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How can I develop a healthier body image?

Here are three ways to help boost your self-image:

1. If you read women's magazines, watch television, or go to movies, do so with an informed, and critical eye. Women's' images in the media are typically created through computer editing, plastic surgery, and camera angles. Real women have natural physical flaws--they make us unique! However, self-esteem plummets when we adopt beauty idols with faces and bodies that are not realistic and achievable.

2. Honor your body, and eat and exercise accordingly. I'd recommend at least three meals a day, plus healthful snacks to keep hunger at bay. When we're ravenously hungry, we tend to overeat. Drinking water throughout the day is important too; dehydration can leave us feeling fatigued, grouchy, and ironically, hungry.

3. Practice positive self talk. We believe, practice, and live what we tell ourselves. Any time you hear yourself saying something negative: "my thighs are so fat; my stomach is so big; my hair is too curly or too straight, STOP right there and say something positive. Like what? Here are some suggestions:

  • I love to exercise. It makes me feel strong and good about myself. (Exercise is indeed key to boosting self confidence and it is essential for physical and mental health.)
  • I look great in _______________. I have a beautiful smile, nice eyes, shiny hair, etc.
  • I enjoy eating well and taking care of myself.

When someone gives you a negative comment that you feel is unfair, or makes you feel badly, remember that you have permission to say, "Thanks, but no thanks." One final piece of advice: if you have a daughter: be a great role model. Stay positive about yourself especially in front of your girls--if we verbalize unhappiness about our thighs, for example, our daughters will start questioning the beauty and worthiness of their own bodies. Instead of dieting, show your daughter that eating well in combination with regular physical activity contributes to a healthy weight and positive sense of self.

Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D., Former Nutritional Sciences Specialist, University of Missouri-Columbia

University of Missouri Extension Site Administrator: 

Last updated:06/17/2015
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