Body Image

What is body image?

Body image is the way you perceive and relate to your body, and how you think others see you.

 Regardless of who you are, body image affects nearly everyone from time to time. Body image is not only influenced by the perceptions of those around you, but by the media and cultural forces as well. Our senses are bombarded by an onslaught of mixed messages about how we “should” look or think about our bodies. It’s easy to forget that, ultimately, your body image is up to you.
Having a healthy body image is key to taking care of yourself, both mentally and physically.

Body Image 101

1. What’s a positive body image?

No one’s going to feel 100% awesome about their body 100% of the time. However, having a positive body image means that most of the time, you have a realistic perception of, and feel comfortable with, the way you look.
Having a positive body image means…  

  • You accept and appreciate your natural body shape
  • You understand that how you look does not determine your self-worth
  • You feel comfortable and confident in your body
  • You don’t spend an unreasonable amount of time worrying about food, weight, or calories
  • You accept and appreciate body differences
  •  You don’t judge others for their body weight, shape, and/or eating or exercise habits.
  • You understand that a person’s physical appearance says very little about their character and value as a person. 

2. What’s a negative body image?

Having a negative body image means…  

  • You have a distorted perception of your shape-you perceive parts of your body unlike they really are.
  • You are convinced that only other people are attractive and that your body size or shape is a sign of personal failure.
  •  You feel that your body doesn’t measure up to family, social, or media ideals.
  • You feel ashamed, self-conscious, and anxious about your body.
  • You feel uncomfortable and awkward in your body.
  • You have constant negative thoughts about your body and constantly compare yourself to others

3. What are the effects of having a negative body image?

Some of the effects of having a negative body image include:  

  • emotional distress
  •  low self-esteem
  • unhealthy dieting habits
  •  anxiety 
  •  depression 
  • eating disorders 
  • take risks with their sexual health
  • social withdrawal
  • stop doing healthy activities that require you to show your body, such as exercising, having sex, going to the doctor, or swimming

If you or someone you know is exhibiting body image tendencies that are interfering with his/her ability to function normally in everyday life, then you need to get help.  

4. What are some ways I can positively re-think my body image?

How you perceive your body, and how it affects you, is ultimately up to you. Here are some ways to re-frame the way you think about your body:

  •  Remember that health and appearance are two different things.
  • Treat your body with respect and kindness. 
  • Discourage the idea that a certain body size, shape, or diet will automatically bring you happiness or fulfillment 
  • Avoid judging yourself and others on the basis of body weight and how they eat and/or exercise
  •  Practice moderation in your eating and exercise habits. Too much restriction, rigid routines, and attaching “good/bad/dangerous” values to fundamental parts of living is not only unhealthy, but not fun. In addition to preventing you from enjoying these activities, too much restriction may even tempt you to go “rebel” and break one of your rules to excess. Balance is key!
  •  Check out our tips below for more ideas to improve body image.
  •  Value yourself based on who you are, not what you look like. Appreciate yourself for your goals, character, achievements, and talents.
  •  Avoid letting your feelings about your body weight, shape, and what you eat determine the course of your day. 
  •  View media with a critical lens. Consider whether the messages they send about body image are healthy and/or realistic. Remember that it’s your body, and how you feel about it is up to you, not what televisions, advertisements, and magazines say. 
  •  Learn more about these issues to give yourself more of a balanced, critical perspective.  

5. What’s physically healthy?

Being physically healthy means maintaining several different important aspects of your body, from good nutrition to fitness and body image. Of course, a physical health requires that you’re taking care of your mental health, too. Click on the links for more helpful tips and information. 

Your Body Image

1.  How do I improve my body image? 

Here are some tips for improving your body image: 

  • Develop new ways to positively re-think your body image. Check out our list of suggestions for more.
  • Talk about your negative feelings with a person you trust, such as a friend or a family member. Consider talking to someone from the Counseling Center
  • Keep a list of things you like about yourself that have nothing to do with your appearance.  
  • Surround yourself with people who are supportive and who make you feel good about yourself.  
  • Find a type of exercise that you enjoy, and stick to it. Do it because it makes you feel good, not because it helps you control your weight.
  • Wear clothes that express your personal style, are comfortable, and make you feel good about your body.  
  • Carry yourself with confidence and pride in knowing who you are. 
  • Do something positive with the time and energy you might have spent worrying about your body.  
  • Find beauty in yourself, others, and the world.  
  • Value all your body can do.It helps you achieve your dreams, goals, and daily activities, so respect it and take care of it. 

2) How I look consistently affects how I feel about myself. What should I do? 

Having a negative body image can be unhealthy for your physical and mental wellbeing. If you’re constantly concerned about the way you look, and it’s interfering with your everyday life, you should talk to someone

3) How can I learn more? 

To learn more about body image, check out the articles, links, and more programs and services  in the Resources tab below.  

Body Image at Rice

1. How can I further cultivate a positive body image?  

There are many ways you can work to further cultivate a positive body image. Learn more by exploring the links, articles, and more information in the Resources section of this page. If you’re worried that your body image is negatively interfering with your daily life, consider talking to someone from the Counseling Center

2) I’m fine with my body, but I think there’s something physically wrong with me and I want to make sure I’m okay. What should I do?

If you’re worried about a physical problem, contact Student Health Services and set up an appointment.

3) How do I help a friend with food or body image issues? 

Note: If you fear that your friend is in immediate danger of hurting themselves, or is in an urgent health crisis, call x 6000 immediately.

Talking with a friend whom you’re concerned about can be really hard. If your friend is not in immediate danger, having a conversation about your concerns may encourage them to seek professional help. If you’re unsure of what to say, consider calling the Counseling Center, whose staff members can give you suggestions based on the specific situation. Also consider talking with a member of your college personnel team – such as your college master or RA, or an RHA, to get more advice. If you feel that the situation is out of your scope, contact a member of your college personnel team or Counseling Center to get direction on how to refer your friend to the appropriate resources.


 “Body Image.” 

“Body Image.” National Eating Disorders Association.  

“Body Image.” Planned  

Maine, Margo, Ph.D. “20 Ways to Love Your Body.”  

“What is Body Image?” bodyevolution.