Change your mind, change your life – that’s how the saying goes. And now, according to research done by the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, it’s absolutely true when it comes to body image and health.
Even in today’s world of trying to prevent body-shaming, stereotypes surrounding overweight and obese people are prominent, painting them as “lazy… incompetent, [and] unattractive,” according to the study published in January. Unsurprisingly, this oftentimes leads to feelings of depression and anxiety in those who are heavier.
The study evaluated how 159 adults with obesity self-stigmatize, meaning how they internalize feelings about their weight, and the effect this has on metabolic syndrome, or a group of factors that increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
After participants completed a blind questionnaire and medical exams, the research showed when a person internalizes more weight bias, there is an effect on their physical health, making them more vulnerable to metabolic syndrome.
In simpler terms, this means that negative thoughts about our bodies can affect our physical health.
And we all – no matter our shape or size – can understand that. So, how do you ditch the bad vibes and surround yourself with body positivity?
1. Recognize you’re not the only one
Everyone struggles with body image. That girl you think has the perfect body has bad days just like you. Don’t feel alone on those days, and try to talk to someone about it.
You can even find communities made up of people struggling to accept their bodies. Together, you can raise each other up and go on the journey of body positivity together. For example, The Body Positive is an organization that helps women nationwide to embrace their uniqueness.
2. Change your focus
“Ways to step away from the stress of these pressures is to shift our focus away from appearance and body shape, and more towards personality attributes and behaviors,” says Florida Atlantic University’s registered dietitian, Kristina Bergman, RDN, LDN.
She suggests “complimenting someone on finishing something they’ve worked hard on, or on something thoughtful they did, instead of commenting on how they’ve gained or lost weight. This can show your friends you value them for who they are and not what they look like.”
3. Try to find a balance
It’s hard to juggle everything all the time, but try to schedule at least 30 something for yourself every week. Bergman says, “Making sure to nourish, move, and rest adequately can best prepare students to succeed, which can contribute to their self-confidence. Doing things you enjoy and excel in can make students feel good about themselves, as well.”
Go to an outdoor weekend market on your own, gather your friends for a viewing party of your favorite show or even have a little midday meditation to regroup. College campuses often have a lot of goings ons that you can check out. Just be sure to get up, get out and have some fun!
4. Use social media purposefully
You don’t need to totally ditch your connection to everyone in the world – just choose your tribe wisely. Bergman suggests “follow[ing] body positive social media pages to fill your newsfeed with healthy, inspiring images and messaging.” She says Binge Eating Disorder Association and MEDA (Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association) are great at posting body positive content.
5. Don’t be afraid to challenge society
No one can tell you that you can’t do something. Wear that dress, eat that cake and do you! “Challenging society’s unrealistic ideals by reminding yourself that everyone is different,” says Bergman. “We will inevitably all be different shapes and sizes, can help you accept and celebrate who you are.”
Featured image by Logan Bonner