Body Image & Eating: The Basics
Start here to find out more about body image and eating concerns.
What is it?
Body image and eating concerns have to do with how we perceive and judge our body and our behaviours related to eating. It doesn’t matter a person’s gender, everyone can experience body image and eating concerns.
It can start as…
- A desire to lose a few pounds.
- A way to have some control in our lives.
- A way of dealing with issues we don’t want to face, or don’t know how to face.
- A way to be more popular, or feel more accepted by our friends.
- Another goal in striving for perfection.
Our body image plays a role in how we feel about ourselves. Media, family, peers and our own beliefs influence how satisfied we are with our body. Problems with eating and body image can affect anyone, from every age, gender or background. Sometimes body image and eating concerns can lead to disordered eating.
Disordered eating behaviours happen along a continuum and can take different patterns:
- Restriction in how much food is eaten from small restrictions to severe restrictions
- Getting rid of food and calories after eating
- Consuming large quantities of food in a short period of time
Difficulties arise when food-related behaviours no longer promote good health. A person’s efforts to lose weight can sometimes go too far and become damaging to the body. We can slip into disordered eating behaviours without realizing that it has happened.
When eating patterns greatly interfere in a person’s life and put a person’s physical health at risk, they are diagnosed as clinical eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).
What can lead to body image and eating concerns?
We still don’t fully understand what leads to disordered eating but we do know it is a combination of factors such as:
- Family history of dieting or eating disorders
- High expectations to succeed in all aspects of life
- Need to be perfect
- Low self-esteem
- Negative thoughts about body size/shape
- Social perception of the “ideal” body
- Coping with difficult problems and stress in life
- Being bullied for being overweight
- Being excluded from peer activities
- Childhood abuse or neglect
- Having friends who engage in unhealthy weight control
- Involvement in an activity or sport that puts a lot of emphasis on weight or size (modeling, ballet, wrestling)
- Type 1 diabetes
What you can do if you’ve been experiencing body image and eating concerns
Body image and eating concerns are easier to overcome if they’re recognized early. You can take action on your own or with support from friends, family or professionals.
- Explore the “What Next” options below to learn about the early signs and help you decide on steps you can take.
- Check out these Tips and Apps & Tools for things you can do to help manage body image and eating concerns.
- Talk to someone you trust and let them know how you’re feeling. Check out Tips for Talking to Someone for help getting started.
- The Looking Glass Foundation offers regular, free and anonymous online peer support services for people of all ages who are experiencing disordered eating, weight, or body image challenges.
- If you think you need support from someone else, check out our Get Support section for a variety of options.
If you want to learn more about the early signs or find out if this is something you're experiencing, here are a few options.