What really is Body Image …?

Gets you thinking, hey…

Explained by a Women’s Health website:

“A healthy body image means you feel comfortable in your body and you feel good about the way you look. This includes what you think and feel about your appearance and how you judge your own self-worth. A negative body image can put you at higher risk of certain mental health conditions, such as eating disorders and depression”.[1]

I don’t know about you, but having a healthy body image was not something that I grew up with, nor could I see others displaying that they had one. I’m pretty sure I am not alone in this lack. So why are we women so rampantly experiencing this disease of poor body image and its close companion, lack of self-worth? Is it the bombardment of images from such mediums as movies and TV shows that portray woman and men who are perfect (photoshopped and brushed up), and this is then how we model ourselves? As kids we are not spoken to about this ‘healthy body image’, or even that it is a ‘thing’. Amongst girls it is normal to self-critique, and this is even an accepted way of being. In friendships if you don’t self-critique in some way you will be looked at and judged . . .

. . . “Who do you think you are?”

It is an expected part of female friendships that you will rip yourself down, as you are simultaneously competing with each other on the war fronts of make-up, hair, clothes body shape, weight and attractiveness.

Two questions:

  • Where is this fed from?

  • But more than that, why do we accept this ‘disorder’ as a normal way of being?

How can a little girl, who is super scrumptious, look in the mirror and think she is anything less than that? Where does this come from? Could it be there is more to this then we think?

If we think of this as a mental health condition (as stated in ‘Women’s Health’ magazine) then it starts to make you think this is serious and not just a ‘normal’ thing that woman / men have – it is more insidious and dangerous to the wellbeing and health of people, individually and to the collective of us in our whole country.

If woman (and men) live with this disorder they are more likely to overcompensate in other areas and participate in self-harming behaviours. It is common for young girls to be bulimic and now it is somewhat accepted, even glamourised on social media.[2] The new eating disorder that is on the rise is binge eating disorder (BED).[3], [4] In this condition the person eats an excessive amount of food in a short period of time. Unlike a person with bulimia, they will not attempt to make themselves vomit, nor will they overexercise.[5] It is stated that of all people with an eating disorder, 47% of them have BED.[3] Eating disorders in total affect around 1 million Australians, and this is increasing each year. Back in 2012 the socio-economic cost of eating disorders in Australia was calculated to be $69.7 billion dollars by Deloitte Access Economics.[6] The current financial cost to the community and to individuals suffering these disorders is not available, but surely must be far greater as the rates of these diseases climb.

If body image is the underlying factor here it makes sense that this self-loathing is feeding the eating disorders. More images in the media, and more extreme images means more bombardment of perfection to model one’s imperfect self against, and this then continues to breed the disorder. Social media is full of mostly woman who are riddled with plastic surgery, Botox, fillers, face lifts etc. It has become the normal (and celebrated) to not look natural. Some of the most followed celebrities are famous for going under the knife and having their entire body reconstructed. Begs the question, what ideas are they being fed that prompts them to fathom that their body is not imperfectly perfect and that they need plastic modification to make themselves look better?

Until we have had enough and seriously consider these questions… until we stop looking at these fake images and ‘believing in them’ as something to have for ourselves, we are part of the ‘body image’ game that is wrecking our mental health. What will it take for us to stop comparing ourselves to other women, men, and the images we are fed that are just not true? How bad will the eating disorder stats have to get for us to see that this is a societal disorder, not just the problem of a handful of girls?

Start to appreciate the body we have been gifted with.

Allow the so-called imperfections to be the beautiful representation of heaven that they are.

I often look at the wren birds we have around our house. The female could be described as dull and boring while the male is bright and pretty. She doesn’t carry herself as less because she is not as bright and pretty as him, but holds what she knows as her true delicate and precious self.

She knows her place in the cycle of life and makes him work for it before she says yes.

She flies with such absolute delicateness and holds herself with a standard of knowing she is exquisite. How does she do this, hold herself by the beauty she represents, not enslaved to an outer appearance?

What if we held ourselves as the scrumptious little girl / boy who looked in the mirror with no self-critique, judgment, comparison or self-bashing? What if we said no to any of those thoughts that came to make us feel less? Industries would change – clothing, movies, food, alcohol. They no longer could market to our weak distortion of self-loathing, and no longer would we accept the distorted views that are airbrushed and photoshopped women and men to be our poster representations.

The marketing would be targeted to woman and men feeling empowered, full in their uniquely imperfect self. Knowing each person brings something extra special and that is to be celebrated in full.


  • [1]

    Source article: Grabe, S., Ward, L.M., Hyde, J.S. (2008). The role of the media in body image concerns among women: a meta-analysis of experimental and correlational studies. Psychological Bulletin; 134(3): 460–476.

  • [2]

    Sidani, J., Shensa, A., Hoffman, B., Hanmer, J., & Primack, B. (2016). The Association between Social Media Use and Eating Concerns among US Young Adults. Journal Of The Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics, 116(9), 1465-1472. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.03.021

  • [3]

    Eating Disorders in Australia. Retrieved 28 December 2021, from https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/the-facts/eating-disorders-in-australia/

  • [4]

    Lewin, E. (2020). Australia’s most common eating disorder is under-recognised: Expert. Retrieved 28 December 2021, from https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/australia-s-most-common-eating-disorder-is-under-r

  • [5]

    Binge eating disorder (BED). Retrieved 28 December 2021, from https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/types/binge-eating-disorder/

  • [6]

    Deloitte Access Economics. Paying the price: The economic and social impact of eating orders in Australia. Australia: Deloitte Access Economics; 2012.

Filed under

Body imageEating disorderMedia

  • By Sarah Nicole

  • Photography: Matt Paul