Larissa Orloff, MD, is a resident physician in Psychiatry at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. For more information on this topic, talk to your physician or call Banner’s Behavioral Health Helpline at (602) 254-HELP (4357).
Question: I am at normal weight but when I compare my body to celebrities I feel like I should be thinner. How do I stop feeling bad about my body?
Answer: With the rise of obesity, abundance of fad diets and the celebration of ultra-thin celebrities, more than ever, we need learn about healthy weight ranges and how to cultivate a good body image.
Remember that genetics, fitness and nutrition all play a role determining our body shape. Some celebrities and models may have won the genetic lottery, however they have teams of people such as personal trainers, stylists and professional photographers working tirelessly to make them look flawless. We should never compare ourselves to an image that has been designed to create an illusion of perfection.
If you are concerned about your weight, consult with your doctor. Set realistic weight loss goals and remember the primary goal should be to improve your health and fitness. Make a point of recognizing the features you like best about your body and praise yourself. Don’t waste time fixating on the parts of your body you dislike. Remember that you are more than a body part or a number on the scale.
If you have become obsessive about body flaws, increasingly preoccupied with controlling your weight, or if you are experiencing repetitive guilty feelings when eating, you may be suffering from a poor body image and could be at risk of developing an eating disorder.
So when does someone on a diet cross the line into an eating disorder? Someone with a severe fear of gaining weight who restricts food to the point they become underweight defines anorexia nervosa. Bulimia is a disorder that causes women, or men, to compensate after binge eating by purging through vomiting, over-exercising, fasting or abusing laxatives out of fear of gaining weight. Anorexia and bulimia both increase the risk for developing depression or anxiety disorders. In addition, there are clearly physical health consequences that could turn severe or even fatal.
If you have adopted any of these drastic weight loss behaviors, or if you begin to see your self become obsessive about managing your weight, you should speak with a doctor immediately. A professional can help you develop a healthier, happier relationship with food and the nutrition that your body needs.