Most research revolves around negative body image, but in recent years, we’ve discovered positive body image is not just the absence of a negative view, it’s the presence of body appreciation, or how much we trust, respect, and appreciate our bodies.
Body appreciation is finding value in our body's functionality and uniqueness as well as appreciating the differences of others. It works with an expanded definition of beauty, and having more body appreciation often leads to a better quality of life.
It is not trying to change the body so that it's more socially accepted, but rather to really value it and recognize it's unique beauty.
People with higher body appreciation are more likely to practice self-care behaviors regardless of our body or size. So in this way, it often leads to more vibrant health.
New research in college-aged women and men in the United States finds positive body image and negative body image are not on the same continuum. There is a benefit of having body appreciation above and beyond just the absence of a negative body image. After accounting for body dissatisfaction, body appreciation positively influenced self-esteem and coping skills, Intuitive Eating ability, as well as decreasing the risk of eating disorders.
Body appreciation can be present even in the face of dissatisfaction. We can have things we wish we could change about our body while still respecting and appreciating it for the life vehicle it is.
As we age, we also have an increase in body appreciation despite having similar levels of body dissatisfaction. Protective factors against a negative body image include the important relationships that develop over a lifetime as well as a general sense of purpose in life that comes with age.
Body appreciation is also having respect for the body in the sense that we engage in self-care behaviors.
This is separate and unique from self-care behaviors (exercise, dieting, preening) we do as a way to change or improve our looks or alter our body. The motivation behind the behaviors is for sake of self-care and highlighting attributes (called flexible grooming), not alteration or hiding perceived flaws.
We can increase body appreciation through self-care behaviors, like affirmations, writing, mediation, movement, Intuitive Eating, and flexible grooming as mentioned above.
We don't have to be happy with everything about our body to love and accept it anyway.
What are your thoughts? I'd love to chat about it.