Article by Heather Grainer
People work out for many reasons. Some want to improve their health. Some want to train up for a sporting event. Some want to improve their self-image. And some want to be sexier. Exercising almost always has positive results  – particularly when it comes to body image. In this age of striving after physical perfection, more and more of us are falling prey to the agonies of body-based anxiety. For some, this can reach the point where one’s appearance begins to override all other things in one’s life – including one’s health. Depression and eating disorders born out of body image difficulties are an increasingly worrisome problem within our society , and nobody should have to suffer them. Having a positive body image is important, whatever you look like! With this in mind, here are some ways in which to gain a positive body image.
We would say that, wouldn’t we? It’s true, though. Exercise can have an enormously positive impact on your self-image. But not for the reasons you think. Sure, exercise can help you to lose weight and generally look better, which helps – but the main improvement in self-image seems to come from the general psychological wellbeing which exercise induces. Exercise boosts your mood, gives you confidence, and makes you feel a whole lot better in a multitude of ways. This has a knock-on effect on the way in which you think about yourself, no matter what tangible improvements (if any) to your looks you gain . And that’s the way it should be. Believe it or not, good body image is not actually really about what you look like on the outside – it’s about how you feel on the inside. Exercise is one of the best methods around of improving the way you feel on the inside. Be careful, though. If you have a history of eating disorders or Body Dysmorphic Disorder , it’s probably best to make sure that you’re not prioritizing your looks over your health when it comes to exercise. Conditions like exercise-based bulimia and ‘exercise addiction’ are on the rise, so be sure that you’re exercising for the way you feel rather than the way you look.
Avoid Conversations About Looks
Sure, we all know that it’s not good to be around people who bitch about the way you look. But did you know that even talking in a kind way about appearance can have a negative effect ? Why? Because it reinforces the idea that Looks Are Everything. By making the way you look seem the be all and end all, conversations about appearance (your own or others) naturally makes the way you look seem a lot more important than it actually is. This in turn makes you more anxious about your body. Instead of talking about the way people look, try talking about the way they are as a person. Complimenting someone on their intelligence, their kindness, their sense of humor etc is much better all round than making a big deal out of their looks. And way less superficial to boot!
Seek Out Positive Media
Much has been made of the way in which media images can reinforce (or even create) bodily anxieties . But it works the other way, too. As well as avoiding media which makes you feel bad about the way you look, seek out media which gives a more affirming message. More and more outlets are wising up to the idea of giving out body-positive messages, and surrounding yourself with that kind of positive reinforcement really can help to change the way in which you perceive yourself. While it may be tough to avoid the skinny, toned models gazing out from every billboard, you can negate their effect by giving yourself a good dose of body-boosting media positivity!
 P Fenton, “ABC of sports medicine. Benefits of exercise in health and disease”, British Medical Journal, May 1994
 Dan Whitworth, “Eating disorder hospital admissions nearly double”, BBC, Jun 2015
 University of Florida, “UF study: Exercise improves self-image for fit and unfit alike”
 Bulimia.com, “The Impact of Eating Disorders on Body Image”
 Lazy Moms’ Blog, “8 surprising reasons to stop complimenting little girls looks”, Jun 2015
 Shelly Grabe, Monique Ward, Janet Hyde, “The role of the media in body image concerns among women: A meta-analysis of experimental and correlational studies”, Psychological Bulletin, May 2008