Body Image and Body Diversity: How Can We Apply it to Ourselves?

As a society, we are beginning to look at the ways we historically have had a Eurocentric view of beauty and the thin ideal. As a culture, we are moving toward being more accepting of people with of all bodies and sizes. And yet, we get stuck turning that expanded view of beauty inward.

By Christy Maloney, RD, LDN, CEDS-S, CPT

When we think of body image and body diversity, there is often a propensity to think, “Yeah, I accept all people and am in favor of positive body image for everyone. Except for me.”


As a society, we are beginning to look at the ways we historically have had a Eurocentric view of beauty and the thin ideal. A shift in how we think is happening. As a culture, we are moving toward being more accepting of people, bodies, and sizes. 


We eschew fatphobia. 


Many of us desire a more expanded view of beauty toward others. Turning it inward though. That’s where we get stuck.


First, let’s define a couple of things. 


What is body image? It is loosely defined as your own subjective, mental image of yourself. It’s how you perceive your physicality. For many of us, we struggle with not measuring up and not feeling “good enough.”


We also want to define body diversity. Body diversity is acceptance and welcoming of all body presentations without viewing any one body as “better” than another.

So, how do we work on our own body image. And how do we embrace diversity and change in our bodies and not compare ourselves to what we looked like 20 years ago?

Many of us desire a more expanded view of beauty toward others. Turning it inward though. That's where we get stuck.

Action Plan

1. Work toward body neutrality. Body neutrality just means that you are aware that you have arms, but don’t judge them. You have a stomach, but you don’t judge it. You don’t have to love your body to respect it. But you sure as hell can’t love your body without body respect. Body respect is taking care of yourself. Going to those doctors appointments. Joyful movement. Eating in a way that feels good. Giving yourself rest (yep, momma, even you.) 


Once you can move to body neutrality, you can keep going along the spectrum to body positivity. But, just to right size it, body image goes up and down along a spectrum. Some days you don’t feel great, some days you are just glad that you have a body, and other days you will feel like the SHIT. You are just aiming for more neutral to good days.  


2. Look at ways the thin ideal has a foothold in your life. Do you have friends or family that make comments about people’s bodies, particularly comments that center around body size? Have you examined where you learned what a “beautiful” body came from? If you learned it growing up, is it aligned with your current values? Do you only follow people on social media that look a certain way? 


Any chance you have to challenge the thin ideal is key. Curate your social media to show a wide range of bodies. Tell family and friends that are obsessed with thinness that you don’t want to engage in that talk or that you want to talk about other things that are infinitely more interesting than someone’s body size. 

3. Look for things you appreciate about all body types. If you tend to hone in on the things that you like about what you consider the “ideal body” you can begin to zoom out and look at each person and things that you appreciate about their physicality. Maybe you like someone’s hair, someone’s outfit, someone’s confidence, a softness in someone’s body that you never appreciated before. Once you begin to change the things you notice, the things you notice change.



4. Do things that inspire confidence – it truly is a fake it til you make it on some level. Girl, wear that dress. Wear that bathing suit. Wear whatever the hell you want. Just like any other thing that creates anxiety in you, the more you do it, the easier it gets. 


Do you remember that old line that we were all told in business: “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have?” Well, this applies here. If you want to be confident in your here and now body and you are DONE with awful body image…do the damn thing and the mindset will follow.


Now, go out there and do your thing because you are looking fierce today.

Christy Maloney is a Registered Dietitian specializing in helping those with eating disorders and disordered eating in Charlotte, NC. Christy earned a BS in psychology from Wingate University. Following a career in banking and finance, becoming an RD was a second career for Christy. After completing coursework for a BS in Human Nutrition and her dietetic internship, Christy has been an RD since 2011. In January, 2019, she opened her own practice in Charlotte, NC, Enhance Nutrition Associates, devoted solely to the treatment of eating disorders at an outpatient level. Christy has become a Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian – Supervisor (CEDRD-S), now the CEDS-S certification . This credential shows Christy’s expertise and experience in the field. She also is an iaedp approved supervisor for other dietitians looking to obtain their CEDS certification.

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