Hi Teens: If we were to do a survey that asked how many of us feel happy with our bodies, what percentage do you think would answer, “I am happy with how my body looks?” Research done about body image shows that women are much more critical of their appearance than men. They are much less likely to like what they see in the mirror. Eight out of ten women will be dissatisfied with their reflection, and more than half may see a distorted image.* Young women need more self-confidence and self-esteem in themselves. Young people these days are bombarded with media messages every day. We watch TV shows and movies with perfect looking actors, and we read fashion magazines picturing top models. How can we not end up feeling inadequate? We compare our looks with actors and models, and then we feel awful because we aren’t as skinny, or don’t have the same straight nose, or the same hair, or big eyes, etc. What we don’t know is how many plastic surgery procedures the models may have gone through, how the photos are touched up and airbrushed, and how many actors and models feel the need to starve to maintain their demanded body weight. The models appear to have it all because of their looks, but do we really know if they are happy? Would you be happy if millions of people were judging your body on screen or in magazines? Would you be happy if you could rarely eat? No wonder there are so many ads for weight loss wonder pills and instant diet plans. We see before and after pictures that lead us to believe that our lives will be perfect if we can only lose the weight. Then we will be beautiful, right? Again, what the media doesn’t tell us is that many of the people in those miracle weight loss commercials are paid quite handsomely to lose weight, and are even using other methods beside the product advertised. Also, they don’t tell us how many of these people gain the weight back and then some after the diet is over. These companies spend millions of dollars on marketing to figure out new ways of attracting people to their product. Be aware of the big, bad advertising monsters who make you feel as if you have to look a certain way to be a worthwhile person. Another big influence can be your friends and family members who are overweight and will tell that you need to lose weight as well. The question you may ask is, if they need to lose weight, why do you also need to lose weight? Do they want you to be unhappy with your body? It seems as if the pressure to be skinny never ends. Unfortunately, excessive and prolonged dieting can lead to eating disorders. Overeating is usually caused by emotions. You may notice that when you feel tired, angry, or lonely, you reach for a cookie or another slice of pizza. Next time you eat, ask yourself the question, “Am I eating because I feel hungry, or is there another reason?” Eat a variety of foods, and make fruits and veggies part of your daily food intake. If you are not already doing so, find a sport that you enjoy. It might take a few tries for you to find one that fits you best, but keep looking. Being physically active will help you feel better about your body. Unfortunately, some sports nowadays do cost a lot of money, which can create a big problem for teens. If that is the case, there are other ways to keep your body fit. Go for walks with your dog (or your friends), go bicycling, play Frisbee, jump rope, just get moving. Even mowing the lawn is good exercise, and you may also be able to charge for it and make some money on the side! 4 Steps to Have a Great Body Image – more self-confidence/self-esteem for women – The End * Social Issues Research Centre This article is part of the Teenacity Teen Chat Guide “Get what you want and break free” – 6 ways to help you unleash your greatness no matter what your life is like now!