Perceived body image impacts how we live

(NC)—More than seven out of ten girls avoid certain activities, such as giving an opinion or going to school when they feel bad about their bodies, according to academic research by the Dove Self Esteem Fund. Negative body image also means both girls and boys are less likely to engage in physical activity. Life-long health-giving habits such as proper nutrition and exercise are laid down in childhood and are affected by an individual’s body image.

  • Feb. 1, 2011 12:00 p.m.

(NC)—More than seven out of ten girls avoid certain activities, such as giving an opinion or going to school when they feel bad about their bodies, according to academic research by the Dove Self Esteem Fund. Negative body image also means both girls and boys are less likely to engage in physical activity. Life-long health-giving habits such as proper nutrition and exercise are laid down in childhood and are affected by an individual’s body image.

“It makes me really shy about doing things with my friends,” says sixteen-year-old Shayla Timms about her body. “I’m always trying to hide my shape, which ends up with me wanting to hide myself”.

“We need our girls – and boys – to feel confident in themselves so that they can be fully engaged in their communities, socially, academically, economically; we need them to feel good about themselves and their bodies so that they can make healthy choices in their lives” says Merryl Bear, director of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC).

Despite some good beginnings to support more diverse body shapes and sizes by designers such as Canadian Mark Fast, and magazines such as Marie Claire providing some diversity, the overwhelming media messaging is that thin-is-in.

“Combined with the war on fat, messaging that thinness is the passport to success leads to food and weight preoccupation, and our youth are particularly vulnerable to this” comments Bear. Fortunately for most parents, the evidence is clear that some simple steps, many of which are found on NEDIC’s website at www.nedic.ca, can help to protect their child’s emotional and physical well-being.

Having dinner together regularly as a family is shown to be effective in increasing children and youth’s emotional resilience. Learning to trust and take measured risks with one’s body through physical activity helps children to develop self-confidence as well as a healthy body. And, as Bear suggests, it is never too late to develop a better body image and self-confidence.

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