Body image problems need to be tackled; they can make you miserable and lead you to unhealthy behavior. But how do you actually go about tackling body image problems? And why do these problems crop up in the first place?

There are two mains ways that the media can end up affecting your body image in a negative way; one is spoken of a lot, but the other is a bit more subtle and pernicious. The first relates to the plethora of media images that contribute to an idea about a very limited “ideal” of beauty. For women, this may mean images of slim women with big breasts. For men, it may be super-tall, muscular, ultra-macho images. When these become the standard by which you define beauty, then this can have negative effects on your body image.

The second and less obvious problem relates to the response to these images. Many critics would condemn these ‘models’ as not being representative of “real women/men”, or label such looks as “unrealistic and unattainable”. This is a problem unto itself; the fact is that there are plenty of people out there who do look like that (obviously!), and that those sorts of bodies are, by and large, attainable with hard work. This can have a negative effect on those who do look like this and people who want to look like this (something you shouldn’t feel bad about!).

In any case, these outlooks are too limited in their own ways. You shouldn’t let media images shame you or control you, but you should be careful when listening to overzealous critics, who often do their own sort of body shaming by condemning those who are slim or muscular. Many would label being overweight as “realistic” and condemn those who say that being overweight is unhealthy; this, of course, is taking things too far. If you want to improve yourself by losing or gaining weight, or putting on more muscle, then go for it. Don’t let yourself feel inadequate if you don’t look equal to the models often used in commercials; they get paid to look that way and maintain that image, after all!

Even looking into options like cosmetic surgery isn’t something that should be condemned off-hand, the way a lot of critics would have you believe. Again, it’s your body. It’s certainly something you should research if you feel unconfident about something; for example, there’s no harm in checking out FAQ’s on fat transfer for breast augmentation if you’re interested. It really depends on how badly your body image problem is affecting you, and what the root of that problem stems from. If you’re listening to others and taking action based solely on their opinions, then you could end up making a big mistake.

A problem with your body image doesn’t mean you’ve been manipulated by the media. It could relate in a serious way to your health or severe and understandable problems with self-confidence that stem from irregularities during natural body development. At the end of the day, you should only consider a body image problem unhealthy if you’re not listening to yourself while all these opinions are circling around you.