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Ideal Body Image

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Everywhere we look in the media, be it magazine covers, film and television, or fashion, we are surrounded by images of bodies seeking to teach us what is beautiful. And they’re having a very powerful effect. There’s just one little problem: the ideal body is an invention, culturally crafted, and determined by standards that have little to do with what it means to be and thrive within a human body.

The concept is nothing new.

Today, fit is in. Twenty years ago, it was “heroin chic,” before that it was Marilyn Monroe, and a generation of girls tried to add to their hips and stuffed their bras. Want to go back even further? Once, it was all about creamy complexions and the teeniest waists one could manage – who cared if you couldn’t breathe.

In the classical world, we see our first image of the adolescent female ideal carved into marble and we later see the Renaissance reject this or anything meager or slim in favor of feminine curves.

The point to take from this is that each fashionable endeavor corresponded with the technology of the age and the worldview. In each age, someone is left out in the rain, left to chase their very own version of the ideal, their very own beautiful body. And ultimately, what must be understood is that our collective body image, while strangely skewed, is often a temporary fashion

No wonder we can’t keep up.

Eating Disorders and the Ideal Body Image

Of course, the road to a healthy body image isn’t always an easy one to travel. Rarely are we made to understand how nearly unattainable these bodies actually are, or that to pursue such a level of fitness requires a dedication comparable to working two or three full time jobs.

The current modern rendition of the “ideal body type” is a figment of a photo-shop-savvy imagination: they don’t exist in reality at all. And yet, Eating Disorders seem to be on the rise. The collective projections and misconceptions of ideal body image, combined with a person’s own challenges with self-esteem and self-identity, can push some to drastically alter their appearance or feel compelled to punish their bodies for falling short of the current definition of physical perfection.

The causes of Eating Disorders are vast and various. Body image does indeed play a major part in their creation, but it’s not the only catalyst we need to consider. Other factors include: a history of abuse, family environment, a culture of perfectionism, media influence, a lack of support in emotional challenges, or even feelings of spiritual disconnection.

Recent Eating Disorder statistics gathered by health professionals are staggering:

  • At least 8 million Americans are afflicted with an Eating Disorder.
  • 9 out of 10 women dislike their body
  • 1 in 200 women suffer from Anorexia Nervosa; it’s the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents. Even more suffer from Bulimia.
  • 95% of those who have Eating Disorders are between the ages of 12 & 25
  • 80% of 13-year-olds have attempted to lose weight.
  • Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
  • Nearly 50% of all Americans knows someone personally who has an Eating Disorder.

What these stunning statistics convey is how badly we need to shift the conversation about the ideal body image – that by learning to relate to ourselves, and our bodies in a more realistic, dynamic, and healthful way, we may literally save lives.

And for those whose eating challenges and hurtful body image aren’t life threatening – we can help them preserve their hearts and souls instead. In fact, the entire matter reveals something much more important for us to consider…

Being at home in your own body isn’t a passing fad.

Ultimately, beauty in a body cannot be measured in inches or scales, tight abs, or dress size, but by the self-image we possess instead. The truth of our innate selves, as walking, talking, dancing, and creative human beings is the only ideal worth searching out or embodying. The ideal body image starts with the body we have now – not some future one we can magically attain that will make us feel like we have finally arrived.

Only by accepting and loving who we are, can we truly fall in love with the gift of the body we’ve been given.

Finding Your Healthy Ideal Body Image

At the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, our holistic approach is called Dynamic Eating Psychology, and explores both the emotional and intellectual relationship with food, as it allows each of us to discover our own unique road to healing and transformation.

The field of Dynamic Eating Psychology teaches how the way we feel and think influences every aspect of our lives and our bodies. We know that creating a better body image is a wonderfully complex and beautiful task. And we know that it takes time, and love and psychological strategies that truly work. This is the foundation of our Eating Psychology Coach Certification Training.

Eating Disorders are not a challenge that can benefit from a one-size-fits-all approach. Nor can someone merely want to get healthy. The process of creating a better body image asks you to understand why you think of yourself – and your body – the way that you do. It will also require a very deliberate approach to navigate that bumpy road more easily.

We have a unique approach to our Training, so that our graduates our equipped with the tools to help their clients heal and take steps towards building a better relationship with their bodies.

We’re training new leaders in this field every year.

Perhaps you’re just looking for the right way to get involved.

If you’re interested in learning more about our Eating Psychology Coach Certification Training, or any of our other offerings please sign up for our free information packed video series called “The Dynamic Eating Psychology Breakthrough” here or email us at info@psychologyofeating.com to learn more.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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