Body image is something that every student has to deal with on a daily basis. Unfortunately at BC, certain societal ideals, like women needing to be skinny to be pretty or that men need to be toned to fit in, are so strong and embedded into the culture that a lot of students feel alone and lost. As a Wellness Coach for nutrition, I hear so many students (guys and girls of all shapes and sizes) who are struggling and looking for help. One thing that helps the students is defining body image in the first place.
There are four main aspects of body image and they all are connected. The first part of body image includes a perceptual perspective which is how you think you look. The second part is the way you feel about your body, or affective perspective. Similar to the perceptual part, cognitive perspective comes next. This means the thoughts you have about your body. The behavioral perspective is the last part of the body image which encompasses the behaviors you engage in as a result of your body image.
All four of these aspects come together to put your overall body image on a spectrum. It goes from negative, neutral, to positive. Where you are at on the spectrum can change day to day or moment to moment. Students shared that it is important to know the difference so it is easier to put words to feelings. Negative body image involves a distorted perception of shape and feeling shame about your body. Neutral is about having an accurate sense of what your body looks like and you tolerate it. You do not feel overly emotional about your body, but you are comfortable with it. Positive body image is about respecting your body, rejecting unrealistic body images, and having a favorable opinion of your body no matter the weight or shape.
These definitions are just the start to the complex and multidimensional phenomenon of body image. If you have never had a conversation with your friends about body image, take this as a permission to start the conversation and be ready to share and listen because everyone can relate to this.
As always if you are struggling or interested in body image or other aspects of health please sign up for a conversation with a Wellness Coach.