Body Image

Most women and many men in America today would change something about their bodies if they could. Even if you are realistic about how you look, you may be dissatisfied. Issues related to body image are important to many people, but in food addiction body image becomes an integral part of the disease.

Your body image depends on many factors, including physical limitations, how you think and feel about your body, and society’s standards. There are also subjective and objective dimensions related to your health, height, fitness, weight, and attractiveness.


Women are particularly affected by gender-specific ideas. Most people think it is more important for a woman to have a “perfect” body than a man. Being a little overweight causes most women to feel undesirable and inadequate. They attempt to diet, conform their bodies to certain expectations, and use all kinds of gimmicks and techniques to transform themselves.

Problems arise when women become obsessed with changing their bodies. Body image disturbances and self-image problems result. These factors contribute to the development of eating disorders and other problems relating to severe body image distortion.

LGBT Issues

Those who have worked with LBGT folks in addiction have noticed that body image issues are often more problematic in this population. The link below gives some idea of the scope:


One of the most common body image distortions is feeling fat. Normal weight people can feel fat. This feeling can affect one’s sense of self-worth as much as actually being fat. Emaciated anorexics and many overweight or obese people who reach a normal weight report feeling fat.


A survival mechanism related to body image disturbance is denial. As people gain weight they can cut themselves off from bodily feelings and sensations. Many morbidly obese people are out of touch with their actual weight and size. Delusion feeds their addiction. A 550-pound man in a hospital said he saw no problem with his weight except that he was having trouble with his mobility.


Body image can become such an obsession that food addicts can spend most of their free time focusing on weight, how they look, whether or not their stomach sticks out, or that their thighs look big. They often hate parts of their bodies or their bodies in general. They can become extremely self-centered. This obsession interferes with their relationships with themselves, others, and a Higher Power.

Family of Origin

Body image problems often have roots in the family of origin. If you were abused, discounted, or taught you have to look good to get approval, you were set up to have body image problems. Understanding and dealing with those issues will help your recovery.

Improving Body Image

We suggest that addicts who have body image problems try activities that will improve realistic acceptance of bodily characteristics:

One simple technique is to listen for feedback relating to body image and check out what you hear, either with the person giving the feedback or others you trust.

Group activities that involve writing a letter to your body and writing a letter from your body to you increase awareness and acceptance. Many addiction counselors and most eating disorders counselors can describe techniques for doing this.

Another simple technique for improving body image is to act as if you are attractive. Pretend you are on a stage and people are admiring your body. Walk as if you believe you look great! You may feel much better about yourself.


Awareness of a distorted body image is an important part of recovery for many addicts. In particular, eating addicts with anorexic or bulimic tendencies must learn to tolerate some distortion in body image. You can learn that how you think and feel about your body is inaccurate. It is also helpful to give up the fantasy that one day you can look perfect.

Love & humility You can nurture a perception of yourself and your body that is loving, tolerant, and realistic. This means being grateful for your assets and accepting your shortcomings. Attitudes free of judgment, envy, or jealousy will open you to healthier relationships. You will feel better about yourself and others.

Recovery from body image problems can be a slow and difficult process. You may have to deal with abuse or incest issues. Whether obsessed with trying to be perfect, cut off from your body, or ignoring it because it seems hopeless, you can learn to love the body you have.

You are body as well as heart, mind, and soul. You can use your Program to give up your obsession, become more self-accepting, less self-centered, and get on with the business of your life. The Twelve Steps of the Program are excellent tools for your journey.

Body image, see also: Abuse, Acceptance, Anorexia nervosa, Attitudes, Bulimia nervosa, Cocaine, Delusion, Dichotomous thinking, Diet mentality, Emotional aspects, Exercise & activity, Family of origin, Feelings, Humility, Obesity, Obsession, Openmindedness, Pregnancy, Priorities, Relaxation, Sabotage of recovery, Sanity, Self-centeredness, Self-image, Service 8c giving, Spirituality, Sponsorship, Surrender, Trust, Visualizations, Weight, Willingness.

Updated 7 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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