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Body Image

Body image is the mental picture you have of your body, along with your feelings, thoughts, and judgments about your body. (Source: Canadian Health Network)

This page includes information and resources about body image including important tips for parents and caregivers.

Why is body image an important health issue?

When people are comfortable with their body and their feelings towards themselves are positive and self-confident, they have a healthy body image.

A person with a negative body image:

  • may have low self-esteem.
  • may be uncomfortable participating in physical activities.
  • is more likely to become preoccupied with weight and dieting.
  • is at risk of developing an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.
  • may lose interest in school.
  • may harm him/herself with drugs, alcohol, unsafe tattooing or piercing, or unsafe sexual activity with multiple partners.

(Source: Canadian Health Network)

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What services does the Health Department offer regarding body image?

The Health Department works with community partners, to promote the development of healthy body image in Halton residents.

We also provide programs and services to encourage healthier lifestyle attitudes and behaviours by promoting consistent messages about healthy eating physical activity and self-acceptance.

To increase public awareness about body image issues we:

  • Provide educational sessions to children, youth, parents, adults and professionals.
  • Provide support, consultation and referral to teens, parents, adults and professionals.
  • Identify and advocate for community resources for the prevention and treatment of eating disorders.

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What can I do to help my child develop a healthy body image?

  • Talk to your child/youth to help them (and you) understand their concerns about their body and how they feel about themselves.
  • Listen to the comments your child/youth makes and use these opportunities to discuss their body image. Tune in to remarks they may say like "I feel fat in these pants"
  • Encourage your child/youth to express his/her feelings
  • Share your feelings by telling your child/youth you remember going through the same changes and know how scary it can be
  • Give positive feedback. Reassure your child/youth that the physical changes they are experiencing are normal.
  • Focus on Strengths - help your child/youth focus on their strengths, abilities and unique qualities rather than on their bodies' shape and size. Talk about his/her positive qualities.
  • Help your child/youth develop interests beyond physical appearance - Help your child/youth develop interests and skills, which will lead to success, personal expression, and fulfilment without emphasis on appearance.
  • Talk about popular culture and its myths. Talk about the body image myths portrayed in the media such as beautiful, thin women smoking or winners wearing special athletic shoes.
  • Teach positive self-talk, not negative putdowns.
  • Avoid negative statements about your own body.
  • Educate yourself and your children about the genetic basis of differences in body shapes and sizes.
    • Look at pictures of relatives and help your child imagine what they should look like.
  • Be intolerant of weight prejudice.
  • Teach about the dangers of dieting and the joys of healthy eating.

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