I’ve been reading through a curriculum addressing body image, eating, fitness, and weight concerns called Healthy Bodies by Kathy J. Kater. In it, the various costs of negative body image for girls were discussed. Negative body image refers to an over or hyper-focus on comparing one’s size and shape to unrealistic or unattainable social ideals.
In the book, four specific consequences of negative body image were highlighted:
- A drain on time, energy, self-esteem, and motivation for self-care.
- A serious disconnection from self
- Reduced and unbalanced nutrition/diet as well as overall weight gain
- & Last but certainly not least, the possibility of eating disorder onset
Each of these costs individually are significant and worthy of discussion, but today I would like to examine the second consequence, that of disconnection from self, as this is a very serious and alarming adverse result of negative body image. Disconnection from self is when a child is not comfortable in his or her own skin and/or in his or her own physical body. Ultimately, this is detrimental and damaging to the child’s formation of their personal identity. Children experiencing this disconnection from self, struggling with their body image tend to value themselves looking from the outside in, rather than from the inside out. The outcome of this type of thinking results in the “how I look” taking precedence over the “who I am” question. This struggle is not only heartbreaking but preventable and unnecessary.
Unfortunately, our culture tends to focus on a person’s “outside packaging” as the primary way in which to pass judgement on them. Children struggle to reconcile this contradiction with their own personal values, body confidence, and self-esteem. Instead of looking inward to find their self-worth as they should, they feel compelled to look to external cues as a measure of their value. This “dissociative crisis” as Ms. Kater calls it, allows adolescents girls to risk both their physical and emotional health in order to secure the physical outward appearance they perceive as critical to their acceptance and value in society. This confusing and complicated struggle takes a real and measurable toll on the girls, often barring the child’s true, authentic self to be recognized.
Over and over studies find that at least 70% of adolescent girls and 45% of adolescent boys don’t like their bodies. These are massive numbers.
According to berealusa.org:
- 34% of 5-year-old girls restrain their food intake
- 40% of girls between 5 and 9 years old wish they were thinner
- 33% of third grade girls report that they are afraid of becoming fat
- 28% of 5-year-old girls want their bodies to look like the women they see in movies and on TV
These negative body image statistics are alarming. How can we help our children? Body confidence, self-esteem, and body positive programs are proven to create measurable, quantifiable effects on those who participate in them. In fact, they lead to better general mental health, increased classroom participation, reductions in negative mood, less unhealthy weight control behaviors, and even some risk reduction for future eating disorders.
We help our children with any problem or issue they encounter, why not give them the tools they need to support their physical bodies, their body image, and their self-esteem? We must implement these crucial programs in our schools. Contact me to find out more.