In the new millennium, the adage that beauty is only skin deep is outdated. In fact, we are a nation that is obessed with how we look. Whether we're seven or seventy, the results of a body fat assessment, the number on a bathroom scale or a reflection in a mirror slips too many of us into shame and guilt about the way we look.
There are clues to warn us when our body image may be compromising our self-esteem. These include:
* A perception that being overweight is a character flaw and if we "fix it" we will be a better person. This magical thinking includes the belief that happiness, love, satisfaction and life fulfillment will be attained only when pounds are lost, body fat is lowered, thighs are firmed or lean muscular appearance is achieved.
* "Black or White" thinking, often expressed as a belief that food is good or bad or that a person is a good or bad depending on the foods she or he eats. This judgemental behavior allows a person with low self-esteem to feel superior to someone else.
* All or nothing attitudes about appearance should also set off alarms. Exercises designed to restore a good body image include paying attention, first, to the parts of ourselves that we like, then gradually learning to like the inevitable flaws that are part of being human.
* Comparing ourselves to others, especially male or female models who represent only 5% of our population, is another red flag signaling that our self-worth is challenged. We fail to grasp the other half of the coin - that many models struggle with disorder eating patterns and behaviors or that movie and TV stars have well-paid professionals to help them carve the body shapes quickly lost when the show is over.
* Spending an increasing amount of time in an attempt to perfect our bodies by working out harder or longer to feel different about ourselves. Healthy fitness levels don't require spending more than an hour a day to achieve optimum strength, flexibility and endurance. Although it is important to challenge our fitness capacity to reach higher levels of performance, most of us, as we mature, realize that exercise has its place in our lives, but what is most important is how we live, not how we look.
Bottom line, remember who you are and like yourself no matter what. Throw out the scale and don't worry about the weight, its all about how you feel inside and what you are doing that makes you feel better and making those around you feel good as well.