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A healthy body image: saying no to the cult of the body

A positive attitude to your own body is good for your health, and good for your self-esteem. It’s particularly important to foster a healthy body image among children and young people.

Various factors can lead to a negative body image. The widespread social ideal of beauty often plays a key role. The cult of the body can erode self-esteem and lead to mental issues and even eating disorders. According to Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz, in Switzerland around 41 per cent of 15-year-old girls, and 22 per cent of 15-year-old boys, feel they are too fat. These days there’s a great deal of social pressure to be physically “perfect”. So it’s extremely important for children and young people in particular to have a healthy image of their own body. The more positive their body image, the less they’ll be influenced by supposed ideals of beauty. Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz describes a positive body image as having a benevolent view of one’s own body, regardless of the imperfections. This allows us to accept and respect our body, take care of our physical needs and look after our health.

Ideals of beauty and societal norms are propagated to a large extent via the media, including social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. But ideals of beauty are also fostered in direct social contact with friends and family.

Portraying a healthy body image

There are many ways in which parents and other key figures can encourage children and young people to adopt a positive image of their body.

  • It’s important to set a healthy example. The focus should be on a healthy lifestyle rather than an ideal weight.
  • The human body has to accomplish an awful lot. Instead of reducing people to their looks, their physical accomplishment should be valued.
  • Widespread ideals of beauty should be questioned. Every person is different. Children and young people should experience a broad definition of beauty.
  • People with a healthy body image have a positive influence on others. Learn to appreciate your body and pass on what you have learned.