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Little Things You Do That Can Destroy Your Body Image

Twitter may be to blame for your thigh gap obsession.

Does getting out of the shower mean five minutes of pulling and pinching areas of your body in front of the mirror? Are you sure he'll start paying attention to you as soon as you can get your stomach flat? Do you still feel sh--ty about those fries you had at lunch?

If you find yourself preoccupied with your weight, you're in the majority -- the major, major majority. According to one survey in the UK, nearly 90% of teenage girls are unhappy with the way their body looks. And a Cosmo survey found it's the same number for adult women.

In other words, if you feel that having someone else's body would be the answer to all of life's problems, she's likely also fixated on a perfect body that seems eternally out of reach.

Negative body image, in a word, sucks. It makes you feel bad about yourself, makes you feel competitive with your friends, and makes you feel perpetually inadequate. Here are seemingly innocuous behaviors that may be wearing away at your ability to feel comfortable in your own skin...

  • Spending too much time on social media

    The pressure to be thin has long existed in the form of supermodels and photoshopped magazine covers, but social media has created a whole new level of pressure -- because it features people you know, and can thus far more easily compare yourself to.

    Like with fashion magazines, however, you're still looking at an idealized version of people; a Harris Interactive study found that 50% of all social media users touch up their images before posting. (And anyone worth their selfie salt knows that if the camera isn't above you to make you appear thinner, there's no way that pic is going online.)

    Another problem with social media is that you receive immediate feedback on your posts. By constantly checking how many likes your photo gets, you may set yourself up for disappointment and feelings of inadequacy. According to author Jenni Schaefer, who writes about eating disorders, “A lot of people base their self-esteem on how many likes they get.”

  • Buying clothes that are too small

    The size you wear can be numerical proof that you've reached a certain weight milestone, so it's understandable that -- if you become fixated on dropping to a certain size -- you're compelled to just start buying smaller clothes.

    The problem with this is that wearing too-small clothes will have the exact opposite effect of what you're hoping to achieve. Buying clothes that are the wrong size, because you know that "one day they will fit," prevents you from feeling satisfied with where you presently are.

  • Not paying enough attention to things besides your weight

    If you're neglecting other areas of your life, because you're focused on your weight, then you may be setting yourself up for a downward spiral. A study from Florida State University found that achievements -- such as getting good grades -- can improve the way you view yourself as a whole, which translates to far fewer negative thoughts about the way your body looks.

  • Counting calories

    A side effect of weight obsession is to become consumed with calories and fat grams. In fact, historians have traced the beginning of our country's obsession with thinness and dieting to shortly after the discovery of the calorie.

    Fixating on your caloric consumption can be more than just an unproductive use of your time; it may be a symptom of what some medical professionals have coined "almost anorexia," an eating disorder that is estimated to strike one in 20 women. (Those numbers may be even higher among teenage girls.)

    Mental health professionals warn that "almost anorexia," which is characterized by things like negative body image and frequent restriction of food, could lead to a more severe eating disorder like anorexia.

  • Talking about how "fat" you are

    Because body dissatisfaction is so prevalent among your peers, it's likely that you frequently talk with them about your weight and what you've eaten recently. In a way, this may feel like a relief, since struggling with body image issues can be a very lonely and isolating experience. In reality, however, talking about how fat you think you are is packing on the insecurities.

    A study of college-aged women, from the University of Wisconsin and Northwestern University, found that those who frequently engaged in "fat talk" suffered from greater dissatisfaction with their bodies. According to the researchers, "The most common response to fat talk [is] denial that the friend [is] fat ... typically leading to a back-and-forth conversation where each of two healthy weight peers denies the other is fat while claiming to be fat themselves."

    You're not only delivering harmful messages about body image to yourself, but also comparing yourself to your friend. This type of peer competition has been linked to lower levels of satisfaction with life.

    In other words, stick to talking about more productive things. Like how hot Michael from 5SOS is!