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Nurturing Healthy Minds: Body Positive and Self-Acceptance Education for Young People

Exploring the vital role of body positive education in developing healthy body image attitudes.

Content Warning: This article discusses topics of negative body image, mental health, and eating disorders which may be triggering for some readers.

Group of women with different body types
Pexels - Anna Shvets

In a world where we're all glued to our phones with unlimited and unrestricted access to social media, we are persistently exposed to unrealistic beauty standards on every app like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat. On a daily basis, these apps encourage use of filters, editing tools and perpetuate extremely unhealthy body image attitudes whilst shoving toxic beauty standards and diet culture in your face. In fact, 14 to 24 year old's rate Instagram as the most detrimental to their mental health due to the near constant exposure to edited and airbrushed images, toxic diet culture, and fat shaming.

Why is a Positive Body Image Important?

Body image refers to internal view of ourselves, it's how we think and feel about ourselves, our appearance, shape, and size. Maintaining a positive attitude towards our body image is vital to accepting ourselves, feeling worthy, empowered and celebrating our individual differences. The Dove Self-Esteem Project found that 9 in 10 children are exposed to unrealistic beauty standards on social media apps like Tiktok, Snapchat, and Instagram daily. Also, 1 in 2 of these children report struggling mentally because of this exposure have difficulty being positive about their bodies.

Promoting body positive education is paramount in teaching young people to embrace their bodies, and build resilience against harmful influences on social media. Additionally, it helps young people to cultivate a healthy self-image, empower themselves and others, whilst also helping them see the world beyond physical appearance. Shockingly, 80% of girls between 11 and 21 believe appearance is valued more than ability. Also, children as young as 13 reported unhealthy diet changes like meal skipping and over-exercising, and around 5% of teenage girls meet the criteria for bulimia.

Creating a Body Positive Future

Teaching children about inclusivity and how beauty comes in all shapes and sizes can create more positive individuals who are kind, compassionate, accepting and non-judgemental of themselves and others. Nurturing the delicate minds of young people by educating them about the importance of body positivity and self-acceptance helps forge a sense of self-worth within them and understanding how unrealistic body standards are. From as early as 3 year old, attitudes about body image begin developing with 35% of children aged 13 to 19 reporting they often worry about their bodies and appearance.

Schools can facilitate and promote positive body image by engaging in honest discussion with students about body image as well as the stigma and shame surrounding the topic. Listening, offering advice and support fosters a safe space for students to feel heard and voice their concerns. Also, schools can take a collaborative approach by working with parents so body positive education can be extended into the home. Education providers can also sign up to become a ''Be Body Positive School'' which works to promote healthy attitudes towards body image and make their support known. Acknowledging the issue helps widen the discussion, and enables young people to speak openly and positively about body image.

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