A teen’s body image is how they perceive themselves to look and how they think others might see them. The state of how a teen perceives their body is often shaped by culture, society, and a variety of other factors. For many teens, body image can have a significant influence on their self-esteem.
Weight as a Body Image Issue
A teen who is overweight can develop issues with their body image, often because of the prevalence of so-called ‘perfect body’ images portrayed in the media.
Media’s Influence on Body Image Issues in Teens
Modern media can influence a teen’s perception of their body image. They can compare themselves unfavourably against the personalities they see on the media and social media platforms.
For example, in the early 1970s, the ideal woman portrayed in the media weighed only 8% less than the national average. In the 1990s the figure had changed to 23% less.
An endless stream of what the media portrays as the most attractive human form skews a teen’s perception of their body image. They are pressured into chasing after an unrealistic ideal through unnecessary dieting or extreme forms of unhealthy physical activity.
Teen body image statistics are often disturbing, with a Harvard study revealing that 80% of teens have developed an unhealthy body image, and around 70% have already tried dieting.
Physical and Mental Health Issues
Body image issues in teens can lead to a range of challenges, including:
- Eating disorders
- Body dysmorphic disorder
Eating Disorders Brought on by Body Image Issues in Teens
Eighty-six percent of people who develop an eating disorder do so before they reach adulthood. Health organizations worldwide warn us that unrealistic body image issues in teens can lead to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa.
Successfully treating people with this debilitating disease involves more than educating them on making healthy food choices. They must also learn to develop a more realistic body image.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) can be one of the most challenging body image issues in teens to treat. A teen with BDD is extremely preoccupied with their appearance. Minor characteristics are exaggerated in their mind to the point that they are major defects. Many people with BDD will take extreme measures to rectify a perceived flaw and often avoid social situations because of them.
Physical Activity and Body Image Issues in Teens
Physical activity has proven beneficial in negating some of the unrealistic portrayals of bodies in the media. The University of North Texas found that how a person feels about their body can influence the amount of participation in physical activity. In general, people with positive body images are more likely to participate in physical activity.
Focusing on feeling good about being active will help you feel proud that you are doing something healthy that will benefit your body. Physical activity performed in a supportive environment is critical to enjoying the activity more.
Being thin is no guarantee of happiness. The ‘ideal’ body portrayed by the media, which are often doctored images and not an accurate representation of the subject, is not the only way to enjoy life, because healthy and happy humans can come in all shapes and sizes.