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Body image is a term that refers to a person’s self-perception of their physical appearance. It is a judgment of their attractiveness, sexuality and social acceptability. Poor body image is sometimes a distorted interpretation of what one sees reflecting back in the mirror. This occurs when someone sees himself or herself very differently from how others actually perceive him or her. This perception can be quite distorted. For instance, a young woman weighing 120 pounds struggles with poor body image. She is obsessed with looking in the mirror, measuring, or trying on her clothes. She is admired by others for her lean figure, but when she looks in the mirror, she sees herself overweight. She sees only imperfections. Her perception is distorted.
Obsession on body image may be, in part, a product of our social experiences. Our American culture promotes physical attractiveness as primary to popularity, success and happiness. Children in grade school, already influenced by the media and friends, feel pressured to have the right clothes, to fit into tiered social groups and they are pressured to be thin. People of all ages engage in “fat” talk – obsessing about body size, proportion, physical ability and appearance.
Physical perfection is constantly preached through media through advertising and entertainment. Ultra-thin men and women model trendy clothes – clothes that define our social status, our character, and our popularity. The truth is, clothes fit very differently on each of us. Most men and women can recall a time that they shuddered under ultraviolet lights in a changing room expecting to look like what they saw on TV, online or in a magazine. Celebrities we idolize are often too thin or their image has been digitally altered to perfection – an unrealistic and unhealthy set point for body image.
Body perfection has become so important that some individuals obsess to the degree that they engage in dangerous diets, disordered eating patterns, cosmetic surgery and hyper-exercise trying to obtain the perfect figure, risking severe health consequences – even death.