Body Image Issues In Teens: Here’s How To Help Your Teenager Build A Healthy Body Image
Our teenage years are the most impressionable. It’s when our bodies and minds go through a lot of changes and with every change, we feel ourselves grow more self-conscious and aware of every single change we experience.
On top of all that, teenagers are often faced with the “ideal body image”, one that can be impossible to reach. These unrealistic body images can make any average teenager think that they are not perfect. That they’re either too fat, too thin, too tall, or too short.
Did you know that according to a study done in Toronto, it was found that almost 30% of girls between the ages of 10-14 are dieting? Between fashion magazines and Instagram influencers, teenagers have learned to compare themselves with models and celebrities. They feel unsatisfied with themselves if they can’t measure up to the “perfect” body image they see.
Because of this, teens are more likely to develop eating disorders, depression, and poor self-esteem. Let’s not forget the other behaviors they might engage in to reach the image of the “ideal body”.
However, the good news is that whether you realize it or not, as a parent, you can help change your teenager’s mindset and with it help them build a healthy body image.
In this blog, we’ll discover how body image issues develop, how a teenager with body image issues is affected, and how you can help your teen build a positive and healthy body image.
How Body Image Issues Are Developed?
Body image is the way you think and feel about your appearance and the way you feel in your skin. Keeping a healthy body image during teenage years when a body is already going through physical and emotional changes can be challenging.
Some of the common factors that can create negative body image issues can include:
- Unexpected changes including weight gain or other physical changes that appear during puberty
- Peer pressure in form of body shaming
- Social media influence that promotes unattainable body image ideas
- Criticism from a parent who’s overly concerned about their child’s body image
- Sexual objectification
Signs Your Teenager Has Body Image Issues
Understanding how to spot the signs of negative or unhealthy body image issues in a teen can help you catch on and get help as soon as possible.
Here are some signs that can help identify a teenager with body image issues:
- They put more importance on their physical appearance
- They only use ways to describe their physical appearance and attributes
- They are on a diet or want to be on a diet program
- They frequently comment on the appearance of others
- They worry too much about their attractiveness
- They are showing signs of depression
- They have poor self-esteem
Watch Out For Eating Disorders!
- Losing weight
- Going hungry
- Too much exercising
- Saying phrases such as “I feel fat”
- Social withdrawal
- Going to the bathroom soon after meals
- Taking laxatives
If we’re talking about body image issues in teenagers, you need to keep a close eye on the warning signs of an eating disorder. Any unchecked body image issues can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or others.
Symptoms to look out for can include:
If you spot these symptoms of an eating disorder or such major changes in your teenager’s eating habits, you should immediately consult a specialist.
Effects Of Body Image Issues In Teenagers
Teenagers with body image issues are at a high risk of developing mental, physical, and emotional issues such as
- Poor self-esteem
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Physical development issues
- Eating disorders
As I mentioned before, a teenager with body image issues is more likely to engage in behaviors such as smoking, taking supplements, taking recreational drugs, etc. Spending time on their body image can also affect their academic performance and social life.
How To Help A Teenager With Body Image Issues?
Talking about body image issues and their effects can help you improve your teen’s self-image and build a healthy body image. Here are a few ways you can help a teenager with body image issues build a healthy body image:
1. Set An Example
Parents are the first role model a child looks up to. How you speak about your body image can impact how your teen will or is talking about theirs. You need to set a positive example for your teen to follow. You can start by being more active, eating healthy, and maintaining a healthier routine.
2. Change Your Language
If your child is struggling with body image issues, then make sure you change your language and not criticize them about their body image. If they are gaining weight, avoid negative comments on it. Your comments may seem encouraging but they can make your teen feel discouraged. Avoid using language such as fat and ugly when talking to your teen.
3. Talk To Them About Realistic Body Image
Talk to your teen about how social media, fashion magazines, TV shows, etc portray mixed messages about body image including skin type, color, etc. Teach them that keeping an outer appearance is not as important as having a good heart and intentions. Teach them more about a realistic body image than what an “ideal” body image looks like.
4. Put Their Other Skills Over Their Body Image
Another way to help a teenager with body image issues is to put their other skills over their body image and appearance. Support their musical skills, sports activities, or arts over their looks. Be more interested in their pursuits and hobbies. Encourage their talents and focus on their health more than their looks.
5. Form Healthy Eating Habits For The Whole Family
Not only your teen but the whole family can benefit from healthy eating. Make sure you teach your teen about a balanced diet and how to avoid labeling foods. Start cooking meals at home and establish a nightly family dinner. If your whole family starts eating healthy, your teen may not feel alone.
6. Promote Physical Exercise
Participating in physical exercises is not only good for weight management but can also help promote feelings of well-being, self-esteem, and healthy body image. As a parent, you can help your teen by promoting physical exercise and activities.
7. Promote Supportive Friendships
The relationships that form during teenage years leave a lasting impression. You can help your teen by encouraging them to form supportive and positive friendships. Positive friendships can have a greater influence on building a positive body image.
If your teenager is struggling with body image issues or a negative body image, you can try to talk to them and explain realistic body image to them. You can try to promote healthy and positive relationships over superficial ones. If you see signs of an eating disorder or depression, try to consult a mental health professional for a diagnosis.
Note: Did you know that Headspace now offers its services for teens? Headspace For Teens aims to help teens learn to be kind to themselves and use mindfulness tools to improve their mental and emotional wellness.
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