Due to the combination of stressful life experiences and low self-esteem, the LGBTQ+ community members are at a higher risk of developing mental challenges and eating disorders, which can lead to negative body image.
A recent study shows that teenagers identified as LGBTQ+ are most likely to binge-eat compared to their heterosexual counterparts.
Body Image and LGBTQ+
We may be aware of common challenges faced by youth who come out as trans people such as discrimination, harassment, bullying, and rejection. However, recently, there has been an addition to this.
LGBTQ+ members are most likely to experience stress and anxiety due to their body image with a huge percentage of bisexuals having suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide.
According to a survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, which assesses how people feel and think about their bodies, a third of LGBTQ+ members reveal that they have had suicidal thoughts due to their body image.
Among LGBTQ+ adults, 53% experience anxiety, 56% experienced depression because of body image compared to 33% of cisgender adults. Additionally, 33% of LGBTQ+ adults have had suicidal thoughts regarding their body image compared to 11% of heterosexual adults.
Most trans people are disgusted with their body image, leading to self-hurt or thoughts of committing suicide.
Implications of Body Image in the LGBTQ+ Community
Thousands of adults in the UK are struggling with issues of body image, most of them being members of LGBTQ+. Sexual minority men experience pressure to have a slim and athletic figure, which can hurt their emotional health and the development of binge-eating.
Research from NEDA (The National Eating Disorders Association) shows that bisexual boys are likely to fast, vomit, or take diet pills to control their weight within a month.
Minority stigma associated with detriments encountered by LGBTQ+ members can be linked to body image. For gay, the internalized negative attitudes towards homosexuality predicted general body dissatisfaction, body fat dissatisfaction, and muscularity dissatisfaction.
The most common symptoms stretch from self-harm, depression, low self-esteem, bad eating habits, and challenges sustaining relationships with other people.
How to Improve the Relation with Your Body
Luckily, there has been a change in people’s attitudes and you can learn how to appreciate your body image online. You can also improve your body image through exercise, mindfulness, and a positive approach to life. Here are some ways to improve your body image confidence:
- Do not hide from the mirror, gaze at your body and say “are beautiful”
- Stay healthy. Eat a well-balanced diet and have enough exercise. When you are healthy, you are confident about how you look
- Appreciate the capability of your body. You can hug someone, run to catch a bus, and have an orgasm, there, your body is amazing!
- Do not compare your body with someone else’s, that’s being unrealistic. If you are adamant to find a role model, do not base it on appearance
- Change the way you see yourself. Instead of feeling unattractive, look at the brighter side. Maybe you don’t like your bum, but you think your boobs are the best there is, or it could be your eyes, your legs, how you walk, the least of amazing facts about yourself is endless. Accept your least favorite facts about your body by acknowledging that we are all different and uniquely beautiful.
- Do not criticize other people’s looks. This includes shunning magazines criticizing celebs for not looking their best. By judging other people’s looks, you are feeding your mind with negative vibes of how someone should look.
- Surround yourself with people who appreciate how you look. This allows you to have confidence and feel comfortable. Being around judgmental individuals can hurt your self-esteem.
- If your body image issues are worsening, and lead to damaging behavior such as bad eating habits or self-harm, seek help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help in re-training your brain by attacking negative thoughts.
What Research Says
Some research suggests that lesbians are exempted from the pressure to possess an ideal body image, unlike heterosexual women. This creates an assumption that lesbians should be more confident than heterosexual women regarding their body image.
However, other researchers state that body image confidence is more challenging for bisexual and lesbian women because most minority groups experience negative feelings that can cause eating disorders or self-harming behaviors. However, the reality is, sexual orientations do not indicate the level of someone’s body confidence.
Body Image in People of Color
For LGBTQ+ members of color, pressure to have an ideal body is about race too. LGBTQ+ men assume that they need a desirable body to date someone who is super fit. On the other hand, LGBTQ+ women should have a superwoman body for them to stand a chance of dating someone worthwhile.
Being an LGBTQ+ member of color with a negative body view means that first, you are going against the traditions of sexuality, and second, you are not proud of your body. The setbacks that come with this can have permanent or recurrent mental and emotional challenges.
A positive body view can have a positive impact on someone’s self-esteem. You need to be at the top of the game in every aspect of your life. Some LGBTQ+ people have perfect bodies that we cannot help but admire.
You can be slim and you want to add some pounds or maybe you want to lose some weight. However, you should keep in mind that unless you do it the right way, you will have more regrets in the end. If you are not shedding some weight, you do not need to fast. If you can’t gain some you do not need to overeat.
Do it the healthy way. Go to the gym. Eat well and have enough sleep. Remember, everyone is beautiful in their own way. You should be proud of yourself because the only person who can truly appreciate you is you. Love your body and have something positive to say about it. Look at the mirror and say “am truly beautiful”.