Understanding Body Image: Part 2

 This post is part 2 of what will likely be a 5 part series on understanding bod image. My first post in the series can be found here. To reiterate, body image is actually really complex. The series is aimed to help you understand more completely what the phrase “body image” actually means in order to help you better understand your own concept of your body and the way you relate to it.

As I mentioned in my first post, body image issues are influenced and made made manifest in four areas: perception, cognition, affect, and behavior. Today we are going to explore what is meant by perception.

Perception can simply be defined as sensations or mental images of physical appearance and body size. Typically, people with poor body image have some common features related to perception that aggrevate body image issues:

1. Weak central coherence. This means you have a bias for “details of discontent” and tend to miss out on the big picture.

2. Focusing on the negative. When looking in the mirror, research shows individuals with EDs look at parts they dislike. In contrast, non-ED individuals with high body satisfaction look at parts they like.

3. Mental images may not be current, but rather based on stored memories.

Therapeutic Exercises

The cool thing is that over time perceptions can change. A couple of therapeutic exercises that help to shift perception include:

1. When you are looking in the mirror, try to pay attention to where your focus lands and how long it stays there. Can you look at your body as a whole or do you get overwhelmed by specific body parts?

2. Make a list of positive or even neutral body parts. Draw a body figure and color the parts you feel positive or neutral about.

3. Looking at photographs at previous weights/sizes compared to mentality at time of photos.

I hope this post on perception is useful. What shapes and informs your perceptual experience of your body image? 

Stay tuned for part 3, coming up!

Picture Source


  1. I love this series, Marci! Thanks for writing these. 🙂 Regarding #s 1 and 2, my personal experience wasn’t that I didn’t see the big picture or that I only noticed parts of my body that I didn’t like- it was that I literally didn’t like any part of my

    body. I am more accepting and appreciative of my body today, though. For the therapeutic exercises, I really like #3. When I look at pictures of myself at a healthier size than I am now, I remember how happy and confident I was and it puts things in perspective.

  2. Thanks for sharing Jess. Your comment is a great illustration of how individual our body image and body experiences are.

  3. I remember feeling so frustrated and hopeless when I was in treatment one day and a body image specialist was working with the girls in group and asked us each to write down three positive parts of our body…and I couldn’t think of one. I don’t even like

    my toes! It’s crazy, but it’s very true that body image can be so warped, and I think the worst part is feeling so stuck in your body that you aren’t content with and not feeling like other people who don’t struggle in this way don’t understand. Thanks for

    doing this blog series Marci!

  4. Yup, body image is so complicated. Hopefully this blog series will continue to shed light on what/how all of these different pieces make up the whole picture. Hopefully you can name 3 positive parts of your body now!!!

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