Teens and Body Image Problems

Body image is an important part of teenage self esteem. Teenagers are bombarded with messages from the media, their parents, peers and society about body image, and in the face of these messages many teens struggle with poor body image. Let’s explore some of the reasons why teens might develop poor body image, the consequences of poor body image for teens, and what you can do about it.

How Teens Develop Body Image Problems

Teens evaluate their bodies based on messages they get from parents and other adults, friends and peers, the media and society at large. The media is full of images of thin women and muscular men, and teens may rarely see images of healthy men and women who contradict this physical stereotype. 

Teens also receive messages about their bodies from peers, friends and adults. If your teen gets the impression that others don’t approve of his or her body, it could damage your teen’s body image. Your child will also pay attention to how you express your own body image. If you have a poor body image yourself, your teen might come to believe that a poor body image is normal.

Teen body image problems may begin around puberty, when teens’ bodies begin changing and they become more vulnerable to the messages of the society around them.

The Consequences of Teen Body Image Problems

More girls than boys suffer from body image problems, though boys can suffer just as much as girls from poor body image. More than half of American teenage girls are dissatisfied with their bodies, and more than five million American girls and women suffer from an eating disorder.

Poor body image is linked to a number of problems, including low self esteem, anxiety and depression. Teens with poor body image may suffer socially and in school. Poor body image is often a contributing factor in the development of eating disorders.

Eating disorders, like bulimia, anorexia and binge eating disorder, can have dangerous complications, even death. Anorexics run the risk of heart failure, kidney failure and osteoporosis. Bulimics run the risk of heart failure and gastric rupture. Binge eating disorders can eventually lead to obesity and the health problems associated with obesity.

Improving Your Teen’s Body Image

If your teen has a poor body image, you can help to improve it. Model good body image behavior by making only positive comments about your own body and the bodies of others, and compliment your teen frequently on the appearance of his or her own body. Insist that others do the same, and give your teen the emotional support needed to ignore peers who may make negative comments. Help your teen find realistic media images of men and women who don’t fit stereotypical definitions of the ideal body type.

Teach your teen healthy eating habits and encourage regular exercise. Team sports are a great way for teens to improve body image, but if your teen doesn’t enjoy team sports, encourage him or her to participate in an another enjoyable physical activity. Tai chi or yoga are great ways to help your teen get in touch with his or her body and develop a more positive body image.


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