Body Image

Body image is the way you see your body - the picture you have of yourself in your mind and how you feel about it.

It is important to help children accept their body shape and size, to feel good about the way they look and to have a positive and healthy body image.

While girls tend to be more concerned and unhappy about the way they look and have a negative, unhealthy body image, there is an increasing number of boys who worry about the way they look.

Girls are more likely to:

  • Want to be thinner, even if they are already at a healthy weight.
  • Practice unhealthy behaviours to lose weight, such as dieting, fasting, vomiting and taking diet pills.

Boys are more likely to:

  • Want to gain weight and be more muscular.
  • Practice unhealthy behaviours such as using steroids, taking protein supplements and binge eating.

Should I be concerned if my child is dieting all the time?

Constant dieting and restricting food intake may result in poor growth, poor nutritional health (not getting enough of some nutrients such as calcium and iron) as well as obesity, and could possibly lead to the development of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

For information about eating disorders, visit National Eating Disorder Information Centre

The media, family and friends affect the way children feel about their bodies. As a parent, you can help your child develop a healthy body image.

How to help your child have a healthy body image 

In Conversation

  • Accept your child's body shape and size, whatever it is.
  • Do not comment on your child's size or weight. It doesn't help and it hurts your child.
  • Remind your child that weight gain and a change in body size is part of growing up, especially during puberty.
  • Help your child realize that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.
  • Do not talk about dieting or comment on your own or other people's weight or shape.
  • Encourage your child to focus on what they can do, rather than how they look.

At Mealtime

  • Help your child to eat a healthy diet and to be physically active.
  • Eat together as a family.
  • Serve regular meals and healthy snacks based on Canada's Food Guide recommendations.
  • Allow your child to decide whether to eat, and how much to eat. Be a good role model.
  • Encourage water to satisfy thirst between meals and snacks.
  • Limit juice to 125 ml (four ounces) a day; offer whole fruits and vegetables instead.
  • Avoid having pop and other sugar-sweetened beverages at home.

Be Active

  • Encourage more outdoor play and activities.
  • Limit screen time to two hours a day.
  • Become involved in physical activities such as coaching or volunteering.

Links and resources

Eating Disorders Awareness Coalition in Waterloo Region 

National Eating Disorder Information Centre

Growing Bodies Open Minds

For more information about your role in feeding your child, visit the Eating Well ? Together - Everyone Has A Job To Do section on the Youth Nutrition page.