Body image, your internalized sense of your physical shape and appearance, isn’t just about confidence, nor is it an issue reserved exclusively for teenagers. Negative body image affects people of all ages, genders, and races, and is intricately linked to a host of mental health concerns, including eating disorders, low self-esteem, shame, isolation, anxiety, and depression.
Although it’s quite normal to feel some dissatisfaction regarding aspects of your body or appearance, if such self-criticism dominates your thoughts, limits your overall life satisfaction, or otherwise affects your school, work, relationships, or ability to function in a healthy way on a day-to-day basis, seeking help is imperative. Persistent negative body image can set the stage for serious mental and physical health complications, including body dysmorphia (sometimes referred to as “imagined ugliness”), compulsions and avoidance behaviors, and even suicidal ideation.
Eating disorders are of particular concern among people with body image issues, as they can be life threatening if left untreated. Anorexia nervosa, in fact, has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric condition. Widely misunderstood and mischaracterized as a phase or lifestyle choice, eating disorders—also including bulimia nervosa and binging and purging—are strongly linked to body dissatisfaction.
When it comes to body image, the elephants in the room, of course, are the unavoidable media and advertising messages that permeate our culture. Television, movies, magazines, websites, and other forms of media peddle unrealistic and often unhealthy standards, and younger people can be especially susceptible to the suggestion that these images reflect an ideal. In one study, 69% of American elementary school girls who look at magazines said the images they contained influenced their concept of the ideal body, and 47% said the images made them want to lose weight.
Addressing body image issues is complicated, but seeking the help of a qualified therapist is a highly recommended step. For our part, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best online resources for body image issues and support—GoodTherapy.org excluded—in 2014. Our selections are based on quality and depth of content, presentation, and functionality.
- Proud2Bme: Proud2Bme is a teen-focused online community that provides relevant coverage on fashion, beauty, culture, and entertainment while promoting healthy attitudes about weight and body image. Proud2Bme is a resource for information on eating disorders and recovery, expert advice, self-esteem for teens, and help for parents. Site visitors can find an active forum, personal stories from teens, and a helpline staffed with volunteers from the National Eating Disorders Association.
- Adios, Barbie: Adios, Barbie calls itself “the body image site for every body.” A lifestyle blog edited by two women, Adios, Barbie tackles body image issues among people of all genders, races, body types, sexual orientations, ages, and cultures. Adios, Barbie encourages people to think critically about the messages they receive from the media and shift from being consumers to active participants in the media culture critique. Site visitors can find blog posts, articles, campaigns, and information about events that work to redefine beauty and help everyone feel comfortable with themselves.
- About-Face: About-Face is one of the best-recognized nonprofit groups working to promote healthy self-esteem and body image in girls. Established in San Francisco in 1995 by Kathy Bruin, About-Face works to give girls and women the tools to recognize harmful media messages and resist their negative impact. About-Face puts on media-literacy workshops in schools, organizations, and communities, and site visitors can find a “Gallery of Offenders” and a “Gallery of Winners” wherein About-Face staff critique or cheer the latest in pop culture.
- Beauty Redefined: Lexie Kite, PhD, and Lindsay Kite, PhD, are identical twin sisters who, after receiving their doctorates in the study of media and body image, created Beauty Redefined—a nonprofit foundation to help women and girls recognize and reject harmful media messages. Beauty Redefined has an active social media presence and a well-read blog with smart, meaningful messages and societal critiques that encourage girls to rethink what “beauty” means.
- BodySense: BodySense specializes in promoting a positive body image culture among athletes and in sports. A program offered by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport and the True Sport Foundation, BodySense has created a 10-point model for promoting healthy body image in sports designed for use by teams, clubs, and schools. The 10 “BodySense Basics” were developed by doctors, body image experts, and dieticians with the goal of building self-esteem, fostering healthy coping skills, and encouraging male and female athletes to love their bodies. Site visitors can find information about training programs, workshops, and a resource kit for parents, coaches, and teachers.
- The Body Image Project: The Body Image Project encourages women and girls to contribute their personal stories about challenges with self-esteem and body image; a frequently updated blog features these stories. All posts are anonymous (only a contributor’s age is listed) to encourage an honest conversation about the struggles some women and girls face every day. Note: Because of the openness of the stories, there may be some potentially triggering language.
- We Are the Real Deal: We Are the Real Deal is a program of Mental Fitness, Inc., a national nonprofit that uses arts and media programs to spread mental health awareness. We Are The Real Deal hosts a body image-focused blog featuring more than 40 contributors who offer unique perspectives on self-acceptance, healthy coping, and nutrition. Site visitors can find interviews with celebrities and athletes, insight from mental health professionals, and a library of information on eating issues and self-esteem.
- Association for Size Diversity and Health: The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) is an international nonprofit that strives to promote an alternative to weight-centered body image and focuses on what it calls “Health at Every Size” principles. These principles emphasize health enhancement, respectful care, eating for well-being, and nutrition rather than dieting. Site visitors can access recorded webinars at no cost, an active blog, and other positive body image resources.
- The Body Image Movement: Taryn Brumfitt began The Body Image Movement when she decided to cancel her impending body-augmenting plastic surgery. She dedicated her life to learning how to live happily in her body, and is working toward her goal of reaching as many women around the world as she can with her message of fully embracing and loving the body you were given. The Body Image Movement emphasizes health, body diversity, and celebrating the aging process while working to combat media messages that erode women’s self-esteem.
- AnyBody: AnyBody is the UK chapter of the international initiative Bodies Endangered. AnyBody works to change the body image landscape by challenging the diet industry and defying physical representations of people in today’s media-fueled society. Blog contributors are activists, psychologists, doctors, and writers, all dedicated to refuting harmful norms in the fashion, food, and media industries. Site visitors can also find a forum for discussion and links to other Bodies Endangered resources.
Have a website you would like to see in our Top 10? Recommend it here.
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://teenshealth.org/teen/your_mind/body_image/body_image_problem.html
- Get the Facts on Eating Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders
- Martin, J. B. (2010). The Development of Ideal Body Image Perceptions in the United States. Nutrition Today, 45(3), 98-100. Retrieved from http://www.nursingcenter.com/pdf.asp?AID=1023485
- Stice, E. (2002). Risk and maintenance factors for eating pathology: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 825-848.
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