A healthy body image is a perception of one's body characterized by a generally positive and realistic attitude toward one's appearance and attractiveness. Poor body image is both a major cause and a major symptom of low self-esteem, and may be related to issues such as depression and a variety of eating disorders. As such, it is important to develop a healthy body image. A crude measure of one's body image can be taken by examining the difference between how one perceives one's own appearance in reality and how one would like to look. An individual with a healthy body image should report little difference between self-perception and desired appearance.
Healthy body image is incredibly important to one's overall well-being, even on a day-to-day basis. An individual with a generally positive body image tends not to obsess over his appearance because he is comfortable with how he looks. His body image does not distract from his normal lifestyle and it does not detract from his self-esteem. One who does not possess a healthy body image, on the other hand, may spend hours attempting to make himself look better by trying to hide perceived flaws or by over exercising. An individual with a poor body image may even avoid social situations for fear that others will be disgusted or otherwise dissatisfied with his appearance.
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It can be difficult to develop a healthy body image, particularly if one does not think highly of his own appearance. Doing so requires conscious acknowledgment of one's positive physical features and recognition of the fact that physical appearance is not the only important aspect of a person. It is also important to recognize the societal factors that influence body image. Many people hold themselves to unattainable standards based on the appearance of models and movie stars, who tend to appear to have no major physical "flaws" and who are often quite skinny. One must recognize that such standards are unrealistic and, in many cases, unhealthy.
Though the main obstacles to developing a healthy body image are social, it can be difficult to develop a healthy body image if one does not have a healthy body. Eating badly, sleeping erratically, and never exercising can lead to poor health and, in many cases, an unhealthy physical appearance. As such, maintaining physical health by eating well, exercising, sleeping sufficiently, and following other healthy practices is an important part of developing a good body image.