While positive body image and acceptance are becoming more spread through society and social media, there is still a toxic culture promoted by celebrities, influencers, and others who want to set and follow trends. Now more than ever, there is a wave of preaching self-love and self-acceptance, but people with powerful platforms can overshadow the positivity from smaller promoters of positivity. Because of this, the obsession with weight and appearance has begun to take root in adolescents, causing an increase in mental health disorders, specifically eating disorders.
Body Image and Body Positivity
The concepts of body image and body positivity are relatively new and can be defined in various ways, but the broadest way to define body image is how one perceives their body when they look in a mirror or when they picture themselves in their mind (“Body Image & Eating Disorders.”). Body positivity is the general acknowledgment that everyone should learn to have a positive body image regardless of how media portrays body types. Sometimes, the body image of an individual can be greatly affected by body positivity, so it is important that people use their social media platforms to spread body positivity because a negative body image can lead to a domino effect of other health problems.
Mental Health Disorders Caused by Negative Body Image
The feelings that come with a negative body image are anxiety and self-consciousness. These negative emotions can lead to the development of illnesses such as depression and eating disorders. Eating disorders can manifest in various ways, but anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are very common responses to the obsession of society for people to look a certain way (Derenne). The development of such eating disorders can be drastically harmful, especially at a young age, and people are being referred for eating disorders at progressively younger generations. However, anxiety and depression triggered by the expectation to be unrealistically thin can also manifest in other types of eating disorders such as binge eating as a result of baseless dietary restrictions. Binge eating can lead to weight gain, leading to negative body image, starting the cycle again.
Fad diets are dangerous tools companies used to profit from the insecurities of people who try to meet the body expectations of society. Typically, fad diets are promoted by celebrities and influencers who are sponsored to give positive testimonials about a product with little to no scientific basis. Additionally, fad diets are often promoted by people who already have the supermodel “perfect” figure, so the message being pushed is that you need to lose weight and try certain diets or supplements regardless of your current body.
End the Negativity Early
As children are progressively more exposed to social media in a world where obesity is increasing, negative body image and the many issues that follow can enter someone’s life at a dangerous age. Because the body of an adolescent is constantly changing and developing, if a child tries to force themselves to weigh a certain number or look a certain way, they can damage their bodies forever. Kids might not even be aware that they are harming themselves by restricting their diets and intake of nutrients, so it is even more important for guardians and adults in their lives to teaching them about health and body positivity.
Social media platforms and celebrities should also take more responsibility for ending the stigma that you have to diet to be healthy and achieve your body goals. Although the presence of body positivity is growing on social media, it can be misused to perpetuate the harmful expectations of society to have a certain body or weigh a certain amount. When people are taught to love themselves at a younger age, they can learn resilience at a more prepared state and help spread positivity.