Body image issues often take an emotional toll and lead to feelings of inadequacy or engaging in a cycle of body hatred. If your friend deals with these issues, there are ways to support them.

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Many people use their weight and how they feel about their physical appearance to measure their worth, resulting in or signifying body image issues.

Body image issues are often intertwined with weight or size. Some people may believe that their body image is directly correlated to self-image and confidence, defining who they are as a person. Media exposure, cosmetic surgery prevalence, diet product marketing, and other factors can contribute to these issues.

You can’t force your friend to appreciate their body or make it happen for them overnight. Consider the following tips to bring comfort to your friend when they’re dealing with body image issues.

A large study conducted in Mexico focused on body image following bariatric surgery. The findings suggest that positive perceptions of body image and believing in oneself increases the likelihood of self-care behaviors.

Engaging in self-care with your friend may encourage them to focus on positivity as they explore techniques that meet their needs. With consistent support, your friend may begin to trust in their ability to show up for themselves.

Consider hiking together, trying a new hobby, or creating a vision board together.

When your friend says negative things about their body, challenging their thoughts and reframing them into a positive may help them see themselves in a better light.

Physical therapy expert Bryan Wright suggested that “celebrating what the body can achieve, such as the ability to engage in exercise or daily tasks, rather than just its appearance.”

Focusing on what the body can do helps challenge the thought that how it looks is the most important aspect.

You can also ask why they feel that way, helping them understand that their negative feelings don’t contribute to their self-worth.

If your friend hears you say negative things about yourself or others, it could contribute to their negative feelings about their body. They might feel they must be a specific size or have a certain look to garner acceptance.

A study from 2019 details that 93% of college women ages 18-23 have negative discussions about their bodies with their friends. If you have a friend with body image issues, these discussions can impact their mindset and worsen their experience.

Consider avoiding negative comments about physical appearance, making comparisons, or encouraging dieting behaviors.

Talking with your friend about their life can help them feel validated and understood.

Allowing them to open up about difficult circumstances or mental health challenges may help them cope with feelings associated with their body. When speaking with your friend, practice active listening to help them feel supported and heard.

Diet culture can possibly contribute to or worsen body image issues.

According to a 2022 review, exposure to social media content suggesting an idealized body type or foods is likely linked to a negative body image and unhealthy eating behaviors, especially for women between the ages of 18 and 30.

It’s not always an easy mindset to break, either, so avoiding discussions involving dieting is one of the best forms of support.

When your friend knows that they have positive qualities that don’t relate to their body, it can help them cope with body image issues.

Focusing on other aspects of your friend can serve as a reminder that they’re worth more than how they look or feel about their body.

Signs of body insecurity

It’s not always easy to recognize when someone is dealing with body image issues, but there are signs you can watch for.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Researcher Ehab Youssef explained that the following are signs that a friend may have a negative body image:

  • constantly expressing negative comparisons
  • avoiding social situations or activities that involve wearing specific clothing or participating in physical activities
  • engaging in negative self-talk about their appearance
  • adapting unhealthy behaviors like extreme dieting or over-exercising
  • socially withdrawing because of how they feel about their body
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Research shows that nearly half of first- and second-graders don’t like something about their body. These issues don’t end after adolescence and often follow people into adulthood. Many people face challenges with body image issues, but sometimes it’s a bit more severe.

When this is the case, your loved one may benefit from professional support. Carolina Estevez, licensed psychologist, suggested encouraging your friend to seek professional support if:

  • their health is at risk
  • their life is greatly affected
  • they have a history of mental illness

Some of the things to watch for when assessing whether professional support is necessary include:

Body dysmorphic disorder

When someone has a distorted view of themselves, it’s considered body dysmorphic disorder. Someone with this disorder may spend hours examining their insecurities, trying to conceal perceived thoughts, or obsessing over these aspects of themselves.

They may even get plastic surgery to improve their insecurities, even if others view them in a positive regard.

Eating disorders

Those with body image issues may experience an eating disorder, like:

One way to identify an eating disorder is by bringing awareness to a preoccupation your loved one may have with food, body weight, and shape.


When depression leads to a distorted view of themselves, your loved one may have body image issues. Likewise, a person’s distorted view of themselves could contribute to their depression.

Supporting a friend dealing with body image issues may help them stop thinking of their body negatively in terms of how they look. Instead, they may recognize how amazing their body is for allowing them to think, breathe, heal, and live.

Coping with body image issues will help your friend feel happier and more confident and can prevent worsening issues.

If your friend needs help with an eating disorder, they can call 866-662-1235 or email to contact the National Alliance for Eating Disorders helpline.

This helpline is available from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. If your friend needs help when the helpline is unavailable, they can text HEALING to 741-741 to talk with a trained counselor anytime.