Body image, or the “perception that a person of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception”, is something almost everyone struggles with (Damea, et al.). About 80% of elementary schoolers said they worry about their weight (Stein). At any time, almost 50% of Americans are dieting to lose weight (Kater). 78% of 17 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies (Gallivan). In today’s society, young people are feeling even more pressure to fit the ideal body mold, but under 5% of women can, from a genetic standpoint, fit into sample size clothing (Stein).
I remember loving my health class, especially in 9th grade, but wished the discussion around body image was more substantial. I remember talking briefly about eating disorders, but not at all about negative body image, and how pervasive it is in today’s society. Recently, there have been many new curricula developed to discuss body image that go in depth on many crucial topics, like critically viewing media, healthy eating and the truth about dieting, and genetics. However, the one thing I consistently found was missing in these otherwise fabulous class curricula were different ways to help students cultivate a positive body image for themselves.
Positive Psychology Connection
Practicing positive psychology, especially positive thinking and mindfulness, has been shown to help people of all ages cultivate a more positive body image (Ackerman). So, for my project, I wanted to compile a list of body image and self-esteem focused practices that health teachers could teach their students, as well as a list of some organizations and course curricula that are able to successfully teach about body image. I chose not to design my own curriculum as there are so many great ones out there, and a good class should be tailored by the teacher specifically for their students.
What Can You Do?
- Engage in some of these positive psychology practices!
- Pay attention to the comments you make about your own body and the bodies of others.
- Notice how you and those around you discuss dieting and appearance, and try to change the conversation if it is problematic.
- Be respectful 🙂
Please comment below! I’d love to hear your experiences and your feedback on my project. Let me know if you tried any of the positive psychology practices and what you thought of them!
Ackerman, Courtney. “3 Positive Body Image Activities & Worksheets.” PositivePsychology.com, 10 Oct. 2019, positivepsychology.com/positive-body-image/.
Damea, et al. “What Is Body Image?” PsychAlive, 21 Aug. 2015, www.psychalive.org/what-is-body-image/.
Gallivan, Heather. “Teens, Social Media And Body Image.” Park Nicollet Melrose Center, 2014.
Kater, Kathy. “Healthy Bodies Curriculum: Teaching Kids What They Need to Know.” Body Image Health, 2012, bodyimagehealth.org/healthy-bodies-curriculum/.
“Meditation for a Healthy Body Image.” Headspace, 2020, www.headspace.com/meditation/body-positivity.
Stein, Mary, and Katie Bark. “Your Own Healthy Style: A Middle-School Curriculum to Enhance Body Image .” Department of Health and Human Development, Montana State University , May 2006.