Body Image

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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.

What does it mean to have a negative body image?

This means not liking your body, your weight or specific body parts. It may also include disliking your hair, skin colour, or facial features. It is very common for women and girls in Canada to have some degree of body image dissatisfaction.

Some of the things that may negatively affect a girl's body image are:

  • influence of media and popular culture;
  • experiences of physical or sexual abuse;
  • a parent who is preoccupied with their weight and dieting;
  • being teased, bullied or harassed based on size, gender, skin colour or physical abilities;
  • physical changes in the body at different stages of life such as puberty and pregnancy; and
  • participation in activities where extreme thinness is promoted, such as dance, gymnastics and modeling.

Why is it important to have a healthy or positive body image?

When a girl or woman is comfortable with her body and her feelings towards herself are positive and self-confident, she has a healthy body image.

A girl with negative body image:

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

 The Real World

Open any teen magazine, click on primetime TV or walk through a department store.  The images of impossibly thin models overwhelm today’s teenage girls.  Unbelievably, most models are thinner than 98% of girls and women.

By becoming aware of the messages that we are bombarded with daily and by interpreting the world around us with a critical eye, we can go a long way toward ensuring that girls grow into strong, healthy and self-confident women.

Separate the fact from fantasy:

Fantasy:  You can and should diet or exercise your way to look like a model and you have failed somehow if you don't make it.

FACT: Everyone is born with a different body.  No one type is better or worse than another.  Models have the type of genes that allow them to be very tall and thin.  Very few people look like that.

  Boys only like very thin girls.

FACT: Teenage boys may like to look at very thin, pretty girls.  But they prefer to date regular looking girls, who are not intimidating to them during their awkward adolescent period.

TV stars naturally look fabulous.

FACT: TV stars spend hours a day getting their “look” and they sacrifice a lot to get there.  What’s more, very, very few actors actually “make it."  Most go on to do other things long before they get anywhere near prime time TV.

Fantasy:  You have to look, dress, and eat like your friends or you’re not “cool."

FACT:  Everyone has a different body type and you have to take care of your body in a way that feels comfortable and flattering to you.  Being healthy is “cool” and having friends that accept you for who you are is the ultimate “cool.”


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