Body image and health
A person with a healthy body image is comfortable with their body, has positive feelings and confidence about themselves, accepts and recognizes that healthy bodies come in a range of weights, shapes and sizes, and appreciates their strengths and abilities.
A person with a negative body image:
- Might have low self-esteem
- General withdrawal from other life activities
- Might avoid getting involved in physical activities
- Is more likely to focus on their weight and dieting
- Is at risk of developing an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia
- Might lose interest in school
- Might harm themselves with drugs, alcohol, unsafe tattooing or piercing, or unsafe sexual activity with multiple partners
(Source: Canadian Health Network)
Developing a healthy body image
Follow these tips to help your child/youth develop a healthy body image:
- Help your child understand that genetics plays a role in determining body shape and size-healthy bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
- Help children understand that their bodies will be changing and growing especially during puberty.
- Help your child recognize and appreciate strengths in their self and others. Encourage children to choose role models based on their internal qualities (e.g. athletic, kind or artistic) rather than appearance.
- Be a positive role model. Be aware of the messages you send about your body and comments you make about other peoples' bodies.
- Talk about how popular culture, media and stereotypes can affect how they feel about their bodies. (Here you could provide examples e.g. beautiful thin women etc).
- Encourage healthy eating and physical activity for the entire family. Praise your child for the healthy choices they make.
- Encourage your child/youth to express their feelings.
- Teach positive self-talk and help them to avoid negative putdowns.
- Teach your child to be inclusive of a wide range of body sizes and shapes.
- Teach your child/youth about the dangers of dieting and the joys of healthy eating and taking pleasure in eating a variety of foods.