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How hating your own body can actually physically hurt you
Can the way we talk about our bodies actually cause illness and poor health? - photo by Tamsyn Valentine
Body shaming is a huge problem in our culture, and it is something that needs to be stopped. Everyone is unique. All of our bodies are unique.

Society wants to tell us what is too thin or too fat, but the reality is there is only one important thing when it comes to bodies: being healthy. We need to love our bodies as they are and remember we are beautiful just being ourselves.

Sometimes, we can be the biggest culprits behind shaming our own bodies. We tell ourselves over and over that since we dont fit this ideal mold, there must be something wrong.

In reality, this type of thinking is not only mentally and emotionally harmful, but a scientific study found that it is also physically harmful.

Here are some ways having a negative body image can harm you and some ways to start loving your body just the way it is.

Youre making yourself sick

According to two small studies conducted by Bucknell University researcher Jean Lamont, women who felt more ashamed of their bodies had increased infections since their teenage years. The second study also showed that for those who had high levels of body shame, they had an increase in infections between September and December, suggesting that the body shame they were experiencing could have something to do with the illness.

Youre creating stress

Yep, thats right. When you have negative thoughts about yourself, your body perceives them as stress. And is stress good for your body? No. Stress can be harmful to your physical and emotional health. It is one of the biggest contributors to poor health.

Youre setting a bad example

No one wants to hear they are a bad role model. When it comes to body shaming, we may not realize the times where we are actually perpetuating a bad self-image and passing it along to others. Speaking about someone being too fat or too skinny makes it sound okay to put people into small confined boxes of what is acceptable and not acceptable. Also, calling yourself these things creates a bad precedent. You have daughters, little sisters, nieces and friends who look up to you and who may be listening to your self-ridicule and think that its okay to body shame themselves as well.

So whats a girl to do?

Take care of yourself

HEATHY. That is the only state of being that matters. Size, shape, color or whatever the world tries to tell you is the right way to be does not matter. Remember health is what is most important. Eat good things that make you feel good. Participate in activities that make you feel strong. If you do these things, you will know when your body feels its best. A number on a scale should not be a reason to harm yourself or your health.

Change what you see as beautiful

The world may have its standards of beauty, but its time to create your own. Remember beauty is so much more that what is on the outside; the inside is where the good stuff is. Do things that make both your outside and inside feel good, and seek after people who do the same. Look to these people as role models and what your standard of beauty should be.

Say no to negative thoughts

Remember those negative thoughts you were having about yourself that were causing harmful stress? Its time to snuff out these negative thoughts before they even begin by training yourself to recognize and address them. If you start to think about how much better you would look if you just lost ten pounds, train yourself to respond by saying "No, I look good how I am." By telling those negative thoughts to get lost, you will find yourself thinking them less often.

You are beautiful just the way you are. It is nobody's business to say what is or is not perfect, so dont bother trying to define it. Love yourself and your body.