Body Image and Our Girls

Body image, specifically negative body image, has a significant and detrimental effect on a young woman’s physical and mental health. Studies show that 30% of girls in Ontario, ages 10-14, talked about dieting and losing weight despite being within healthy weight limits (Hospital for Sick Children, 2006)

Negative or poor body image has been associated with increased participation in risky behaviour such as alcohol and substance abuse, promiscuity, mental health problems, and disordered eating.

Unrealistic expectations set out through social media and the subsequent peer pressure can further amplify the damaging effects of negative body image. This damage often carries through to adulthood and throughout one’s entire lifespan. As one ages, the initial negative effects of having poor body image is made more complex through increased life stress, childbirth and the biological effects of aging. It is for this reason that we, as a society, need to teach our girls to be critical thinkers and to engage in the practice of self-compassion (rather than just self-esteem which studies have shown has limited protective properties).

University of Waterloo research (2014) has proven that having self-compassion positively correlates with a positive body image, regardless of BMI and body type. Self-compassion not only helps to maintain a positive body image, but actually assists in building resilience to life disappointments and setbacks .

M Power workshops aim to provide young girls with strategies to critically assess all of the media influences they encounter on a daily basis and evaluate what is realistic. Increasing positive body image can be achieved through focusing on appreciating what the body can do versus how the body looks.

Focusing on the girls’ abilities and talents help to support the idea that girls are valued beyond their looks. We engage girls in activities that help to discover their passions and their self-identity. This foundation is key to setting a rock solid platform on which to grow and mature, despite adversity or negative forces young women encounter along the way.

In addition to teaching critical thinking, we emphasize healthy eating practices. Balanced eating can help to support good body image because one feels good, mentally and physically when properly nourished. This segment also combats disordered eating by explaining the detriments of fad diets and extreme dieting practices.