A negative body image is a leading cause of eating disorders among young women in Singapore. When you are dissatisfied with your physical appearance, you are likely to become obsessed with your weight and may indulge in excessive dieting, or bingeing and purging, characteristics of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.
A survey conducted by four final-year students of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, Nanyang Technological University, as part of an eating disorders prevention campaign targeting female university students aged 18-24, found that 84.7 per cent of respondents were dissatisfied with their bodies.
About 45.5 per cent of the female students surveyed believed they were “too fat” and 33 per cent “felt ashamed” of their bodies. One of the main reasons for body dissatisfaction was comparing with others.
Instead of obsessing about body image, Clinical Psychologist Dr Seetha Subbiah urges young women to focus on taking care of their bodies so that they remain healthy during their lifetime.
Rashyr Perez Ramanathan, an eating disorders survivor, agrees that focusing on health is the best way to overcome body image issues. “When you’re healthy, you feel good and you feel beautiful. Exercise always helps. Don’t compare yourself with other people, because everyone’s different. Focus on what’s good for your body type,” she says.
Lim Jia Jun, another eating disorders survivor, notes that “body positivity doesn’t come easy”. “Like breaking bad habits and instilling new ones, constant practice and determination are essential… Every day when I encountered the urge to stand in front of a mirror to critique my body, I made eye contact with myself and repeated ‘I am pretty’ like a mantra. It took months until I started believing it.”
10 ways to develop a positive body image:
- Stop comparing yourself with others
- Refrain from negative self-talk and use affirmations (e.g. “I am good just the way I am”) to boost your body image
- When you look in the mirror, focus on what you like about yourself, not what you don’t like
- Avoid magazines/television shows/websites etc. that make you insecure about your appearance
- Eat healthily to nourish your body
- Be physically active and participate in sports activities
- Develop supportive relationships/friendships
- Avoid social discussions on physical appearance
- Choose clothes that are comfortable and suit you instead of blindly following fashion trends
- Find a purpose that keeps you meaningfully occupied and takes your attention away from your body image.