Supporting Healthy Body Image While at College

Courtney Morris, M.Ed., LPC, Eating Disorder Specialist, Timberline Knolls

We all struggle with our body image from time to time. With society’s strong emphasis on looks and appearance, it is difficult to avoid comparing our bodies to those of our families, peers, and the unrealistic images portrayed in the media.

It sometimes seems impossible to escape the competitive nature involved in looking a certain way. We all have an individual self-image, which inevitably includes our appearance in some way. The teenage years are often a crucial time for the formation of our self/body-image.

Much of our sense of self is developed through relationships with family and friends, as well as our position in our home/school/community.

A Major Change in Surroundings

Thus, college, which is often a time for young people to begin to separate from the familiar surroundings they are accustomed to, can be a shock to one’s sense of identity.

During this time of uncertainty and transition, it is not uncommon for college students to focus on controlling their body image/appearance, which provides a more tangible sense of control than actually exploring one’s internal self.

Drastic Change in Social Life

In addition to this immersion into completely new surroundings, college often brings about a drastic change in social life. Many people leave the comfort of familiar friends and/or are faced with an onslaught of new faces.

While this can be a wonderful time to meet new people and make new friends, it can also take a toll on one’s body image. With the influx of so many new people, body comparisons will inevitably occur.

Maintaining a Good Body Image While at College

empty-314554_640So how is one to maintain a positive body image during college? First of all, it can be helpful to focus on exploring one’s interests outside of appearance. College is a wonderful time to investigate new activities and learn about your values and interests:

  • Join clubs
  • Attend events
  • Meet people who are different from your usual clique
  • Take a variety of classes

These are some great ways to begin to learn about yourself from the inside out. It is also important to surround yourself with a supportive group of friends who recognize your value as a whole person. You will meet many new people, many of them worth your friendship, but some of them will not be. Choose wisely.

Exploring Your True Self

Overall, exploring your true self is crucial to supporting a positive body image. Also, surrounding yourself with people of all shapes and sizes can be helpful in reminding you of the beauty of the uniqueness of humanity.

It can be easy to slip into comparing ourselves with our peers, but with a strong sense of self, we do not need to rely on others to determine our worth.

About Timberline Knolls:

Located in suburban Chicago, Timberline Knolls is a leading private residential treatment center for females (ages 12 – 65+) with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, mood and co-occurring disorders. For more information, call 877.257.9611 today.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Changing your perspective about your body image on the road to recovery is important, what positive affirmations have you utilized in order to embrace a positive body image?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 16th, 2015
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