This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, a national campaign to recognize the impact that eating disorders have on almost 30 million Americans. Common eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are mental illnesses caused by a combination of genetics, psychological, and emotional health factors. 

These issues may be further influenced by stress, diet culture, and an environment that facilitates negative body image. Eating disorders do not discriminate based on age, gender, or socioeconomic status — and they can lead to extreme consequences. In fact, anorexia nervosa is the deadliest mental illness, killing one person every 62 minutes. 

As we acknowledge National Eating Disorders Week, it’s a good time to think about the importance of body positivity, and how it can be a potentially life-saving practice for you or a loved one.

What is body positivity?

Body positivity is the movement that challenges how society and media view people based on their size and body type. This crusade seeks to promote the acceptance and representation of bodies of all shapes and sizes, and advocates for individuals to love their bodies — and feel confident in their own skin. Body positivity is about embracing your body as it is, and seeing it as beautiful. 

However, we are all human and we must understand that with acceptance, there may still be times of doubt and insecurity. But we should lift each other up in these negative times to foster more effective coping strategies to turn our issues into opportunities for positive progress.

Why is a positive body image important?

Body image is how an individual sees their own body. And that may not be how others see it, or how it is evaluated from a clinical or physical sense. Body image includes your feelings about your body, your culturally-influenced perception of how you think your body looks, and your perception of your body size. A positive body image is important because it builds self-esteem and better mental and physical health. Feeling comfortable in your own skin can make you feel more confident, which affects important aspects of your life, such as your work and relationships. 

Having a negative body image can contribute to serious problems that affect both physical and mental health. Some risks of negative body image include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression 
  • Eating disorders
  • Body dysmorphic disorder 
  • Self-harm 
  • Mood disorders

Embracing and practicing body positivity can prevent long-term harm. But, it may come harder for some.

How to practice body positivity

Here are a few ways you can practice body positivity to improve your body image:

  1. Make a list of your favorite things about yourself, and take time to appreciate everything your body does for you. Use your list to give yourself meaningful body positive affirmations you believe in, and thank your body for all it does for you.
  2. Throw out clothes that don’t fit — hanging on to a pair of too-small “goal” jeans can contribute to a negative body image. Wearing clothes that properly fit and flatter your body helps facilitate a positive body image. 
  3. Practice self-care. Make sure you get enough sleep, healthy food, and exercise; take breaks when you need them; and meditate. 
  4. Consume media with a critical eye, asking whether the standards and examples perpetuated are realistic and healthy. 
  5. Surround yourself with positive friends, and unfollow any social media accounts or “influencers” that fixate on dieting, weight loss, and body shaming.

Resources for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

For more information on eating disorders and body image, visit the NEDA website. If you ever need to talk to a professional, you can call their confidential helpline Monday – Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST, and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. As patient safety advocates, we are dedicated to empowering all who are affected by eating disorders and related mental illnesses. 

Contact us to learn how we are revolutionizing patient care in behavioral health settings with our compliance technology.