Positive Body Image

Vogue is to be commended on their recent stand again using skinny models. According to a Conde Nast International announcement, the 19 editors for Vogue magazines around the world have agreed to “not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder.”

“Vogue believes that good health is beautiful. Vogue Editors around the world want the magazines to reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the well-being of their readers,” said Conde Nast International Chairman Jonathan Newhouse in a statement.

Many young people today, both men and women feel incredible pressure to kowtow to the stereotypes they see in the media and popular culture. Vogue has taken the first step in trying to address this issue and emphasise the importance of health over physical appearance.

5 protective factors that promote positive body image
Help protect young people with body image issues by building resilience:
1. At Home. Young people first learn about the world by what they experience at home within the family. So make sure you model positive body image messages. Don’t talk about being on an endless diet or saying certain foods make you “fat”. Also resist the urge to criticise your own body parts in front of your children. Embrace the way you look and emphasise the positives.
2. Family first. Eating healthy meals as a family is great for bonding and re-affirming positive body image. Family support is a powerful protector for teenagers, positive attitudes help children develop their own resilience to the pressures of images they see in the media.
3. Get physical. Taking part in physical activity is also a central feature of physical self-esteem. When young people exercise to improve their overall fitness or health (as opposed to working out to burn excess calories or build muscle) they are more likely to feel good about themselves.
4. Teach them to question what they see. Popular culture and the media often promote the idea that healthy and beauty means thin. Encourage young people to question what they see and not accept images they see around them as the only way people should look. Get them to critically engage and discuss how people in society are portrayed and the associated expectations that come with it. Developing media literacy will help them to interpret the images that might influence them rather than just being passive observers or receivers of information.
5. Find the balance in life. Encourage young people to define themselves by who they are and not what they look like. They can do this through their interests, sport, spirituality, creative ideas and attitudes to life.

Parents can also:
Table talk: eating meals together is good for bonding, keeps the lines of communication open and provides a great opportunity to demonstrate good eating habits. Try to ensure a variety of foods at the table that make up a varied and balanced diet.
Talk again and again: and then talk some more, reinforcing positive and healthy body images takes time and consistent reinforcement. Watch out for opportunities to talk about positive body image and keep talking in an age appropriate way.
Gaining weight is normal: It is important that teenagers understand that it is a normal part of development to gain weight as they hit their teenager years and their body undergoes major hormonal changes.
Appreciate the person inside: encourage young people to appreciate their inner strengths and resources. Emphasise the importance of a person as a whole, not just what they look like.
No teasing: even in fun, never tease a child about their physical appearance. It can be very hurtful even if they don’t show it.

If you think that someone you know is struggling with their body image, watch out for the following signs:

  • Unusual moodiness
  • Sudden or noticeable weight loss
  • Picking at food or eating alone
  • Unwillingness to eat with the family or take part in family events
  • Over exercising
  • Reluctance to talk

If you still have concerns then seek further help through these organisations and websites:
Contact Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800
Parentline Queensland and Northern Territory – 1300 30 1300
Parentline Victoria – 13 22 89
Parent Helpline South Australia – 1300 364 100
Parent Line New South Wales – 13 20 55

Dr Rick Kausman, Director of the Butterfly Foundation and Generation Next speaker will be talking about body image at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars which are held all around Australia. For details and registration go to Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald. Kidshealth.