Body image is created when our brains link up external and internal information about our bodies, which basically means how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror and how we feel about ourselves at any given moment. This in turn is also influenced by how we believe other people see us, effectively creating a body image feedback loop.
In young people, negative body image and body dissatisfaction can lead to increased risk-taking behaviour and mental health problems, such as eating disorders.
Signs that may indicate a young person is struggling with their body image
feeling overly worried about how they look, e.g. making frequent comments or asking questions about their appearance
wanting to cover up parts of their body because they feel self-conscious
not wanting to change or take part in physical education (PE)
being bullied for the way they look
having rigid thinking patterns about what is ‘good’ vs ‘bad’
restrictive diets, or avoiding certain foods which may be ‘fattening’
changes in mood or interaction
What can teachers and schools do?
Use our digital lesson to teach your class about body image and use the resources suggested in the video to help young people practice healthy reflection on body image.
Teach health and nutrition in a way that is mindful that there may be class members who take it literally.
Take a look at your classroom and check that it reinforces the positive body image message you are trying to promote. Do your displays, books, posters etc represent diversity? Think about body shape, size, height, skin colour, disability and more!
Talk to your pupils about the pros and cons of social media. Facilitate discussion around the way social media can influence our perception of the ‘ideal’ body type. Are the pictures we see online real?
Focus on participation in sports to feel good, rather than to lose weight or build muscle. Discuss the benefits of sport on mental health, the social benefits and the impact on self-esteem.