Healthy body image: Tips for guiding girlsA healthy body image is an important part of a growing girl's self-esteem. Understand what you can do to help your daughter feel comfortable with her body.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Girls often face significant pressure to be physically attractive. The quest for a perfect body can take a heavy toll, though. Find out what you can do to help your daughter develop and maintain a healthy body image.
Causes of a negative body image
Maintaining a healthy body image during adolescence is often difficult for girls. Factors that might harm a girl's body image include:
- Natural weight gain and other changes caused by puberty
- Peer pressure to look a certain way
- Media images that promote the ideal female body as thin
- Having a mother who's overly concerned about her own weight or her daughter's weight or appearance
Consequences of a negative body image
If your daughter doesn't live up to her ideal body image, she might begin to feel inadequate and ashamed of her body — even if she's not overweight. This can increase the risk of mental health concerns, including:
- Low self-esteem
- Eating disorders
Sometimes a negative body image leads to skipping meals or a cycle of dieting, losing weight and regaining weight — which can further harm self-esteem.
Some research suggests a link between body dissatisfaction among girls and cigarette smoking, possibly because girls believe that smoking will help them control their weight.
Having a negative body image also might affect a girl's comfort with her sexuality as she gets older. A negative body image might lead some girls to consider cosmetic surgery.
Sept. 12, 2012
See more In-depth
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- The sexualization of girls: What girls can do. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report.aspx?item=3. Accessed June 5, 2012.
- Wojtowicz AE, et al. Weighing in on risk factors for body dissatisfaction: A one-year prospective study of middle-adolescent girls. Body Image. 2012;9:20.
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- Body image and your kids: Your body image plays a role in theirs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.womenshealth.gov/bodyimage/kids/. Accessed June 7, 2012.
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