How to Maintain a Healthy Body Image

Feel confident and good about yourself and your body using these three tips

In today's era of airbrushed, size-zero models staring out from every magazine cover in the grocery store, maintaining a healthy body image can be difficult. Your body image is how you personally view your own physical characteristics, and for a lot of women, that image is negative. It's easy to think of yourself as too heavy or thin, too young or old or generally imperfect because you don't exactly resemble the women on billboards. Having a healthy body image is about being healthy, being realistic about society's projection of women and appreciating your individual beauty.

Step 1: Get fit

Being fit and feeling strong does not mean being thin. The world is full of skinny people with off-the-chart body fat measurements and unhealthy habits. According to Mayo Clinic, women who are too thin may have issues with fertility, irregular menstrual cycles, body hair and bone loss.

Find out from your doctor what your ideal body weight is for your frame, and work on getting there — whether that means losing weight or gaining it. Get into the gym and get stronger, and then use your strength in a new physical activity. Go rock climbing. Learn to do the splits in yoga class. Run a marathon. Feel strong and impress yourself.

Step 2: Get positive

Never underestimate the power of your self-talk. Constantly telling yourself that you're fat or unattractive will not only make you feel worse about yourself, it opens the door to a self-fulfilling prophecy. You feel overweight, so you eat to feel better, so you gain weight. Watch your mouth!

Stop saying mean things to yourself, and start saying positive things. Tell yourself how beautiful you are while you're looking in the mirror. The Office of Health Education at the University of Pennsylvania suggests making a list of things you like about yourself, physical and otherwise. You probably have great skin, beautiful hair, a killer smile and a fantastic sense of humor. Also, watch who you hang around with; choose friends who are supportive and kind, not negative and critical.

Step 3: Develop yourself

There's no reason to subject yourself to those glossy magazines full of airbrushed women. You can tell yourself that they have hairdressers, flattering lighting, wardrobe people and computer enhancement, but it can still make you feel bad about yourself. So, avoid them.

Instead, spend your time developing your talents and loves. Read travel magazines about places you want to go and learn a new language. Take a ballroom dancing class. Audit interesting college courses just because they're interesting. Perhaps your body isn't a cookie-cutter imitation of every magazine model out there, but who cares? You're smart and interesting, and you should focus on developing those assets.

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