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Healthy Body Image

What is a healthy body image? Body image is the way a person feels about their body. It also includes how they think other people see them. A healthy body image means feeling good about the way you look and feel and knowing how to take care of your body properly.1

Older children and teens, regardless of gender, often struggle with how they feel about themselves and can be easily influenced by other people and the media. As a parent, it is important to role model a healthy body image and to help your child develop positive self-esteem (the value we place on ourselves).2

 

How do the media affect body image?

Images on TV, movies and magazines can influence what we view as the “perfect” body. Sadly, many people have a limited view of what a healthy or “perfect” body looks like and feel that the images in the media show how we are “supposed” to look. 3 Comparing ourselves to these images and trying to be like them is unrealistic and can create negative body image.3

What many people, especially children and teens, don’t know is that images in the media aren’t real. They are usually altered with props, computer programs, and lighting to create the “perfect” body.

 

Youth enjoying life!

Youth
 

It is important to remember that even the people in these pictures don’t look like that in real life!3 Teach your children and teens how to be media smart.

Healthy Growth and Development

Children and teens go through many changes during puberty, while also growing quickly.3 All these changes can create issues with body image, especially if children and teens are growing at different rates than their friends. 3 It is important to remember that genetics and the environment have the biggest influence on body shape and size.

A Healthy Lifestyle is Best

With all the mixed messages in the media, it can be difficult for children and teens to know what a healthy lifestyle and body image is. As a parent, you can be a positive role model for your children and teens. You can teach them about a healthy lifestyle, which will hopefully lead to them developing their own healthy body image.

Healthy Eating

  • Use Canada’s Food Guide to plan and make meals and snacks. Eat a variety of “everyday foods” from Canada’s Food Guide including plenty of vegetables and fruit, whole grains and protein foods. Remember, all foods can fit. “Sometimes foods’ not on the food guide can be enjoyed in moderation!
  • Make water your drink of choice. Healthy drink options can also include white milk or unsweetened fortified plant-based beverages. Keep in mind: If you are planning your drink to be a protein source, choose white milk or unsweetened fortified soy beverages. Other plant-based beverages (e.g., almond) do not have enough protein.
  • Eat regular meals and snacks each day.
  • Eat together as a family as much as possible.
  • Relax and enjoy meals and snacks.
  • Children and teens should NOT diet. Dieting may be harmful and can affect normal growth and development. 3

Healthy Physical Activity

  • Include regular physical activity.
  • Be physically active with your children and teens.
  • Try new activities together to make physical activity fun for the whole family!

Healthy Body Image

  • Avoid talking about your own or other people’s body.
  • Compliment people on their skills and abilities rather than their appearance.
  • Talk to your child or teen about a healthy body image and the altered images that are in the media.

If you are concerned about your child or teen, speak with your doctor or call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

 
Date of creation: January 21, 2013
Last modified on: February 24, 2022
 

References

1Wood-Barcalow, N. L., Tylka, T. L., & Augustus-Horvath, C.L. (2010). “But I Like My Body”: Positive body image characteristics and a holistic model for young-adult women. Body Image, 7(2), 106-116.
2Canadian Mental Health Association. (2012). Children and Self-Esteem. Retrieved from
http://cmha.calgary.ab.ca/mental-health/understanding-mental-illness/children-and-youth/children-self-esteem/
3Canadian Paediatric Society. (2013 September). Dieting: Information for Teens. Retrieved from
http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/dieting_information_for_teens