Are you happy with your body? If you have read a magazine or watched television lately, you probably aren't. Media images have an enormous impact on the way women view themselves. In fact, a recent study in the United Kingdom found that watching celebrity girl groups in music videos for even a short 10-minute period significantly decreased the average woman's self-image.

Unfortunately, escaping the media in today's society is virtually impossible. Women are constantly bombarded with billboards featuring ultra-thin models, or magazines featuring women who lost all their baby weight within the first 10 weeks of giving birth. No wonder almost 10 million women and girls and one million men and boys in the United States suffer from anorexia and/or bulimia, the two most common eating disorders worldwide.

Even worse then simply promoting slim figures, celebrity magazines routinely point out flaws in stars—generally female stars—and even go so far as to name the "best" and "worst" beach bodies each year. With magazines such as these on the shelves, it is no wonder that 81 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat. This fear doesn't go away with maturity. From diet pills to "cleansing" fasts, many women will do anything to fit into a size two, regardless of their age or body type. As a reflection of this, statistics around eating disorders are getting consistently worse: the number of people suffering from eating disorders in the U.S. has doubled in the last five years.

Body image and relationships

A poor body image can greatly affect your ability to find and maintain a loving relationship. Not only will you waste valuable time feeling poorly about yourself, but you will also cut yourself off from real love and acceptance. If you can't love and accept your body, you are unlikely to find someone else who can. If you go out for a date but can't enjoy yourself because you feel uncomfortable in your dress, that lack of confidence is going to come through—especially when you only allow yourself to order a small salad and pass on dessert.

Poor body image can also affect your sexual appetite and habits. Women who do not feel confident in their bodies generally don't feel comfortable undressing in front of their partners, and may even refuse to have sex in certain positions for fear of looking flabby. In addition, crash dieting can have extremely negative effects on estrogen and testosterone levels, which will affect everything from your mood to your libido to your menstrual cycle. The bottom line is that obsessing over your weight can make you very lonely indeed.
From It's Not Him, It's You: How to Take Charge of Your Life and Create the Love and Intimacy You Deserve by Laura Berman, PhD. Copyright © 2010 by Laura Berman, PhD. Used with the permission of DK Publishing.


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