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Cultivating Positive Body Image and NEDAwareness Week 2022

By Zoe Hynes, Peer Health Advocate


Body Image

Body image can be a complex topic for many of us, oftentimes encompassing both positive and negative feelings which may change day to day, or even hour to hour. Research shows that people with eating disorders report higher body image dissatisfaction levels1 and the NEDA lists this as a risk factor on their website. Subsequently, working to cultivate a more positive body image can decrease this risk of developing an eating disorder. Additionally, this month is NEDA’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week from February 20th-25th.

Five Steps to a Positive Body Image

Let’s look at some strategies for developing a more positive body image. The NEDA website includes a list of “10 steps to positive body image”2, and I have highlighted a few of these here, as well as incorporated some of my own.

  1. First on their list is to “appreciate all that your body can do.” This is a great practice, and can be incredibly individualized. You do not have to think of incredible feats of strength or stamina for this step, but instead can try keeping it really simple. Appreciate your body’s ability to breathe, in and out, all day everyday, with no thought from you. Appreciate your body’s ability to feel a good stretch. Appreciate your body’s ability to laugh and smile. Be creative and try not to overlook the smaller capabilities of your body.
  2. Another step they list is to “wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body.” Is there any discomfort like wearing something that does not quite fit right? We become infinitely more self-conscious and self-objectifying, constantly imagining how others are viewing us. When we find ourselves in this situation, we are unable to be fully present in our interactions and activities for the day, instead becoming wrapped up in how we look. Taking the time to ensure you are wearing well fitting clothes that you feel confident in can thus make a big difference.
  3. A third step from my own experience is to engage in physical activity that you enjoy and feels good. Being active is a great way to get back in touch with your body, and it is especially important to emphasize the joyful nature of moving our bodies. I love to practice yoga and go on walks in nature. Maybe you have a sport you love to play, or you want to try a dance class, or maybe you want to go ice skating on Wilson Quad. Whatever it is, give it a try the next time you are feeling stuck in your head about body image, as this practice will again assist you in focusing more on what your body is capable of and less on appearance.
  4. Another step which I have found incredibly helpful is to be aware of your own thoughts about your body. Many of us are our own harshest critics, and what we find acceptable for other people, suddenly does not apply to us. Whenever you find yourself criticizing your appearance in any way, take a step back. You can ask yourself, “Is this helpful to me?” or “Is this a justified remark?” I usually find the answer to both of these questions to be “No.” Additionally, a good rule of thumb can be that if you would not say it to a close friend, you should not say it to yourself. A lot of time just becoming aware of how incessantly self critical we can be, and reducing or stopping that can benefit our body image immensely. You could even go a step further and replace these thoughts with positive ones for greater effect.
  5. A final step from the NEDA is to “become a critical viewer of social and media messages.” The beauty ideal is everywhere, and social media makes us particularly vulnerable to it. Constant comparison intertwined with increasingly indiscernible filters and highlight reels of people’s lives can be detrimental to our body image. Keeping these factors in mind when we view media can be helpful in protecting ourselves. I also highly suggest reviewing who you follow on social media through this lens. Begin by asking yourself some of the following questions: How do I feel after viewing this account’s content? Do I feel more positive or negative about my body image? Do not hesitate to unfollow people who may be unhelpful to you, and instead explore the numerous diverse creators who are activists in the body image space. A few of my favorites are: Kelly U (@_kellyu), Megan Jayne Crabbe (@meganjaynecrabbe), Maddie Dragsbaek (@maddiedragsbaek), Tiffany Ima (@tiffanyima), and Ryan Sheldon (@realryansheldon).

If you are interested in more tips on cultivating a positive body image, you can check out the rest of the NEDA’s tips here.

Body Neutrality

While body positivity has been an extremely popular term in recent years, this can seem like an unattainable goal to many people. As a result, the phrase body neutrality has risen to provide a different stepping stone on this path. The idea behind body neutrality is to support people in coming to a place of respecting and accepting our bodies as they are, not necessarily feeling negatively or positively towards them.3 Healthline states “This movement aims to decentralize the body as an object by challenging the myth that the way you look drives your worth. It also creates room to step back from body conversations in general.”3 If body positivity does not resonate with you, I highly suggest doing some more research on body neutrality and have included some further information on it at the end of this post.

Need Help?

I think it is important to wrap up this blog with a reminder of the warning signs and symptoms of eating disorders. Eating disorder symptoms can include: preoccupation with weight, food, or dieting, appearing uncomfortable eating around others, skipping meals, withdrawal from friends and activities, extreme concern with body size, noticeable weight fluctuations, menstrual irregularities, constantly feeling cold, gastrointestinal complaints, and more.4

If you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, reach out to the following resources:

  • UCC Emergency On-Call 24/7: (585) 275-3113
  • NEDA Helpline:
    • Call: (800) 931-2237 Monday—Thursday 11am—9pm ET, Friday 11am—5pm ET, Translation services are available on the phone.
    • Crisis Text Line: If you are in a crisis and need help immediately, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line. Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 support via text message to individuals who are struggling with mental health, including eating disorders, and are experiencing crisis situations.
  • Public Safety: (585) 275-3333

Keep an eye out on the Health Promotion website for upcoming programming around Nourishment and Body Image, particularly aligning with NEDAwarenees week, Feb 21st through the 27th.

For those who want to learn more about eating disorders or become involved in NEDAwareness week can check their website for upcoming announcements regarding the programming for this year. Beyond NEDAwareness week, a NEDA walk is coming to Rochester this year, so keep an eye on this link for upcoming details on the date and location.

Body Neutrality Readings:


About the Author: Zoe is a junior undergraduate psychology major and this is her first semester as an intern with the Health Promotion Office. Additionally on campus Zoe is the Administrative Director of After Hours A Cappella, a UR Connected Coach, and a Student Mindfulness Facilitator.



  1. NEDA. Body Image & Eating Disorders. National Eating Disorders Association. Published February 22, 2018.
  2. National Eating Disorders Association. 10 steps to positive body image. National Eating Disorders Association. Published February 22, 2018.
  3. How to Shift from “Body Positivity” to “Body Neutrality” — And Why You Should. Healthline. Published January 20, 2021. Accessed January 27, 2022.
  4. National Eating Disorders Association. Warning signs and symptoms. National Eating Disorders Association. Published February 22, 2018.
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