Teenagers & Body Image | Great Health Guide
Teenagers & Body Image

Teenagers & Body Image

Written by Jane Kilkenny accredited athletics coach

The teenage years are one of the most challenging times in our lives. Raising happy and healthy teenagers is every parent’s dream, but it is rarely smooth sailing navigating this phase for both parents and their teens. Coping with the physical changes to their bodies are complicated by a myriad of emotional, social and environmental pressures which often have them feeling overwhelmed and isolated. Some of these issues are discussed below.

1. Psychology of social media.

How they feel about their body and appearance can lead to complex feelings of anxiety. Unfortunately, they are plugged in to their digital world 24/7, bombarded by images and information that still promotes the notion of the ‘perfect body’. Research into the psychology of social media has shown that teenagers are vulnerable to the negative impacts of these influences, resulting in poor body image and rising anxiety.

2. Desire to change their body.

The major issues of disordered eating, supplement use and abuse, excessive exercise or no activity at all are common practices used by teenagers to manipulate their body appearance. The desire to change their body is an issue for both males and females, as males often want to build muscle and increase their size while females are more vulnerable to being self-critical of their body size, shape and appearance.

3. Every individual develops individually.

It is important for all teenagers and parents to understand is that every individual has their own development timeline, and no two bodies will follow the same pattern, even siblings. Raging hormone levels, changing energy levels, mood swings and skin issues can all impact teenagers. As their bodies change during this process it’s important to understand the significance of healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise, nutrition, sleep, hydration and looking after their mental health.

4. Teenagers need a healthy lifestyle.

Teenagers should be proactive in their healthy lifestyle habits and know that with the right nutrition and exercise, they can ensure that their body is fit, healthy and strong. Parents should understand the level of stress and uncertainty felt by most teenagers, and be a supportive role model, providing guidance rather than judgement.

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5. Follow professional advice on exercise & nutrition.

Seeking professional advice for exercise and nutrition can be a great support at this time. Too often we see teenagers following exercise regimes that are designed for adults, and do not take into consideration the complexity of the growing body as it moves from child to adult. This is not just a physical process either, it also includes a complex element of emotional and social awareness and maturity which are also individual.

We are all vulnerable to feeling overwhelmed and anxious, but unfortunately for our teenagers, this issue is magnified immensely. We live in a complex world where they are exposed to so much information and so many issues while trying to understand where they fit in and what they think and feel.

Teenagers focus on what you can control, which is your health and happiness. Do this by making informed decisions about your lifestyle. And parents need to listen carefully and focus on positive guidance and support.

Author of this article:

Jane Kilkenny has over 25 years’ experience in health and fitness. She specialises in exercise for kids and teenagers having trained at the Children’s Hospital Institute of Sports Medicine (CHISM) Westmead NSW in 2004. She is also a High-Performance specialist and a Level 4 IAAF athletics coach. Jane can be contacted via her website.

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