The National Eating Disorders Association defines body image
|How you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. It encompasses:
- · What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations).
- · How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight.
- · How you sense and control your body as you move. How you physically experience or feel in your body.
It is essential to note that body image depends on perception rather than numbers or measurements. Indeed the majority of women and men struggle to achieve positive body image, regardless of body size and health. An informal 2011 Glamour magazine survey
found a whopping 97% of women reported at least one “I hate my body” thought a day
. Body image can be negatively impacted by incessant exposure to cultural body ideals as well as our own complex psychology (overall happiness, depression, anxiety, stress, etc.).
For patients experiencing or having experienced significant weight loss, challenges regarding body image can be particularly poignant. Despite the pervasive impact of body image on our overall happiness and satisfaction with ourselves and our day-to-day lives, obesity treatments often focus on physical rather than emotional markers of health. In the case of significant weight loss, patients may have improved health, as defined by resolution of diabetes and other conditions caused by obesity; however, they may be surprised to find their ability to exercise and wear clothing worn by others their size may be limited by excess skins folds that may result from weight loss. While procedures to remove the excess skin (often termed “body contouring”) can greatly improve appearance and quality of life, they are not typically covered by insurance.
In this month’s chat, we seek to explore the intersection of massive weight loss, health, and body image. We are particularly interested to hear from post weight loss patients as to how health care professionals and advocates can positively impact body image, to augment the weight loss journey.
We will explore the following questions:
- In what ways does our body shape and size contribute to body image? In what ways is body image independent of body shape/size? What are other factors that contribute to body image?
- What challenges to positive body image are unique to patients losing extreme amounts of weight (i.e. > 50 lbs)? How can these be overcome?
- How does body image impact our lifestyle and relationships with others?
- What is the role of interventions such as body contouring and professional mental health support in achieving positive body image after massive weight loss?
- How can allied health professionals be more supportive of positive body image among patients with obesity?
(Due to Mother's Day, this chat was rescheduled to take place on the second Sunday in June, June 10 at 9 pm EST. )