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revised June 04, 2015

My Body Shape

Dear Teen:

How often have you looked around and wished you could look like someone else in a group? All too often women do this because they are dissatisfied with the way they look.

Picture this. You and a girl friend are both 5'2". Do you both have the same body shape? Probably not. Your friend may be a different age, at a different stage of puberty, more physically active or of a different ethnic background. All these things affect the way each of you look.

The way you see your body is called your body image. It is the mental picture you have of your appearance, and your feelings towards that picture. Some people are comfortable with and accepting of their bodies. Others are dissatisfied and may be trying to change their shapes - gaining a little here or losing a little there. At times your body image may have nothing to do with what your body actually looks like! It is possible to be attractive and well dressed yet feel "fat and ugly".

Serious examples of a poor body image are the eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia. For some, a poor body image can go hand-in-hand with low self-esteem. Self-esteem is a feeling of how you value or respect yourself. It can affect how you act, how you learn, how you get along with others and how you have fun.

You're not alone, if you have a poor body image. About 90 percent of all women say they do not like their body size. Many women see at least one body part as being larger than it really is.

It's not surprising they feel this way about their bodies. Society focuses on being slender. The people in magazines, movie stars, popular singers or beauty contest winners seem tall, thin and "in fashion". Yet this "look" is not a good goal. There are many different body shapes.

So what is a "right" body shape for you? No one body shape is "right". Nor is there an easy answer to this question. To start, your height and weight alone says little about your body.

Many factors affect your body shape. For example, the amount of muscle and body fat differs between males and females, and from person to person. During puberty you can expect to increase your body weight, this includes gaining body fat. For this reason, there is no "right" body shape.

We are all different. It's okay to be different. Try accepting a wider variety of body shapes and sizes, for you, and those around you.

What if you still want to make some changes? If you are very thin or very heavy, your health can be affected. Talk to someone about it. Seek some help. Take a healthy approach.

  • To begin, strict weight control diets don't work. About 95 percent of all people who lose weight regain it, usually with a few extra pounds added.
  • Eating "junk food" once in a while is okay, but at every meal can be too much.
  • Aim for healthy eating most of the time. Choose more whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, vegetables and fruit, some milk products, also meat, fish poultry or other protein foods.
  • People who are physically active are more likely to have a positive body image and a greater acceptance of themselves.
  • To get the most out of fitness, you have to stay with it; to stay with it you have to enjoy it.
  • Feel good about yourself! In this life there is only one body per customer. When you feel you look good, you feel more confident. Begin by giving up the attempt to change your body into a shape it was never meant to be. Think about all the other things you have going for you. Talk to a friend if you need to be reminded. When the pressure builds up and your body image is down...remind yourself "I'm great!"

    If you want to talk some more, speak to your Teacher, Guidance Counsellor or give us a call.

    Sincerely,

    Your Public Health Nutritionist,
    Your Public Health Nurse

    Produced by Public Health Nutritionists in Metro Toronto and the Regions of Peel and York. May be reproduced without permission provided source is acknowledged. For more information on this and other health-related topics, please call Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700.

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    Revised: June 04, 2015

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