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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.

Curriculum Supports

  • National Eating Disorder Information Centre – Provides 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 – Links to resources for educators and leaders and videos illustrating photo-shopping and media techniques.
  • Eat Well and Be Active Educational Toolkit – Designed by Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada to help teach about healthy eating and physical activity and to encourage students to take action to maintain and improve their health. The toolkit contains an Eat Well and Be Active Every Day poster, activity plans and images.
  • Obesity Network - To increase public awareness about weight bias, the Rudd Center has released a video demonstrating the nature and extent of weight bias at home and in school.

SMDHU Programs

The health unit also offers a variety of programs and services for secondary schools (PDF), covering a wide range of health-related topics.

Additional Resources

Visit the healthy eating section of the SMDHU school pages for more information about how educators can provide education to encourage healthy decision-making to support healthy eating, and work with their school to create a supportive healthy eating environment for students.

Visit the healthy eating section of the health unit’s website for more information on healthy eating across the lifespan, food security, food skills, healthy weights, and more.

Are you concerned about a student and/or would like additional information related to counselling or community supports? Find out where to get help.

Staff at the health unit are currently reviewing recommended lesson plans and curriculum supports for educators to align with Ontario’s 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum. Please use your discretion in determining which lesson plans and curriculum supports to use in your classroom. Updated and new resources will be posted online as available. 



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