October 16, 2007

Develop a Healthy Body Image instead of a Distorted Body Image

Develop a Healthy Body Image instead of a Distorted Body Image. Professor Barbara Lohse – “Body image is very complex. It's more that just weight. It's not about body image; it's about your whole image.”

K-State professor says body image may be body mirage.

MANHATTAN - A Kansas State University professor says that it is the mind that makes people who they are physically, socially and emotionally - not body image. But, according to Barbara Lohse, associate professor of human nutrition, a trend toward inaccurate body images is a cause for concern - not only for young children and teenagers, but also to those of all ethnicities, genders and ages.

Lohse said when people think about "body image," they automatically think of weight. However, body image consists of all aspects of the body. She said there are so many other attributes included in body image, such as height, shape of ears, face and nose. But according to Lohse, "People tend to focus on weight because it's something that can be changed yourself. Inaccurate body image is a huge problem," she said. "Body image is very complex. It's more that just weight."

Lohse said people are focusing on what they think about their looks rather than how they actually look. A person could be extremely tall and thin, and look great in the media's perspective, but in reality they might have nutrient deficiencies or eating disorders. On the other hand, a person could be extremely large because they consume a lot of calories, but in reality they eat the right foods and are very healthy. Lohse said the issue has been approached in the wrong direction.

"People think if they change their body first, then all other aspects of their life will improve. Really, if you focus on all other aspects of your life, like your job, activities, friends and family situations to become happier, then your body image will improve," she said.

Lohse's personal campaign is to focus on the "personal image" rather than "body image." For example, she wants her students to measure success based on friends, grades, activities, financial and life adjustments, and other happiness qualities. Lohse's "Weigh to Diet" publication online says that, rather than dieting for weight loss, the goal is to achieve well-being through eating, physical activity and self-acceptance.

HUGS, an adult weight management program mentioned in Lohse's publication, has a Health focus, centered on Understanding lifestyle behaviors, Group support and Self-esteem building. Lohse said if someone has a poor body image, it stunts everything else.

"If you have confidence in yourself, body image will improve intellectually without having to concentrate on it," she said.

Most importantly, Lohse wants people to have emotional intelligence and self-control. She suggests striving to be a "reasonable adventurer," or someone who has intelligence, close friendships, value judgment independence, toleration to ambiguity, a wide variety of interests and a sense of humor.

"It's not about body image; it's about your whole image, what kind of person you are and your abilities. Body image is just a hook to hang all your problems on," she said.
Lohse said it's also important to talk with children about what they see on television, and clarify body image inaccuracies. She said it's vital as a parent to be emotionally healthy yourself.

For more information about body image, read Lohse's "Weigh to Diet" publication online at http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/library/fntr2/MF2596.pdf or visit the HUGS Web site at http://www.hugs.com
Lohse can be reached at or by e-mail at [email protected]

Used with permission.

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