This new project from the Standing Committee on Public Health aims to tackle the subject of body image through interactive workshops for adolescents in high school (Secondary 1 to 5). The workshop is divided into three sections. The first defines the concepts of body image and self-esteem and explores the effects from family, social and cultural influences. The second workshop teaches the young adults about normal development in puberty, and factors that influence size and weight. It also deals with sensitive issues such as acne. The third section assists young people in their aim to accept their body by giving them advice regarding diet and physical activity and demystifying the yo-yo diets and dietary supplements.
The project was reviewed and approved by members of the medical faculties of the universities of Montreal and McGill University, and the Canadian Paediatric Society.
The format of the workshop is versatile and has many objectives. It adapts to different contexts. For example, it is possible to make a short presentation of one or two hours with the aim to initiate a discussion in relation to body image in mixed groups. It is also possible to adapt more extensive discussion in groups specifically male or female and treat harmful diets or excessive exercise. It is even possible to make several workshops spread over a few weeks, to allow young people to follow their lifestyle changes and thoughts following their day-to-day activities.
The approach is not too traditional. However, it is highly interactive and invites young people to share their opinions, to discuss, and most importantly, to stimulate critical analysis in order to build solutions to their problems. We approach young people with scientific facts so that they can reflect on the information given to them objectively. For example: the fact that a person with an endomorph body type who stopped eating will not get an ectomorph silhouette, because their bone mass is too large.
The objective of this presentation is not to lead the youth to love their body. It is intended rather a way for them to put into perspective how they sees theirbody and influences their perceptions. It also wants a way to make them realize what are the limits and the effectiveness of various approaches that can be used to attain the body image they wish to have (eg. proper diet and physical training), while by imparting some knowledge of basic biology about how her body change.
Here is a brief review of the subjects covered in the three sections of the workshop and which form the basis of our integrated preventive strategy.
Section 1: Body image and self-esteem
This section begins with a shock-question which requires each participant to give themselves a rating on a scale of 1 to 10. We connect the discussion by defining the concepts of self-esteem and body image while discussing their influences (individual, family, social, media, cultural, temporal). The whole presentation is accompanied with many examples of image-manipulation in photography (Photoshop), discussions on differing standards of beauty in the world, etc.. The main objective here is that the adolescent determines what they think of themselves and their body, and that reflects the influences of external factors on their own vision of themselves.
Section 2: Body types and puberty
This section is intended as a being more traditional but very applied and practical, which answers questions and concerns often raised by teenagers in relation to their body and bodily changes in adolescence. For example, we explain why it is normal for girls thighs are wider than those of boys. We also explain why boys are often confronted with the fact that puberty comes later than that of girls at the beginning of school. We deal with issues such as acne, demystifying its mechanism and recommending ways to help. Even more important, we talk about different body types and factors that influence the size and weight of adolescents (modifiable and non-modifiable factors).
Section 3: And the body image that I want?
This final section aims to assist the youth in his thoughts on how he chooses to “work” body image. We deal with topics such as detox diets, yo-yo dieting, calorie content of various meals. We deal with real issues like hunger (physiological hunger) and false hunger (hunger associated with emotions, habits and influences advertising). Some importance is also given to energy drinks. We talk about sleep and its impact on growth and self-esteem, as well as benefits of physical activity that adolescents choose on their own on self-esteem and body image . We also discuss the excessive training and the use of various supplements offering more balanced solutions.