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Boosting Your Body Image

by Sue Hitzmann, MS on May 01, 2004

Client Handout

Expert tips on maintaining health and fitness

When was the last time you heard an infant say she couldn’t come out to play because she was having a bad hair day? How many toddlers do you know who’ll refuse an ice-cream cone because they want to squeeze into their “skinny jeans”? We are not born with a body image. The way we feel about how we look is learned and influenced by family, friends and the media. It is also influenced—positively or negatively—by our race, our gender and the culture in which we are raised.

Do you worry that your body image is down in the dumps? Do you wonder why it matters if your body image is negative or positive? Learn more about body image and how you can boost it with the following information from Lisa Druxman, MA, a group exercise instructor and personal trainer who is creator of Stroller Strides, LLC, and has a master’s degree in psychology with an emphasis on exercise adherence and weight control.

Why a Negative Body Image Can Hurt You. Body image is the conception or picture you have of your own body. Unfortunately, research has shown that negative body image can harm kids, adolescents, men, pregnant or postpartum women and women of all ethnicities. There is clear evidence that negative body image is linked to serious health and emotional problems. People with poor body image are more likely to experience depression, disordered eating and anxiety disorders. They are also more likely to go to unhealthy lengths to change or alter their bodies and appearance. Not sure whether your body image is positive? Read the signs in the “Poor Versus Positive Body Image” box.

Work Toward a Positive Body Image. If you find yourself feeling bad about your body, try these strategies:

  • Care for and value your body at all times.
  • Dress in a way that makes you feel good right now.
  • Find a physical activity that is pleasant and sustainable; accomplishing some- thing physical will boost your self-esteem.
  • Learn to trust your body.
  • Look in the mirror without judging yourself; view yourself as a whole person instead of compartmentalizing your body.
  • Set your goals in terms of achieving physical health and emotional well- being rather than obsessing about your physical appearance.

Change Your Negative Thinking. If you have a hard time with the strategies mentioned above, do one or both of the following activities:

  • Magazine Montage. Gather a variety of magazines. Create two different collages of ads, one showing healthy images and the other showing negative, unrealistic images. Use colored markers to draw silly images on the negative collage. This exercise helps you identify how few healthy ideals appear in the mainstream press and allows you to “cross out” the negative images from your reality.
  • Celebrating Self. This exercise focuses on recognizing and celebrating your positive qualities. Do the exercise with a friend or loved one. Ask the other person to write down what he or she thinks are your positive attributes and then do the same for him or her.

Want more from Sue Hitzmann?

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About the Author

Sue Hitzmann, MS

Sue Hitzmann, MS IDEA Author/Presenter

Sue Hitzmann, MS, CST, NMT, is a nationally recognized somatic-movement educator and manual therapist. Her decades of practice, research, and study of anatomical science and alternative therapies have culminated in the creation of the M.E.L.T. Method® (MELT), a revolutionary approach to pain-free fitness and longevity. Sue got her start in the fitness industry as a group exercise instructor in 1988 before beginning her manual therapy practice in 1996. Over the past two decades, she has taught in some of the top clubs in New York City, including Reebok Sports Club/NY, Equinox, Crunch, and the JCC in Manhattan. Her 1999 video Boot Camp Training has sold more than half a million copies worldwide and remains one of the best-selling fitness videos today. After studying Applied Physiology and Anatomy in a Masters program, Sue designed her own path of study, completing thousands of hours of research, as well as certifications in manual therapies such as neuromuscular, craniosacral, and lymph drainage. In Sue’s private practice, she utilizes her manual therapy skills and extensive education and research background in anatomy and physiology to help determine a path to somatic healing for her clients. She works with dysfunctions such as joint pain, TMJ, organ issues, migraines, incontinence, and other difficult issues that are most often undertreated, overmedicated and infrequently remedied. For over two decades, Sue has been bringing her education, experience, and insight back to the health and fitness arena. She is a leading figure in the fitness industry, serving as a presenter for national organizations such as IDEA, ECA, and PMA, as well as an accredited continuing education provider for ACE, AFAA, and NASM. Drawing on cutting-edge, neurofascial science and proven manual therapy practices, Sue created MELT. This groundbreaking self-treatment program utilizes Hands-off Bodywork™ techniques to support the health, fitness, and quality of life of any person, at any age or activity level. Sue is currently training a wide array of professionals—from movement instructors and personal trainers to physical therapists and others who employ complementary, hands-on approaches—in the M.E.L.T. Method®, so they can teach this self-treatment technique to their clients and integrate this powerful tool into their practice. Sue’s primary goal is to empower people to take charge of their aging process through self-care and healthy living. Unfortunately, our health care system remains narrowly focused on treating symptoms with medication and surgery, which often yield short-term results while creating further imbalance. Sue wants to offer everyone access to powerful self-treatment techniques that treat the cause of pain and dysfunction and limit the negative effects of aging and activity. By maintaining an active lifestyle without perpetuating imbalance, we can all live longer…better.