Body Image

I don't look like that...

Guys and girls often worry about the way they look and compare themselves with others during puberty. In fact, one in four young people say that body image is their top concern.

The world around us can communicate all kinds of things about what the ‘perfect body’ is supposed to look like. We get these messages from images on TV, movies, advertisements and social media.

It's important to look around you – at your family and friends, and at people on the street. The reality is that guys and girls come in all different shapes and sizes. Did you know that only 5-10% of women are in the height and weight range of models? The same is true for men. The images you see in the media have often been altered and touched up to create unrealistic, flawless looking people.

It can be confusing to work out who you are and what you want to look like but here are some things to think about:

  • Avoid people and things that tell you how you should look. Put away the magazine that tells you how much better your life will be when you develop huge muscles or drop three sizes in skinny jeans. Do things that make you feel good about yourself.
  • Sit down with the family photo album and look at your other family members at different ages and stages. We often have the same body type as our parents, grandparents and siblings. Talk to a parent or trusted friend about your body and how it relates to other body types in your family.
  • Find your own style. Wear the clothes that make you feel good. Find the look that you like. Be true to yourself.
  • Try to look at yourself in the mirror with an uncritical eye, as if you were your best (very supportive and loving!) friend.
  • Remember, there are many qualities that make a person attractive, not just appearance.

Eating disorders

For some of us, worrying about our body shape does not drastically affect our happiness. For others, these preoccupations may lead to dangerous eating or unhealthy exercise.

Eating disorders can affect both girls and guys. A person with an eating disorder has unhealthy eating behaviours and/or distorted views of body shape and size.

There are different types of eating disorders. Some involve eating large amounts of food and then vomiting it up again. This is called bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Others involve eating very little food and body weight reducing drastically. This is called anorexia nervosa.

Signs of eating disorders can include:

  • rapid weight loss
  • persistent negative body image
  • shifts in mood
  • tiredness and sleeping difficulties
  • withdrawal from others
  • over or under eating, or
  • extreme exercise regimes.

If you are worried about yourself or someone you know, it can help to talk to someone you can trust, like a family member, teacher, school nurse or youth worker.

You can also call Kids Helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1800 55 1800.

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