Eating Concerns and Body Image

Body Image Concerns

What is body image?

Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. It encompasses:

  • What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations).

  • How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight.

  • How you sense and control your body as you move.  How you physically experience or feel in your body.

Many of us internalize messages starting at a young age that can lead to either positive or negative body image. Having a healthy body image is an important part of mental wellbeing and eating disorders prevention (National Eating Disorder Assoc, 2018).

10 Steps to a Positive Body Image


All bodies are different

It is important to remember that every body is different. We all have different genetic and cultural traits. Even if everyone started eating the same things and did the same amount of exercise for a whole year, we would not all look the same at the end of the year. This is because each person’s genetic inheritance influences their bone structure, body size, shape, and weight differently.

So, how can you determine your natural body weight? Well, your “natural” body weight is the weight that allows you to feel strong and energetic and lets you lead a healthy, normal life. When your body is in its natural weight range, you have the energy to interact with friends and family, participate in activities you enjoy, and concentrate on school or work. Your body weight can be healthy across a wide range of weights. When researching for your “ideal weight”, charts, formulas, and tables may be misleading because they only account for four factors: sex assigned at birth, age, weight, and height. In reality, one’s natural weight range is influenced by many other factors, including genetics, activity level, lifestyle, socioeconomic factors, and eating behaviors just to name a few.

Keys to body acceptance

  • Treat your body with respect. Talk to yourself like you would talk to your best friend. If you wouldn’t say it to someone you care about, why would you say it to yourself?

  • Give your body enough rest.

  • Ditch the scale. It does not dictate your self-worth.

  • Fuel your body with a variety of foods and avoid fad diets.

  • Engage in types of body movement that you enjoy. This could be a game of frisbee on the green, a walk across campus on a sunny day, or tossing a football with friends on the weekend. Body movement is not about how much you sweat or calories burned. Choosing activities you truly enjoy will help you establish a regular exercise routine.

  • Resist the pressure to judge yourself and others based on weight, shape, or size.

  • Avoid comparing your body to anyone else’s, especially those in the media.

  • Respect people based on the qualities of their character and accomplishments, rather than just because of their appearance.

(Adapted from the National Eating Disorders Assoc)


On-Campus Resources

Health Services Dietitian 401-863-3558
Confidential information or care is available through individual appointments with a Registered Dietitian.  Students can discuss personal eating concerns, as well as any concerns they may have regarding a friend, a roommate, or a teammate. There are no fees for these services.

University Health Services 401.863-3953
Confidential information and care is available on a walk-in, or by scheduled appointment basis. Care is available for initial, current or past disordered eating patients. There are no fees for medical care at Health Services. However, there may be fees incurred if laboratory tests, medications, specialist or emergency hospital care is needed.

Counseling and Psychological Services 401.863-3476 
Confidential appointments are available at Counseling and Psychological Services for students concerned about their eating issues. Guidance is also available for those who are concerned about a friend, roommate, or teammates' eating. Services include crisis intervention, short-term psychotherapy and referrals. There are no fees for appointments at Counseling and Psychological Services.

Recommended Resources

Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN

Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight by Lindo Bacon, PhD and Lucy Aphramor

Embrace Documentary, 2016 (streaming available on platforms such as Amazon Prime, You Tube).

Nourish by Heidi Schauster, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S

Sick Enough by Dr. Jennifer Gaudiani 

The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor 

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