What body image means

Yay, yippee, yahoo! School is open! Students have gone school clothes shopping and picked up all their supplies. What’s next? Perhaps we need to talk about body image.

Body image is the way one thinks and feels about his/her body, as well as how he/she perceives others to think about their appearance. Family, friends and media influence how we see our body image. The majority of youth, unfortunately, say they aren’t satisfied with their body size, shape or weight; 90 percent of females and almost 60 percent of males reported negative feelings about their body.

Nothing is unusual or unhealthy with teens being concerned about their appearance. It becomes a problem when negative body image perception becomes all-consuming and produces feelings of low self-worth, constant comparison to others and envy. Such feelings lead to poor self-esteem, depression and even suicidal thoughts. Dangerous behaviors may accompany negative body image as well: dieting or binge eating or the use of drugs and supplements to enhance physique.

So what does a positive body image consist of and how can we help to foster it in our children? Positive body image is the recognition (and acceptance) that healthy bodies come in different shapes and sizes; that body size and shape doesn’t predict success or happiness; and that images in the media are unrealistic and created to sell a product.

To promote a healthier, more positive body image within our children:

Be your child’s role model by accepting your own body; express a positive attitude toward food and exercise; avoid making unkind comments about the way other people look.

Give praise to children based more on their skills, talents and abilities and less on their appearance.

Teach children to think critically about the images and messages they are exposed to in the media.

Help children to develop a positive social support system by encouraging them to befriend people who are positive, confident and supportive of each other.

The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties thanks Know! for this information. The board is committed to sharing information and resources for better mental health and the prevention of substance abuse. It has a website, www.mhrsbssw.org, and a link to our Facebook page. If you would like more information, please call the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board at (419) 448-0640 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. The board’s hotline is available at (800) 826-1306.

Nancy Cochran,

executive director