The Cerberus Effect: Three underlying factors of poor body image

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I am not going to deny the networking factor and sheer pleasure of social media, but wow, it’s a horrible medium sometimes. Some people feel that they have absolute license to spew some of the ugliest, hateful stuff I’ve ever read, with body shaming being one of the worst.  This is yet another reason why I don’t envy celebrities: There is no room to hide. One unflattering photo and you become a trending hashtag. Even seemingly harmless fashion articles asking readers “Who wore it better” are based on the premise that a person’s body just isn’t good enough. I am not going to post any body-shaming Tweets here, but suffice to say, if Twitter trolls ever directed their judgement toward me, I’d probably roll up into a ball and cry. I’ve been body shamed before, and even when I was at a perfectly healthy size 5, I was constantly told to stop eating so that I wouldn’t gain weight.

When I analyzed data from 3,177 people who took Queendom’s Diet & Weight Loss Test, statistics from our study indicates that of the people who dislike their body, 2% are underweight, 47% are overweight, 31% are obese, and 20% are a healthy weight. Here’s what they all have in common:

Unhealthy Eating Patterns

Individuals who dislike their body tend to have a negative attitude and approach to food, such as:

  • Food guilt: Entails feeling bad about overeating or eating certain foods, specifically junk food. On a scale from 0 to 100, those who hate their body scored 64, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 43, and those who love their body scored 35.
  • Grazing: Refers to the tendency to pick at food even in the absence of physical hunger. Those who hate their body scored 61, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 44, and those who love their body scored 39.
  • Emotional eating: An emotional eater consumes food for comfort or to otherwise reduce the unpleasantness of negative emotional states like sadness, frustration, anxiety, guilt, or boredom. Those who hate their body scored 50, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 34, and those who love their body scored 32.
  • Binge eating: Binge eaters consume large amounts of food in a short period of time. And once they start eating, they feel like they can’t stop. Those who hate their body scored 58, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 40, and those who love their body scored 35.

Unhealthy Coping Strategies

Compared to those who love their body, those with a poor body image are less likely to use healthy coping techniques (e.g. seeking support from others, seeking information from a professional), and more likely to use empty coping techniques such as the following:

  • Rumination: Refers to the tendency to incessantly obsess over a problem, which can interfere with a person’s sleep habits and daily life. Those who hate their body scored 60, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 46, and those who love their body scored 44.
  • Avoidance: As the title entails, individuals who adopt this coping style are unwilling to take action to resolve the problem, let alone think about it. They refuse to face the issue head-on. Those who hate their body scored 47, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 37, and those who love their body scored 36.
  • Helplessness: This strategy involves conceding defeat, and abandoning all efforts to fix the situation. The person has lost all hope and has decided to accept their fate. Those who hate their body scored 53, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 37, and those who love their body scored 34.
  • Social withdrawal: Rather than seeking support and advice from others, individuals who use this coping strategy isolate themselves instead. They may even refuse to leave their home. Those who hate their body scored 58, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 46, and those who love their body scored 44.

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Lack of protective personality traits

Stress is the single most destructive factor to our physical, emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Without the protective factors outlined below, individuals are more likely to fall victim to a host of problems, including overeating, burnout, and addiction.

  • Self-esteem: This trait forms the basis of every decision a person makes, from what to wear to their choice of friends, partner, and job. Low self-esteem can significantly impact a person’s body image, relationships, and professional success. Those who hate their body scored 56, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 73, and those who love their body scored 75.
  • Self-discipline: The ability to monitor and regulate feelings and behavior depends a great deal on self-discipline. Those who possess this trait tend to have stronger willpower, and are less likely to be impulsive. They think things through before taking action. Those who hate their body scored 41, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 57, and those who love their body scored 59.
  • Tolerance for frustration: Individuals with a low frustration tolerance struggle to deal with stress, waiting, or any situation that makes them uncomfortable. They are unable to delay gratification, which means when they want something, they want it now. Those who hate their body scored 42, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 57, and those who love their body scored 61.
  • Proactive attitude: Individuals who are proactive don’t wait for things to happen, for opportunities to fall on their lap, or for others to tell them what to do. They take initiative when they want to make a change in their life. Those who hate their body scored 55, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 67, and those who love their body scored 71.
  • Self-efficacy: Individuals who possess self-efficacy believe that they have the ability to succeed and to handle challenges. They trust that they have what it takes to overcome any obstacle that gets in their way. Those who hate their body scored 58, those who somewhat dislike their body scored 71, and those who love their body scored 74.

Body image issues that are linked to weight problems and eating disorders are almost always an indication of an underlying emotional or psychological issue. This is why some people regain weight after undergoing weight loss surgery or going on a diet, or why anorexic patients don’t see what others see – they have yet to deal with the underlying causes of their body issues, be it bad eating habits or emotional problems. This means that until a person deals with the issues that lead to their body image problems, be it trauma, an unhappy marriage, a stressful job or the like, they will continue to hate what they see in the mirror.

Insightfully yours,

Queen D

 

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