MONDAY, Jan. 1, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- If resolutions are on your New Year's to-do list, consider adopting a more positive opinion about your body, an expert suggests.
"Consider what is really going to make you happier and healthier in 2018: losing 10 pounds or losing harmful attitudes about your body," said Pamela Keel, a professor and body image researcher at Florida State University.
Body dissatisfaction is a major problem in the United States, especially among young women, Keel noted. Much of that has to do with media images.
"There's a big gap between what we're shown as being ideal and what to aspire to and where we actually are as a population," she said in a university news release. "That leaves people feeling bad about themselves, and, unfortunately, feeling bad about your body does not actually motivate a person to pursue healthy behavior."
What to do?
Certain steps can help improve body satisfaction, Keel said.
For instance, she suggests standing in front of a full-length mirror in little or no clothing and pinpointing positive body traits. This can include specific functions of body parts.
"You would say, 'I really appreciate the way my legs take me wherever I need to go,' " Keel said. " 'Every day without fail, they get me out of bed, to the car, up the stairs and into the office. I don't have to worry about walking.'
"It can be that kind of functional appreciation of what your body does for you," she said.
Or, you might focus on appreciating a body feature -- such as your skin or the shape of your shoulders or neck.
"You can even go for higher-risk body parts," Keel said. "Rather than looking at yourself and saying, 'I hate my gut,' you could say, 'I really like the shape of my legs.' "
"If there is something about you that you like, the idea is to spend time focusing on it," she said.
Another approach is to think about specific activities you avoid because of body issues -- wearing a bathing suit or not wearing shorts, for instance -- and then deciding to do them.
"Most people experience a sense of freedom when they realize that nothing bad will happen if they wear a swimsuit or shorts in public -- everyone is completely fine with it," Keel said. "This reinforces body acceptance through experience."
The National Eating Disorders Association has more on body image.