MU Extension MU Extension       University of Missouri    ●    Columbia    ●    Kansas City       Missouri S&T     ●    St. Louis - Food and Fitness


Feature Articles: Body Image


Feeling Better About Your Body Promotes a Healthier Lifestyle 

Linda Rellergert, Nutrition Specialist in St. Charles County
University of Missouri Extension



What you think about your body has a tremendous impact on your self-esteem, your desire to socialize and your relationships with other people. Body image also has a great impact on eating and activity patterns.

Body self-criticism does not lead to a healthy lifestyle
Being critical of your body will not lead to sustained, healthy eating and regular physical activity habits. Constant thoughts and feelings of dislike or disgust with your body leads to short term extremes like dieting, restricting food, rigid exercise programs and the like. These techniques don't result in a permanent healthier lifestyle. Instead, they are likely to backfire and lead to a dislike of healthful eating and physical activity. To achieve a permanent change in eating and physical activity habits, it is vital that you stop body self-criticism.

Body appreciation is an act of self-value
Acquiring a kinder view of your body is no easy task at a time when the only popular images of beauty are very young and thin. However, it will be almost impossible to make positive long-term health and lifestyle changes unless you value and appreciate your body.

Think of an object that is very valuable to you. It could be a special gift or prized family heirloom. How do you care for this object? Do you handle it carefully? Perhaps it sits in a prominent place in your home, artfully displayed so visitors to your home will notice and admire it.

Now think how you might treat your body if you also looked at it as important and valuable. You would take care of it by feeding it well, making sure it had enough activity to keep it strong, and had regular health care. You would protect it by allowing it to be touched only with respect and gentleness, by wearing your seatbelt or by not smoking. You would show it to its best advantage by wearing attractive, comfortable shoes and clothes. You would praise it and admire it. When you view your body as valuable, you begin to see that you must care for it, rather than chastise or belittle it.

Frances Berg writes in Women Afraid to Eat, "You're okay just as you are. You're a unique person, capable and loveable, with special talents and traits, and this is a marvelous thing. No need to work on perfecting yourself. In fact, it can be self-defeating. It keeps a person locked in the anticipation trap, waiting and hoping to be 'better.'"

We actually have less control over the size and shape of our bodies than most of us think. Genetics determine height, proportion, and overall shape. Each of us has an internal set-point that greatly influences body size and weight. These things cannot be changed.

What can be changed is your attitude toward your body. Focus your energies on the things that really matter, and on being as healthy as you can be. People who are comfortable with themselves, confident and loving, are the truly beautiful people.



Based in part on material written by Vera M Nichols, Nutrition Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, Boone County.



Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009








University of Missouri logo links to

Site Administrator:
Copyright  ADA  Equal Opportunity

MissouriFamilies is produced by the College of Human Environmental Sciences,
Extension Division, University of Missouri