- Why talk about it?
- 5 discussion topics
- How can you develop a positive body image?
- Making a difference in a child’s life: what you can do
Why talk about it?
The media portray body types that, in general, do not reflect reality. Constant exposure to these images can lead us to believe that girls should be thin and boys should be muscular. The quest to achieve this “ideal” among youth can contribute to a negative body image and lead to unhealthy behaviours (e.g., dieting, excessive physical training, skipping meals). By acting early to promote the development of a positive body image, we can prevent these kinds of consequences and build self-esteem.
Here are 5 discussion topics to talk about body image and diversity with elementary school children. These topics were designed for fifth and sixth graders, but can be adapted to students who are a bit younger or older.
What is body image?
- It is the way you see your body and how you feel about it. It also includes the way you think others see you, since we also see ourselves through the eyes of others. There are many factors that can influence your body image, such as friends and family members’ comments and concerns, as well as your environment (e.g., the media).
Does being thin mean being healthy?
- Being healthy is not necessarily linked to a person’s weight or body type. Above all, it is our lifestyle habits that make us healthy or not (e.g., eating well, keeping active, sleeping, managing stress).
What is beauty?
- Beauty can be many different things, and there are probably as many definitions of beauty as there are people on earth! There’s not one standard body type or appearance. The only standard is that we are all different. That’s why the people around us come in a variety of body types, with different colours of hair, eyes, and skin. Don’t let others influence you: everyone has their own tastes and opinions. Also keep in mind that comments about someone’s weight and appearance are unacceptable and may hurt them.
What influence do the media have on our perceptions?
- Our world is full of amazing differences, whether they’re physical, social, or cultural. Yet, in the media, celebrities and models often seem to all look alike. Movies, advertising, magazines, social media, and television all portray girls and boys with body types that don’t represent the diversity found in the public at large. They don’t look like us. They project a false ideal of beauty that is unrealistic.
How can you develop a positive body image?
- Bodies aren’t just for looking at or pleasing others. In fact, their main purpose is to accomplish things, such as playing, dancing, reading, eating, running, playing your favourite sport, laughing with your friends, sleeping—in short, having fun. Keep in mind the things your body lets you do and be grateful and take good care of it.
Making a difference in a child’s life: what you can do
Beyond holding discussions with students, would you like to be a role model and promote the development of a positive body image? Here are a few ideas to try:
- Associate healthy eating with energy and well-being, not with appearance or weight.
- Associate beauty and non-physical qualities with all body types, celebrating diversity.
- Compliment students on their qualities, skills, and talents, rather than on their appearance.
The organization ÉquiLibre offers the program Bien dans sa tête, bien dans peau [Healthy mind, healthy body image]. It offers workshops for students, downloadable online. ÉquiLibre is a non-profit organization in Quebec whose mission is to “prevent and reduce problems related to weight and body image in the public by encouraging and facilitating the development of a positive body image and the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits.”