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Body dysmorphia

All Areas > Health & Beauty > Looking Good, Feeling Great

Author: Will Mbanga, Posted: Friday, 24th May 2024, 09:00

Body dysmorphia is a psychological disorder characterised by an obsession with the idea that one’s body is not lean or muscular enough, and is therefore flawed.

Dysmorphic disorders and the associated psychological problems that come with them are among the highest eating disorder risks among female athletes and physically active adult females, particularly former athletes due to their previous knowledge and experience of a more athletic body.

Clearly, the risks are higher in participants in aesthetic based sports (gymnastics and dance to name a few), but the effect of this disordered thinking has a much higher impact on the general population. This is further complicated by the hormonal changes that the menopause brings, which can include weight gain.

Social media can be particularly damaging for younger people

The prevalence of technology, big business and societal norms have created a rather confusing landscape, where we are bombarded with highly processed, additive-rich foods, tech-induced sedentary work and lifestyles, and the unhealthy dictates of Western society about what a ‘good’ body looks like. Social media can be particularly damaging for younger people, as they witness the ‘highlight reels’ of influencers and fall into the trap of comparison.

A recently published long-term study in International Public Health highlighted the fact that at a time when we are most connected to information and knowledge on health and wellness, humans are at our highest levels of obesity, stress and risk of poor mental health or eating disorders in our recorded history.

There are many issues that impact both men and women: eating disorders or disordered eating through poor nutrition choices; ease of access to and low cost of fast food; high costs associated with eating good foods; and lifestyle convenience factors.

Fuelled by societal pressure to look a certain way

However, there is a disproportionate impact on women due to the additional pressures of trying to meet societal expectations. That being said, there is an increasing amount of evidence of male body image dysmorphia, again fuelled by societal pressure to look a certain way.

Around middle age, we all need more regular check-ups and to take better care of our bodies to ensure that we can detect any age-related illnesses as quickly as possible.

In my own journey, for example, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I don't ‘bounce back’ like I used to; everything either creaks, pops or hurts, and any day I take less than a six-point-turn to get out of bed is a good day! And that’s before we start looking under the hood and checking blood, organ and musculo-skeletal function.

A positive step in tackling negative thoughts

Resetting and simplifying our routines can be a positive first step in tackling negative thoughts about our appearance. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, plenty of water and sleep, and daily time outdoors is a winning combination for starting to get you back on track and improving both your physical and mental health.

Next month’s article will continue this focus on body dysmorphia, specifically in relation to its imapct on pre- and post-menopausal women.

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