Body image is greatly influenced by the media, but skinny doesn't always mean healthy
Television advertising, magazines, movies and websites relentlessly bombard us with images of the supposed beauty ideal, where women are thin and big-busted and men are lean and muscular.
Girls and young women, in particular, are vulnerable to these images, sometimes responding to the pressure to achieve the ideal look by exercising excessively and dieting. That’s why it’s important to help young people cultivate a positive body image.
Look at media images with a critical eye. Virtually all the images we see in the media are manipulated to remove flaws. Let children and teens know that the images are not what they appear to be. Did you know the level of body fat on models used in ads is often 50% less than that of healthy women?
Focus on being healthy, not skinny. Eating a balanced diet and finding coping strategies to deal with stress are a good start, as is getting regular exercise, which aside from the obvious physical benefits also boosts feelings of happiness and well-being.
Beauty Comes in Differet Shapes and Sizes
There are many body shapes, not just one ideal shape. Television shows are increasingly acknowledging that people come in all shapes and sizes and are actively reflecting (and even celebrating) this reality in their programming. Take time to point out the real people.
Be a great role model. Kids tend to mimic the actions of adults. Avoid criticizing your own physical appearance or obsessing about dieting in front of children and teens.
Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.