What is your body image? Your body image is the mental picture that you carry of your physical appearance - however, although the concept is simple, our actual body image can be a complex thing.
It is not simply what we see in the mirror, but also how we view ourselves in comparison to the culture, time and expectations of the society in which we live.
Body image is therefore viewed in the context of what our society currently considers 'normal'. If you feel that your body image doesn't fit what is expected by society, you will feel pressure to change in order to conform.
In the West, we currently live in an age where two conflicting forces are in sharp opposition - while the media is full of images of thin, successful, happy people, the data shows that in reality over half of all adults in the UK are overweight and that one in five is obese.
Why are we getting bigger, when the desired shape in our society is so small? A number of forces have combined to make it easy for people to gain weight:
- Cheap, readily available, high calorie food
- The move away from manual labour to less active work
- A shift in the way people spend their leisure time, with an increase in sedentary activities
At the same time, the media loves to promote celebrities whose size and shape is unattainable by most people -this creates a pressure on people to look that way.
In order to try and combat these conflicting pressures, people try extreme diets, which can promote a cycle of weight loss and weight gain. Alternatively, they give up and retreat into comfort eating.