Kids Help Phone's professional counsellors are available for media interviews about body image in time for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

TORONTO, Feb. 6, 2012 /CNW/ - Kids Help Phone's professional counsellors have recently noted an anecdotal increase in calls from boys who are concerned with their body image.

It's a topic often associated with girls, but body image affects boys, too. In one study, 25% of boys reported being teased by their peers about their weight. In the home, 16% of boys reported having been teased by a family member.

"No matter how many times a parent says 'you're beautiful,' youths will usually remember negative comments they hear from peers," says Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, a professional counsellor at Kids Help Phone. "Television, magazines, music videos, movies, and marketing also influence kids' perceptions of physical beauty, even though many of the images they portray are unrealistic."

Why we want to talk about this

By recognizing their children for their inner qualities and focusing on their accomplishments, parents help to teach kids that what is really important about them has nothing to do with their size, shape or weight. 

Body dissatisfaction in young people can be a predictor for later physical and mental health difficulties, including obesity and the development of eating disorders.  In contrast, body acceptance is associated with more positive physical and mental health, including maintaining a healthy weight over time.

  • February 5-11th is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
  • According to a 2003 survey of adolescents in grades 7-12, 30% of girls and 25% of boys reported teasing by peers about their weight. Such teasing has been found to persist in the home as well - 29% of girls and 16% of boys reported having been teased by a family member about their weight.
  • Nearly 1/2 of teen girls and 1/3 of teen boys try to control their weight in unhealthy ways, like skipping meals, taking laxatives, or smoking. Teens who are higher in weight and overweight are more likely to engage in unhealthy weight control practices.
  • 4% of boys in grades 9 and 10 reported anabolic steroid use in a 2002 study, showing that body preoccupation and attempts to alter one's body are issues affecting both men and women.
  • Physical health accounts for 2% of contacts Kids Help Phone receives.
  • Mental health, including eating disorders, accounts for 30% of contacts Kids Help Phone receives.

What our experts are saying

"Parents have a role in helping their kids feel secure," Roberts says. "Young people should know that beauty has many definitions, and people come in all shapes and sizes. During adolescence, it can also take time to adjust to the body changes that occur as a natural part of puberty. It's normal to feel awkward during this time in a kid's life."

What can parents do?

  • Set a positive example. When parents criticize their own weight or model dieting behaviours, it can send damaging messages. When you are more accepting of your own body, you make it easier for your children to accept themselves and their own bodies as well. 
  • Don't focus on weight, focus on health. We all come in different shapes and sizes.  It's possible to be healthy at any size.  Provide your child with a range of healthy foods and make opportunities for them to engage in enjoyable physical activity, and trust that the rest will take care of itself.
  • If your child is involved in sports, talk to their coach, gym teacher, or teammates. Find out what kind of messages they're getting related to body image, eating and exercise.

Kids Help Phone's professional counsellors are available for interviews to share expert tips on how to talk to your children about body image, self-esteem, eating disorders and more.

About Kids Help Phone

Kids Help Phone is Canada's leading phone and online counselling service for youth. It's free, anonymous and confidential. Professional counsellors are available any time of the day or night, 365 days a year, to help young people, ages five to 20, deal with concerns large or small. As a community-based national charity, Kids Help Phone receives no core government funding and relies on community and corporate support to fund its essential and vital service.

SOURCE Kids Help Phone

For further information:

To set up an interview about body image please contact: 
Liz Worth, Communications Coordinator:
1-800-268-3062 ext. 8955


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