disorders including personal stories, facts and findings and a list of resources for further information.