Don't let your body image hold you back
How often do you look in the mirror and feel bad about what you see? Or let your life choices be dictated by the number on a scale? You’re not alone. Body image struggles are all too common and can feel all-consuming—but we can free ourselves from them.
What is body image?
Body image is complex. It’s the mental picture you have of your appearance, and it’s also what you think and feel about your body, how you experience being in your body, and how your perception of your body influences your behavior. It can be positive, neutral, or negative—and this can vary from day to day. For some people, body image doesn’t take up too much mental real estate, but for others, it can expand to every corner of their mind. Being this preoccupied with your body isn’t a vanity issue, and it has serious consequences. Body dissatisfaction increases a person’s risk of developing an eating disorder, but even if it never reaches that level, the daily pattern of obsessively criticizing your own body can take a toll on your mental and physical well-being. Negative body image isn’t a personal failing—it’s a predictable consequence of living in a society that’s steeped in diet culture and upholds unattainable body ideals.
Body image facts and statistics
- When people with negative body image look at themselves in the mirror, instead of seeing an objective reality, they view themselves through the harsh lens of a society that worships thinness. This may evoke feelings of shame, anxiety, and self-consciousness.
- Poor body image can have a negative impact on self-esteem, mood, social and occupational functioning, and overall health.
- Up to 75% of people worldwide experience body dissatisfaction.
- Studies show the highest levels of body dissatisfaction in adolescence and early adulthood, especially among women.
- 77% of adolescent girls report body dissatisfaction, and 60% of school-age girls report a desire to lose weight.
- Girls start to express concerns about their weight or shape by just six years old.
- 69% of teen boys report being self-conscious about their bodies, and boys and men feel increased pressure to be muscular and lean. Many don’t admit to these feelings because they see them as “girl” issues.
- Body dissatisfaction can predict the development of eating disorders, and it’s the best-known factor in anorexia and bulimia.
We’re not born hating our thighs or wishing our stomachs were smaller. These are beliefs we develop through social and interpersonal conditioning. If all you hear is how you should change your body and all the reasons your current self is not enough, it would be extremely difficult to find value and love for yourself as you are right now.Ally Duvall, Senior Program Development Lead & Freeform Manager
What’s the relationship between poor body image and eating disorders?
Not everyone with negative body image has an eating disorder, and not everyone with an eating disorder has negative body image. However, the two are often connected. Eating disorders never have just one cause, but are complex illnesses that emerge out of a confluence of factors, and negative body image can be one of those factors. However, many people with poor body image will never develop an eating disorder: while eating disorders affect about 9% of the U.S. population, up to 75% of people feel insecure about their body. Given our society’s unattainable (and practically inescapable) appearance ideals and the power of diet culture, it’s understandable that so many people feel like their body isn’t good enough. And while most people with eating disorders struggle with body image, this isn’t the case with Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), where body image distress is generally not a contributing factor in the eating disorder.
Up to 75%of people worldwide are unhappy with their body
Up to 75%of people worldwide are unhappy with their body
Freeform by Equip
Our body image program
The unfortunate reality is that most people today struggle with negative body image. Even if these struggles don’t grow into a full-blown eating disorder, they can significantly impact quality of life and health. This is a problem that needs to be addressed, which is why we developed Freeform by Equip, a free program to help people develop better relationships with their bodies. Developed by clinical and subject matter experts and backed by decades of research, Freeform is a four-week virtual program dedicated to challenging societal ideals to help participants feel empowered in their bodies. The techniques used in Freeform have been associated with reductions in negative mood, unhealthy dieting, and body dissatisfaction, as well as reduced risk of developing an eating disorder.
Freeform is the only body image program of its kind
In this program you will
- Examine society’s appearance ideals and what they have to do with health
- Explore the costs of pursuing these body ideals
- Look at how you’ve felt pressured to change their appearance in the past
- Identify physical characteristics about yourself that you like
- Explore the ways in which poor body image holds you back in life
- Identify ways to resist society’s pressures to look a certain way
- Rediscover joy and spend less time worrying about your body
- …and much more
92%found the program addressed their body image concerns
96%say this is an effective program for someone with body image concerns
Body image resources
Insights and information to help you build a better relationship with your body.
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“Stop trying to fix your body. It was never broken.”Eve Ensler
- Hosseini SA, Padhy RK. Body Image Distortion. [Updated 2023 Feb 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546582/
- Ganesan, Subhashini et al. “Are Body Image Issues Affecting Our Adolescents? A Cross-sectional Study among College Going Adolescent Girls.” Indian journal of community medicine : official publication of Indian Association of Preventive & Social Medicine vol. 43,Suppl 1 (2018): S42-S46. doi:10.4103/ijcm.IJCM_62_18
- Houle-Johnson, Stephanie A, and Lisa Kakinami. “Do sex differences in reported weight loss intentions and behaviours persist across demographic characteristics and weight status in youth? A systematic review.” BMC public health vol. 18,1 1343. 4 Dec. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12889-018-6179-x
- Cash, T. F., & Smolak, L. (Eds.). (2011). Body image: A handbook of science, practice, and prevention (2nd ed.). The Guilford Press
- Hargreaves DA, Tiggemann M. ‘Body Image is for Girls’: A Qualitative Study of Boys’ Body Image. Journal of Health Psychology. 2006;11(4):567-576
- Stice, Eric et al. “Risk factors that predict future onset of each DSM-5 eating disorder: Predictive specificity in high-risk adolescent females.” Journal of abnormal psychology vol. 126,1 (2017): 38-51. doi:10.1037/abn0000219
- Stice, Eric, and Heather E Shaw. “Role of body dissatisfaction in the onset and maintenance of eating pathology: a synthesis of research findings.” Journal of psychosomatic research vol. 53,5 (2002): 985-93. doi:10.1016/s0022-3999(02)00488-9
- Hosseini SA, Padhy RK. Body Image Distortion. [Updated 2023 Feb 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546582/#