Sep - Oct 2011

Body Dysmorphia and Exercise

By Justine Strauss, BS


If your preoccupation with a real or imagined defect in your appearance causes you great distress and begins to interfere with your job or social life, you might have Body Dysmorphic Disorder. People suffering from this are incapable of seeing how they really look and inaccurately believe that some feature of their body is hideously ugly.


Have you ever caught your image in the mirror and said UGH! It is possible that you don’t have a very healthy self-image of yourself.  Magazines and television constantly bombard us with images of the perfect physique (or should I say ‘what we are taught to believe is the perfect physique.’)


The average model or television personality tends to be severely underweight, often dealing with his or her own distorted body image. Tactics such as anorexia, binging, over exercising, laxatives, smoking and alcohol abuse are some of the ways celebrities have learned to maintain their ‘perfect’ body image status. Many of these techniques and behaviors are passed on from one abuser to the next.


Do you find yourself spending multiple hours in the gym working out and never feeling quite comfortable with your own body image? Exercise is not a replacement for an inadequate body image. Becoming comfortable in your own skin could be as basic as appreciating your positive attributes. Exercise is a perfect way to increase serotonin and dopamine levels. These hormones make us feel happy and satisfied. Exercise is nature’s anti-depression medication. Of course, everyone responds to exercise in varying ways due to age, weight and gender, but taking all of this into consideration, there are many benefits you will derive from being active:

• Stress relief

• Easier time falling asleep

• Improved metabolic rate

• Boost in self-esteem

• Improved mood

• Increased stamina, strength and flexibility.

• Improved confidence

• Enhanced “self body image”