I hate my body

Jessica Kennedy, Mental Health America

Hating your body is no fun. You might cry when you see photos of yourself, obsess over food, starve yourself, exercise to the point of exhaustion, or avoid people you haven’t seen in years so they don’t see your body changes. Maybe you weigh yourself every day and panic at perfectly normal water weight fluctuations (you didn’t gain 3-5 pounds overnight).

You may have a diagnosable eating disorder, such as anorexia (starving yourself) or bulimia (throwing up or otherwise purging food after you eat). Eating disorders are very serious and can be deadly—depriving the body of nutrients it needs can impact your whole life. If you even think you have an eating disorder, you need to bring it up with a doctor or a counselor ASAP. Eating disorder treatment is highly specialized, and there are a lot of misconceptions out there.

You may also be experiencing something called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which is when you see exaggerated flaws or imperfections in your body (even though they aren’t there). People with BDD have warped body image that isn’t necessarily consistent with what’s going on. It causes significant emotional distress and an obsession with your body. This is another thing to bring up with a doctor or a counselor.

You may have low self-esteem. Having low self-esteem or bad body image doesn’t necessarily mean you have a mental health condition, but that doesn’t make it any less troubling. You can see a therapist even if you don’t have a mental health diagnosis, but your insurance may not reimburse you. Many people work with counselors on these issues. There are also things you can do yourself to lift your self-esteem.

Maybe you wish you had a different body. You might feel too flat and skinny and want curves. Or maybe you think you’re overweight. There are ways to change your body so it better fits your perception, like diet or exercise. You may also find that you like your body after you buy clothes that fit better. Especially if your body type has changed a lot, wearing unflattering clothes can make a big difference in how you see yourself.

It’s important to accept what you can and can’t change about yourself and decide if you want to make those changes for you, not for anyone else.

It’s easy to feel bad about how you look in this day and age of social media. But remember that those perfect pictures you see are often the result of good lighting, flattering angles, filters, photoshop. You shouldn’t compare your internal self with their edited external self.

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