Body Image & Eating: The Basics
Start here to find out more about body image and eating concerns.
What is it?
Body image is about how you see and judge your body. Eating concerns has to do with behaviours related to eating. 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 striving for perfection.
Our body image plays a role in how we feel about ourselves. Your family, your peers, the media and our own beliefs all influence how satisfied you 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.
There is a continuum of disordered eating behaviours and different ways it can happen:
- Restricting how much food is eaten from small restrictions to severe restrictions.
- Getting rid of food and calories after eating.
- Eating large amounts of food in a short period of time.
The problems arise when the way we deal with food no longer promotes good health. Trying to lose weight can sometimes go too far and begin to damage the body. We can slip into disordered eating behaviours without realizing that it has happened.
When eating patterns greatly interfere our lives and put our 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 parts of life
- need to be perfect
- low self-esteem
- negative thoughts about body size/shape
- society’s image of the “ideal” body
- dealing with problems and stress in life
- being bullied for being overweight
- being left out of peer activities
- childhood abuse or neglect
- friends who engage in unhealthy weight control
- taking part 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’re 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 to 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 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.