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Schools & Child Care

Body Image

Body image and self-esteem begin to develop early in life and are heavily influenced by the environment and by caregivers. Individuals who have a healthy body image and self-esteem are more resilient to the daily stresses and challenges that they may face in life. 

Negative body image and self-esteem can have serious effects on health. Left unrecognized, negative thought patterns and resulting behaviours can lead to conditions such as depression, stress, anxiety and eating disorders.

Body image refers to the way we feel about our physical bodies. 

  • Positive (healthy) body image:  a person feels comfortable, confident and happy with their body.
  • Negative (unhealthy) body image:  a person feels ashamed, embarrassed, self-conscious and unhappy with their body.

Self-esteem is closely tied to body image. It refers to how worthy and confident a person feels. It also refers to the level of self-respect a person has for himself or herself.

  • Positive (healthy) self-esteem:  a person feels confident in their abilities, has respect for themselves and is proud of who they are.
  • Negative (unhealthy) self-esteem:  a person feels worthless, is self-critical and has low confidence in their abilities.
  • Eat Well and Be Active Educational Toolkit – to help teach about healthy eating and physical activity and to encourage students to maintain and improve their health (Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada).
  • National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) –information and resources about eating disorders and weight preoccupation. Promotes healthy lifestyles as an alternative to dieting and the destructive cultural emphasis on appearance. Some French resources.
  • Dove Self-Esteem Project - resources for teachers aimed at 11-14 year olds that promote body confidence looking at the media’s influence on body image and self-esteem.
  • Media Smarts: Media Education and Body Image – support for teachers related to key concepts for framing discussions about media representation and body image.
  • Obesity Network (Rudd Centre) - a video demonstrating the nature and extent of weight bias at home and in school, to increase awareness about weight bias.

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