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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jewett

Girls & body image – 6 ways to encourage confidence

The cards are stacked against girls in this Photoshopping and Instagram era. They can start feeling dissatisfied with their bodies from a young age. So how can we help our daughters to develop a positive body image, understand their bodies and view themselves differently?

Dispelling myths and misinformation, the upcoming Body Image Book For Girls: Love Yourself And Grow Up Fearless uses facts and real-life stories to discuss ways that girls aged 9 to 15 can approach mental health, exercise, puberty, healthy eating habits, social media and sexual harassment, among other topics.

Here the author – psychology professor and research scientist Dr Charlotte Markey – gives parents 6 ideas of how to help girls become confident in their bodies and themselves…

Talk with your daughter

Most of us adults didn’t learn how to have conversations about our bodies that focused on functionality, health and psychological wellbeing while we were growing up. Aim to have healthy, positive and candid conversations with your daughter, focusing more on what our bodies do than on how they look

Help your daughter question beauty ideals

Where do beauty ideals (and the products intended to help us achieve these ideals) come from? The fact that these ideals change across time and location indicates that they are primarily socially constructed. So there is no imperative for you to adopt them – and there is good reason to teach girls to question beauty ideals they see in the media

Support your daughter to develop a healthy relationship with food

We want our girls to not only enjoy food but also to nourish their mental and physical growth through healthy eating. Unfortunately many adults have fraught relationships with food and pass on their negative thoughts to their children. The goal is for girls to view eating well as a form of self-care

Encourage a love of movement

Not all girls want to do traditional sports, but there are many ways to be physically active. Active kids tend to be more fit and have stronger bones and muscles. Regular physical activity is also associated with better mental health – for example, girls experience lower rates of depression if they’re physically active. Perhaps most important is that regularly active kids tend to appreciate how good they feel when they move their bodies. They’re also more likely to develop good habits that they stick with as they get older

Remind girls to lift each other up

What we want our girls to understand is that it’s essential to develop self-compassion and compassion for others. In treating themselves and each other well, they’ll be more inclined to adopt habits that sustain their mental and physical health

Set a good example

Challenge beauty ideals. Work to keep conversations about bodies positive and focused on functionality. Model a healthy relationship with food. Don’t engage in fat talk or diet culture. One of the easiest things we can do to be supportive is to be sure we are not making any sort of negative comments to each other about how we look or how much we care about our bodies, our weight or what we eat (“You’re going to eat that?” “You must be really hungry!?”). Sometimes shifting the focus from weight/bodies/appearance to topics that are arguably more important (especially as we all struggle through a global pandemic!) is key…

The Body Image Book For Girls (Cambridge University Press, £8.79) is out on 10 September 2020. To read a sneak peek go here. To order a copy go to

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