How your weight and self-esteem are linked

Mar 1 2016 - 8:15pm

Many people are burdened by weight and body shape ideals. A person’s weight can have a profound impact on his or her self-image. In addition, people can carry this mindset with them even after the weight is gone. Although the pounds may have disappeared, their body image continues to suffer.

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Strong psychological effects associated with weight

In one study, a group of 127 elementary school, high school and university-level students were examined, and their body build, self-esteem and body satisfaction were measured. The researchers looked at both high and low exercisers and compared the results. The findings reveal that those who exercised often and had a fit build had higher self-esteem than those who did not. The results showed lower self-esteem and a worse body image for women who were low exercisers and had a less-than-fit build.

Another study showed that Americans with greater body dissatisfaction experienced lower self-esteem, which translated into worse relationship quality. This study examined 214 subjects and 76 percent were women. It showed that women tend to have a more depressed image of themselves in relation to their weight. It also indicated that obesity is a complex condition that puts a person at greater risk for mental health concerns and does not just affect physical health.

Both studies raise the point that several other factors can influence one’s self-esteem. However, being overweight or obese can have a powerful influence on a person’s psychological health. Unfortunately, confidence is tied to appearance.

Problems do not go away with the weight

It is important to note that the psychological burden can linger long after the weight is gone. Although many dieters gain confidence as they shed pounds and create a new body image, others struggle to eliminate the emotional impact of their past extra weight.

A Purdue study examined data on more than 2,000 women of different races who reported their psychological state following obesity. “Despite changes in their relative body mass, we found that obese black and white teen girls who transitioned out of obesity continued to see themselves as fat,” said Sarah Mustillo, a researcher involved in the study.

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One of the biggest factors in lingering self-loathing is culture and society. It is difficult to maintain a good self-image when body shaming permeates news and social media. It takes years and hard work to eradicate the poor self-esteem associated with being overweight or obese in one’s past.

How to overcome a negative self-image

It takes work and effort, but it is possible to tackle the self-esteem issues that affect people who struggle with their weight. It does not matter if you have recently lost weight, or you are currently struggling to get rid of the pounds. In either case, it is important to learn techniques to overcome poor self-esteem. You may want to try the following suggestions.

Charitable giving: Studies show that Americans who give generously tend to have higher satisfaction with themselves and their lives. Whether you are donating to a charity or volunteering at a soup kitchen, giving simply feels good, and it can improve your self-image.

Focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses: You want to be a little nicer to yourself. You want to remind yourself of the things you do well instead of being angry about what remains a struggle. You can reinforce positive energy by reminding yourself every day that you are a unique individual with incredible strengths.

Positive thinking: This is not easy, but the more you practice positive thinking, the more often you will catch yourself before thinking about something negative. Over time, you will learn to flip negative thoughts to positive ones and reduce the negative energy with which you have been burdening yourself each day.

Standing tall: You want to apply this every time you are standing in front of a mirror. Square your shoulders and recognize what you have been through to be who you are and where you are today. You are not defined by your weight but by the person you are striving to become.

By appreciating the person you see in the mirror, you can begin to erase the negative associations that have accompanied your weight. Your self-esteem can improve over time with effort and determination, and you can change your mindset.

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