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Teens and Their Struggle with Body Image

Adolescents struggle with finding a healthy way of viewing their bodies. Media pressures, family expectations, and peer pressure all seem to collaborate to create an atmosphere in which teenagers constantly believe that how they look is unacceptable and needs to change. Witness the mounting obesity problem among young people, along with growing numbers of teenagers who struggle with eating disorders. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, more than 33% of teenagers are overweight, and ten percent of teens struggle with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.


Teens with a poor body image tend to fight with depression, struggle academically, and have a difficult time making healthy social connections. Some experts claim that poor body image is simply a part of normal adolescent development, while others view it as a epidemic problem that must be addressed by caring parents, teachers and other adults in order to prevent later serious health problems.

How to help teens overcome a poor body image

  1. Involve the entire family in developing healthy eating habits, trying healthy recipes, and talking about what it means to be healthy.
  2. Get creative in finding physical activities that hold a teen’s interest while increasing physical fitness.
  3. Pay attention to warning signs of depression or eating disorders (including obesity).
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, and notice when your teenager is getting overwhelmed with stress.
  5. Communicate regularly about what it means to have a healthy physical self-image.
  6. Explore ways to reduce fast food and junk food options, and provide healthy snack foods on a regular basis.
  7. Be aware of what your teen eats at school.
  8. Make healthy eating changes as a family, rather than expecting your teen to think well of their bodies if everyone else in the family is practicing unhealthy eating habits.
  9. Talk about the messages your teen hears that leaves them feeling that they’re too fat, too thin, too tall, too short.
  10. Even if you do everything “right” as a parent, your child may still struggle with a poor body image. Don’t give up on working toward helping them overcome the negative messages.

Places to find additional help

  1. Allstride: a healthy diet designed especially for overweight children, started by Ricki Lake.
  2. Blubberbuster: a great resource for overweight teens and their families.
  3. Rebecca’s House: eating disorders treatment options.
  4. The Moore Center: eating disorders treatment facility.
  5. Network Therapy: national network of therapists; search by state, city, counseling specialty, including those treating eating disorders.

Teens struggling with a poor body image need help from caring adults to assist them in accepting their current physical condition and help them move toward being the healthiest they can be. By being proactive, parents and other caring adults can make an enormous impact in how adolescents view their bodies, and can help them develop lifelong healthy habits.

Ronae Jull


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  • My daughter struggles with her body image the same way I did. I see it in her demeanor. She is tall like I was, with long legs and a short torso. That means that pants don’t fit us the way they do other people – they’re not designed for us. She has large feet – also a source of embarrassment for her. I try to help her but I don’t do the right things. She has some supportive friends but also some peer pressure to dress and look a certain way. I’m glad to see this post and I will use these resources.

  • As a big advocate for eating healthy, gluten free, less starchy and fried foods and I feel that our children need to be educated on making good food choices but also being happy with their bodies. It is definitely a good idea to keep an eye on what your children are eating outside of the home. Self image is a big struggle for many teens.

  • I was totally one of those teens. One of the things that I think is often overlooked is the small side comments a parent might make that can register differently to a teen. I remember my dad telling me no one wants to marry someone who is fat and my 15-year-old brain took that to mean I needed to lose weight. – Katy

  • I’m so glad that I didn’t struggle with this in my childhood years or during my childraising years. That helped me instill them with healthy body images. I feel lucky in that regard.

  • So important to address this topic, especially with the way the media portrays the perfect body — which no one really has. Adolescence is a hard enough time without kids having to worry about living up to ridiculous standards. Great post.

  • This is such an important subject and not just for girls either, boys also suffer from image issues. I like the tips about doing healthy activities as a family and trying to eat healthier together. I’m not a stickler for all healthy all the time, but incorporating some healthy into the regular can also make a huge difference.

  • The peer pressure from school must be really bad on girls now. They all look like sticks to me. What if they get really sick? I went through the teens with three girls, but this was never ever a problem in my family – I homeschooled them all. There was no peer pressure, and all three of my girls, now women, are at very healthy weights! (Yes, I try to recommend homeschooling your children every chance I take – kids grow up being who they are meant to be, not as society believes they should be – like stick thin!)

  • This is a great post filled with wonderful tips! I struggled with body image so much so that I became anorexic. It was a tough battle, but with help I eventually made it through. Helping teens with positive self image is all too important!

  • Sadly I think kids are having problems with body image younger and younger these days. I heard my 11 year old’s friend comment the other day that she thought she was fat.

  • It starts long before the teen years, unfortunately. Make healthy eating and an understanding of healthy eating a lifelong habit for great mental and physical health for the whole family.

  • Super tips—my daughter is at the age were this is just starting, but we’ve done A LOT of talking in the past–a Aunt has suffered with Bulimia for many years. It is so sad to see in teens and many young woman in the world.

  • Sadly it’s not only teens but pre-teens and children, as an ex bulimia sufferer, I alwaystry to keep a good comunication and open mind with my daughter also we work on her self esteem often, more bloggers should cover subjects like this!

  • This is seriously an epidemic in our country. It makes me so sad to see girls going through these struggles. I nannied for a 16 year old girl who was into ballet and she restricted her calories to the point of starving…all because she ‘couldn’t gain any weight, and she was already bone thin. Ugh! Makes me upset just thinking about it!

  • I think teens these days struggle more than we did before with the advent of social media and all. It is, however, comforting to know that there are institutions such as the ones you mentioned above that can help address these problems. Thanks for sharing!