Body image is how one perceives their own body size and shape. This self perception is to a large extent based on the individual opinions around you and the society at large. Adolescence is a period of rapid growth with physical and psychological changes. In girls especially, there is a deposition of fat in the thighs and hips which has a role to play in reproductive development. This makes them more conscious and hence concerned about their body image. There is constantly a struggle within to shed the extra fat which they feel they have and this has repercussions on the health due to the resulting faulty eating habits. The projection of unrealistic body sizes in the mass media is adding to the existing problem of reduced self image. Thinner is better has become the norm for the young girls.
Although excess fat can slow one down, a certain amount of fat is essential for our bodies to function normally. Fat or adipose tissue is an essential part of our nerves, spinal cord, brain and cell membranes. Internal fat offers a protective layer around our vital organs like kidneys and the external fat protects us from the cold weather.
Few months ago, a young girl visited me who looked to be healthy and in shape for her age. When I asked her the need to see me, with some hesitation she said she felt she was “feeling fat” and wanted to be thinner. She had been practically starving to be thin. However, her body fat measurement and her BMI showed her to be only slightly above normal which could be attributed to her low activity level. She felt the way she did because of her large bone structure.
We need to remember that we all come in different shapes and sizes, depending on our genetic makeup. So, avoid giving too much importance to the bathroom scale. What your weight measures is the fat along with the muscle, water, food and the stomach contents. It does not give the relevant information about your fitness level. For example, if you eat healthy and take up an exercise program or start working on the best rowing machine available in your gym, you will lose fat in a few months, build up muscles and your scale may still show the same weight. But you will have toned down and will feel thinner and fitter. So, The bottom-line is : Do not rely so much on the numbers.
Body fat measurements are appropriate to a large extent in giving you the proportion of muscle to fat mass. You just need a qualified professional to interpret these results and help you achieve the appropriate goals.
The point here is that body image is important but, do not be obsessed with your own perceived notions of fatness or thinness.This in no way means you do not strive to be within the parameters of good health. Fitness should be the main aim. If you are not being able to knock of the few extra pounds do not fret. Do not rush into the crash diets because they do not last long and most end up harming you than being of any benefit. Instead adopt a healthier lifestyle and contact a health professional to help you achieve a healthy body composition.
7 Points to remember which can go a long way in helping you be confident of who you are –
- Remember, what you see on billboards, television and magazines is created using camera angles, lighting and digitally manipulated.
- Adopt healthy eating habits whether at home or outside. Opt for the “real” foods that provide you with good nutrition rather than the processed foods.
- Eat wisely. Pay attention to the portion sizes. Do not take more than the required amount just because you tend to like a particular food.
- Know which are the “daily foods” and the “sometimes foods”. The sometimes foods are the oily and the sugary snacks which are to eaten as treats once in a while only.
- Make physical activity a part of your daily routine. A minimum 30 – 45 minutes rigorous exercise in any form on most days of the week is enough to keep you fit and going. Most importantly, enjoy it.
- Limit your screen time as this takes away the chance to be active at all times. Just the 45 min exercise session and being sedentary for the rest of the day will not help you achieve your goals.
- Consult a health professional to get the right information to stay on the path to fitness and good health. He / She will help you plan a healthy diet keeping in mind all the nutritional needs and not just the calories.
Lastly, be confident of who you are. Do not diet for weight loss. Just eat right and exercise to be a fitter you and you will automatically receive compliments for the healthier look you portray.