A project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

Skip Navigation

Womens Health logo

Body Image

divider line

About body image

full-length picture of dancer in modern-dance pose

When you look in the mirror, do you like what you see?

Is your body image positive or negative? If your answer is negative, you are not alone. Many women in the United States feel pressured to measure up to a certain social and cultural ideal of beauty, which can lead to poor body image. Women are constantly bombarded with "Barbie Doll-like" images. By presenting an ideal that is so difficult to achieve and maintain, the cosmetic and diet product industries are assured of growth and profits. It's no accident that youth is increasingly promoted, along with thinness, as an essential criterion of beauty. The message we're hearing is either "all women need to lose weight" or that the natural aging process is a "disastrous" fate.

Looking for information on mental health conditions? Visit our mental health section.

Other pressures can come from the people in our lives.

  • Family and friends can influence your body image with positive and negative comments.
  • A doctor's health advice can be misinterpreted and affect how a woman sees herself and feels about her body.

Return to top

Learning to love what you see in the mirror

And don't forget your kids!

Parents’ attitudes about appearance and diet can affect their kids' attitudes. Read how to positively influence your child's body image.

We all want to look our best, but a healthy body is not always linked to appearance. In fact, healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes! Changing your body image means changing the way you think about your body. At the same time, healthy lifestyle choices are also key to improving body image.

  • Healthy eating can promote healthy skin and hair, along with strong bones.
  • Regular exercise has been shown to boost self-esteem, self-image, and energy levels.
  • Plenty of rest is key to stress management.

Return to top

More information on About body image

Explore other publications and websites

Connect with other organizations

Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

Return to top