Humans are not born unhappy with their weight or body size. Yet feeling this way is common among people of all ages, genders, and sizes. In a culture that equates weight with health and values thinness, the messages in the media and in everyday conversations can make it easy for people to connect their worthiness to their body size.
According to research, about 70% of teenage girls and 65% of teenage boys are unhappy with their bodies. Smolak, L. (2011). Body image development in childhood. In T. Cash & L. Smolak (Eds.), Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice, and Prevention (2nd ed.).New York: Guilford.
Even more concerning is that research has found that poor body image does not motivate healthy behaviors. In fact, the opposite is true. Compared to adults who were more accepting of their body size, people in the same weight range who were dissatisfied with their body were less likely to exercise and more likely to smoke, participate in yo-yo dieting, and have health concerns including hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
While the idea of loving your body may seem extreme, this research indicates that accepting your body’s natural weight and approaching nutrition, exercise, and health from a place of self-care rather than self-hate can be extremely beneficial for someone’s physical and emotional health. Below are a few resources to help kids, teens, and adults challenge our weight-focused culture in order to embrace size diversity and body acceptance in our communities:
Books for Kids & Teens
Your Body is Brilliant, By Sigrun Danielsdottir (Age: 4+ years old)
- This picture book teaches kids about all the amazing things their bodies can do and how bodies come in all shapes and sizes. It explains the importance of listening to our bodies and taking care of our bodies to stay healthy and strong.
Shapesville, By Andy Mills and Becky Osborn (Age: 3+ years old)
- This picture book is about five friends of all different shapes, sizes, colors, and unique talents. It encourages kids to celebrate their differences and celebrate everybody’s uniqueness and positive qualities beyond appearance.
Wonder, By R.J Palacia (Age: 8-12 years old)
- This chapter book tells the story of Auggie, a 5th grade boy with a facial difference. The story helps kids understand how to accept their differences with empathy, compassion, and courage, sharing narratives of Auggie, his classmates, and his family throughout the book.
No Weigh! Teen’s Guide to Positive Body Image, Food, and Emotional Wisdom (Age: 13-16)
- This guide book helps teens (all genders) challenge our weight-focused culture by debunking myths around food and health in the media. The guide offers ways to challenge negative body image and listen to their body when making choices about food, exercise, sleep, etc.
Online Resources for Kids & Teens
- Written by health providers from Boston Children’s Hospital, these sites provide articles and resources or teen girls and boys on topics including self-esteem, nutrition, fitness, and health. Both sites have an “Ask us” page for teens to submit questions relating to their body and health anonymously, which are answered by health professionals.
Why Don’t I Like the Way I Look? – Youtube Video (Age: 12+ years old)
- This short video helps normalize many of the changes that teens experience as their bodies go through puberty and helps them how to challenge our culture’s expectations about what their body “should” look like. The video was created by Amaze, an organization and resource that helps teens with honest and open conversations about body image, puberty, and sexuality.
Books for Parents and Adults
I’m, Like, So Fat! Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices about Eating and Exercise in a Weight-Obsessed Word, by Dianne Neumark-Sztainer (Parents of kids and teens)
- As a researcher and mother of four, Dianne shares stories and strategies for parents to help kids and teens challenge negative self-talk, dieting, and other harmful cultural messages about weight and health. She explains how to have conversations that encourage kids to listen to their bodies, take care of themself, and improve body image.
The Body Image Workbook, by Thomas Cash
- This workbook goes through an 8-step program to help individuals identify body image strengths and vulnerabilities through mindfulness and body acceptance. The workbook includes several worksheets and activities to raise awareness around and help to shift perspective to help people feel more confident in their body.
Body Respect: What conventional health books get wrong, leave out or plain fail to understand about weight, by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor
- This book debunks common myths about weight, including misconceptions about BMI as a measure of health. Through research and practical tips, the authors helps readers overcome our culture’s shame around weight, address inequalities, and focus on practicing body respect to support overall health.
Body of Truth by Harriet Brown
- As a science journalist for more than a decade, Harriet Brown discusses the ways in which biology, psychology, media and culture interact and shape our culture’s obsession with our bodies. With both historical and contemporary context, Brown offers readers a way to shift their thinking about weight and health differently.
Gifts of Imperfections by Brené Brown
- Although this book is not exclusively about body image or body acceptance, Brené Brown explores ways to cultivate courage, compassion and connection in place of shame. Brown shares stories and actionable steps that readers can take to challenge the way our society often tells us we “should” be and learn how to embrace imperfections.
Online Resources for Parents and Adults
- Meaghan Ramsey, Director of the Dove Self-Esteem Project, shares the many ways that poor body image and low confidence can negatively impact people’s health and hold people back from reaching their goals. She considers the impact of poor body image on school attendance, career success, drug use, depression, and relationships and how we as a society can to change the way we talk about our bodies.
- Beauty Redefined is a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to promoting positive body image through blog posts, social media and online courses. The founders of Beauty Redefined share their research and their lived experience to help promote body image resilience. Dr. Lindsay Klite also has a great TEDx talk where she discussed her research and shares ways to turn body obsession into body positivity.
Raising HAES- Body Kindness for Families – Body Kindness Podcast Episode #92
- In this podcast episode, dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield speaks with three parents about some of the conversations they’ve had with their children around dieting, body shame and calling people “fat.” They share strategies for talking about nutrition and body size and challenges cultural messages about health and weight.
Your Body is Not an Apology with Activist Sonya Renee Taylor – Body Kindness Podcast Episode #75
- This podcast episode is with the poet, activist, and author of The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love. Sonya speaks with dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield about the importance of radical self-love and body empowerment in the context of social justice.
– Katelyn Castro, RD, MetroWest Nutrition