Pathways to Wellness

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Body image

Body image refers to how a person feels about and sees their body.  How a young person views their body is influenced by many factors – the people in their life, media, and the availability of a range of services like Botox treatments, breast implants and hair removal to change the way bodies look.

A negative body image is more common among girls and women, but more and more boys and men are also coming to view their body in a negative light.  People who are dissatisfied with their bodies may resort to unhealthy patterns of eating, like dieting, or purging.  In extreme cases, eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia, can develop. 

There is a lot of concern about the rising rates of overweight children and young people because extra weight is a risk factor for many chronic diseases.  We will be more successful in promoting and achieving healthy weights if we focus on healthy eating and physical activity, than weight reduction and dieting.

Young people who have a positive body image have more self-confidence and take better care of their bodies.   They recognize that bodies come in different sizes and shapes, and that the good things in life – having friends, doing well in school, developing passions – don't depend on body type.  

You can help your child develop a positive body image by:

  • Supporting activities which allow your child to use and develop their abilities and interests, and recognizing effort rather than appearance.  This helps children and young people develop a sense of self that doesn't depend on looks.
  • Modeling healthy attitudes towards eating and physical activity, and not commenting on your own or other people's bodies.   As you have probably figured out, teasing anyone about their body should be avoided.
  • Help your child look critically at how images of men's and women's bodies are portrayed in advertising, films and videos and used to sell products – from cars to clothes to vacation holidays.  Let them know that photos of models and celebrities are often airbrushed so that they appear thinner and more buff than they really are.
  • Prepare your child for how their body will change when they hit puberty.