Healthy body image: Tips for guiding girls

A 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
  • Depression
  • 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.

Sep. 12, 2012 See more In-depth