Body Image


by Jessica Schmutz
To learn more about how Discovery Ranch for Girls treats body image issues please visit our latest article “Unhealthy Body Image, an Eating Disorder, and finding the right treatment”

As parents we want our children to develop positive attitudes about themselves. Body image is directly involved in this. Obviously, having a good body image is something many of us struggle with. However, in younger people, a struggle with body image can lead to a number of issues. Adolescents aren’t fully developed mentally, physically, or emotionally. This immaturity and lack of perspective make them vulnerable to information that can be harmful to how they view themselves and others. Without proper skills in place, a teen struggling with body image issues may resort to extremes. They may try to change what they don’t feel is acceptable and/or become depressed, anxious, and withdrawn. Somehow they feel unfit to participate with those peers they perceive as more superior. Aggression and other unwanted behaviors may also result as a way to try and cope with the overwhelming amount of negative self-talk.

Consider the following Body Image Definition

A great way to understand body image and what we mean when we talk about having a good or bad one can be accomplished in a very quick exercise. Simply stand in front of a mirror. What do you see? How do you feel about the image looking back at you? Are you comfortable in your own skin?

”Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. It encompasses:

  • What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations).
  • How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight.
  • How you sense and control your body as you move. How you feel in your body, not just about your body.”

When your own child can’t see what you see, it is heartbreaking. How could anyone look at their own body and be so disappointed that it affects every other aspect of their life? For many parents, this is painful to observe. Parents and guardians alike may feel helpless. No matter how many times they try to reassure, compliment and invest in their teen, it feels as though it’s falling on deaf ears.

For those teens that may be a little more emotionally vulnerable, having a poor body image may have started with a comment by a friend or family member. Body image and the media have a direct correlation as well. Many images produced for the purpose of selling products in a magazine or commercial depict an alternative reality that many young people don’t yet have the maturity to understand. As adults, we understand the army of people it takes to create this perception of perfection displayed in pictures or on the screen, and as a result, we understand that this level of “perfection” is unrealistic and not something to aspire to.

Teens struggling with low self-esteem and body image issues is becoming more common and destructive behaviors and conditions are usually a symptom of this problem. Adolescents need an opportunity to step away from the mirror and all the other influences feeding into their negative self-talk. They need a break from their current environment. Parents need some respite too. When families contact us, it’s usually because things have escalated to a point of no return. All other strategies have failed… positive body image quotes, weekly therapy sessions, heart to hearts… when parents can’t reach their children anymore, residential treatment is an option clinically proven to turn things around and provide an experience that can last a lifetime.

To better understand the widespread nature of this issue, consider the following body image statistics:

“* More than 90 percent of girls – 15 to 17 years – want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance, with body weight ranking the highest. (Source)

* Girls’ self-esteem peaks when they are 9 years old. (McGraw, Carol, “Media, hormones, peer pressure do a number on girls’ confidence”, The News-Sentinel, Mon, Jul. 31, 2006)

* 80% of children who are 10 years old are afraid of being fat. (Source)

* 9 million teens in America below 15 years are obese, that’s three times more than in 1980. (Source)

* Obese boys and girls have significantly lower self-esteem than their non-obese peers. (Source)

* Up to 12% of teen boys are using unproven supplements and/or steroids. (Source)

* Nearly a quarter of girls age 15-17 would consider undergoing plastic surgery. (Source)

*13 percent of girls age 15-17 acknowledge having an eating disorder. (Source)

* 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way including their looks, performance in school and relationships. (Source)

*80% of 10-year-old girls have dieted. 90% of high school junior and senior women diet regularly. Young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents. (Source)

* The top wish among all girls is for their parents to communicate better with them which includes, more frequent and more open conversations, as well as discussions about what is happening in their own lives. (Source)”

These numbers are mind-blowing. Discovery Ranch has been helping families for over 10 years because there is a great need for intervention. And again, media and body image is one of the biggest contributors to this problem. Unless you are an identical twin, no one person is exactly like the other. To feel pressure to be a certain height, weight, hair color, eye color etc. is a lot to deal with for an adolescent or adult.

Girls may unknowingly try to find acceptance of themselves through inappropriate sexual behavior. Boys may seek out inappropriate attention on social media or may experiment with body altering substances. Either way, our young people need to understand that beauty is not only skin-deep and our program will open their eyes to this fact. Our value can not be accurately measured through a lens or mirror.

Body Image Disorder

Unfortunately, for some teens, the level of obsession about their appearance can lead to a more severe case of body image disorder. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental disorder that develops as a result of obsessing over a perceived flaw in one’s appearance. These individuals will resort to extremes to try and “fix” what they feel is not perfect including surgeries.

Having a negative body image can be identified by the following symptoms:

Signs & Symptoms of Negative Body Image

“Symptoms of unhealthy or negative body image may include:

  • obsessive self scrutiny in mirrors
  • thinking disparaging comments about your body and frequent comparison of your own shape and size to other people
  • envy or a friend’s body, or just as commonly: the body of a celebrity or someone else in the media.”

What does having an ideal body image even mean? Consider the following explanation:

”We live in a time when we’re teaching our children and ourselves that there’s a “right” way to look, there’s an ideal body – and if we don’t measure up to the ideal – we should be unhappy and start getting to work to change what we’ve got to match what we don’t have – and what few people on the planet don’t even have. Again, this isn’t a new thing. It’s just getting to be a bigger problem every year.”

In other words, from a young age, through the media and our relationships, we begin to form an ideal concept of beauty as something to aspire to. Why is it that we need an ideal to aspire to in the first place? Again, this is not an uncommon problem which is why, as a society, we are grateful for programs like Discovery Ranch for Girls. At the ranch, we don’t need mirrors to guide us. Reflection occurs without one.

Please contact us today to discuss your teen’s unique situation. Our expertise and experience are unmatched. Trust in the process and give us a call today. 855-667-9388