What is body dysmorphic disorder? Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) or body dysmorphia is a mental health condition in which “a person spends a lot of time worrying about and obsessing over flaws in their appearance.” The flaws themselves tend to be unnoticeable to others and are either “imagined” by the person suffering from BDD or in the case where there is an actual flaw it’s importance is exaggerated. BDD goes beyond being unhappy with a certain aspect of ones own appearance because for those suffering from it the perceived flaws cause them a great deal of emotional pain and interfere greatly with their lives (e.g they become anti social and engage in extreme acts to either hide or attempt to fix these flaws).
What does the fitness industry have to do with it? “Interestingly, distorted body image oftentimes has little to no relation to how an individual actually looks; his or her perception of the physical self is heavily influenced by cultural ideals.” For years society has been defining and setting standards of beauty through television and magazines and now with technological advancements and the rise in time spent scrolling through social media platforms people start to judge their own appearances according to societal/cultural definitions and expectations. With regard to fitness this may be feeling that one is not fit and healthy if they aren’t lean, muscular and have a six-pack. Another example is muscle dysmorphia (a subcategory of BDD affecting mostly males) in which one believes/perceives ones body to be too small. We tend to associate exercising and eating nutritious food in a positive manner (because at their very core these are things that are good for us) however, it is possible to take this to an extreme and transform what should be healthy habits into unhealthy ones.
Tips to maintain a positive body image:
- Learn to admire the beauty and accomplishments of others without calling your own into question. If following a particular page or person online makes you feel negative about yourself simply unfollow it and focus on those that inspire you instead
- Unplug try to limit time spent scrolling through social media
- Stop the negative self-talk. Practice speaking to yourself in a positive manner. Show yourself love and kindness
- Support network. You are not alone and do not have to suffer in silence. Talk to friends, loved ones or a professional about how you are feeling.
- Stop trying to live up to societies unrealistic standards. Celebrate what makes you unique, the world would be an extremely dull place if we were all the same.
Just some food for thought.