TRIGGER WARNING: THIS EPISODE MENTIONS SUICIDE What is body image? Do you assume someone is happy and healthy depending on how they look? What will it take for you to appreciate your body? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks about how to appreciate your body and the impact of body image on your mental health.


  • Avoid making assumptions
  • What is body image?
  • Negative, neutral, and positive
  • How to improve your body image

Avoid making assumptions

Unnecessary and untrue expectations of what health looks like pressures millions of people every day to change the way they live, eat, and exercise to feel like they are “healthy”. The standard of “health” is specifically set to be unattainable so that a market can be built around selling people different diets, cures, programs, and supplements.
When someone tries so hard to achieve the unachievable, they feel like a failure. They say awful, horrible things to themselves and when someone does this, they are more susceptible to mental health illnesses like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)
But, remember that true health does not have a specific image, and even if someone looks “healthy”, they could be suffering immensely, mentally and/ or physically. Just because somebody looks a certain way on the outside does not mean anyone can guess what they think or feel on the inside, or what their life is like behind closed doors.
This erroneous belief that people who look a certain way must be happy and live a wonderful life is a horrible narrative that causes people a lot of pain. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)

What is body image?

Essentially, your body image is the relationship that you have with your body, and how you view it, treat it, and care for it. There are four parts to body image: 1 – Perception: The way you and you alone see yourself.
The way you see yourself is not always a correct representation of what you actually look like. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)
2 – Thoughts: The thoughts you think about yourself are related to the perception that you have about your body. 3 – Feelings: The feelings about your body are dependent on the thoughts that you have about your body. 4 – Behaviors: The behavior that you have toward your body is the final part. It is the overall approach that you take towards your body, depending on what you feel, think, and perceive of it. All these parts relate to one another. To address negative body image, you need to go to the root cause: the way that you perceive yourself and how your body looks.

Negative, neutral, and positive

Some people with:
  • A negative body image may look in the mirror and feel hatred or disgust for what they see
  • A neutral body image may look in the mirror and feel ambivalent or unphased about how they look and care more about the body’s function
  • A positive body image will look in the mirror with appreciation and love for their body

How to improve your body image

If for years and years you’ve been having very critical and negative thoughts and feelings about your body and the way it looks, I can imagine that it might be very difficult to get to a point where, regardless of how you look, that you’ll [say], “Wow, I love my body”. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)
If you currently have a negative body image, you don’t have to try to jump straight to having one that’s positive. Start with body neutrality. See what your body does for you and how it helps you to interact with life every day, and thank it for its functions instead of praising or critiquing how it looks.
I can assure you that there is never so much of a wake-up call as [to realize] how amazing your body is until it is either unhealthy, broken, or very sick. I learned how much I was taking my body for granted once parts of it were not functioning like they always were. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)
When you can’t engage with life because your body hurts or is sick, it will force you to change your perspective, but do not let it get to that point. Appreciate your body, because it helps you to interact with the world and be alive.



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


Did you enjoy this podcast? Feel free to comment below and share this podcast on social media! You can also leave a review of Behind The Bite on Apple Podcasts (previously) iTunes and subscribe!