How to Improve Young Girls’ Body Image


Over the weekend, a relative’s daughter lamented that ‘she looked fat.’ Having just started first grade, and in reality being very slim, my young relative demonstrates how insidious the fear of fat can be.  Her mother has weight issues, but is careful not to share her frustration, comment on body sizes, or limit foods but clearly needs to do more.  How discouraging to hear her daughter’s comment at such a young age.

So what’s a concerned parent to do address the issue early on? The Girls Scout/Dove Self-Esteem program called Uniquely ME! was created in 2002 to address the critical nationwide problem of low self-esteem among adolescent and pre-adolescent girls ages 8-17.

Although my relative’s daughter is net yet old enough for Girl Scouts, her Brownie leader may be able to obtain an age-appropriate booklet called “uniquely ME! The Way To Be” that can help her recognize her strengths, best attributes,handle peer pressure and understand more about healthy eating. Studies show that girls with a negative body image are more at risk for binge eating, emotional eating and more severe eating disorders in adolescence.

Here are some key values the self-esteem program strives to teach young girls:

  1. Celebrate you!
    Reward yourself when you have accomplished something! You don’t need to wait for others to recognize what you’ve done.
  2. Surround yourself with positive people.
    Spend time with people who are upbeat and feel good about themselves. They, in turn, will put a smile on your face and help you feel good about yourself.
  3. Challenge yourself to try new things.
    Try a ropes course, learn some new dance steps, speak in front of a large group. Stepping outside of your comfort zone to try new things is a great way to grow.
  4. Be good to your body.
    Exercising, eating well, and getting plenty of sleep will help you move toward a healthier you—inside and out!
  5. Find and express the real you.
    No other person has the unique combination of qualities that you have! Be proud of yourself and be courageous enough to express your true feelings.
  6. Have a positive mental attitude.
    A positive attitude is contagious! You’ll feel good and people will want to hang out with you.
  7. Learn from your experiences.
    Learn from your actions—both good and bad, and use the knowledge you gain to make positive decisions in the future.
  8. Find the humor in everyday life.
    When you can see the funny side of things, you’ll be less stressed and more likely to handle tough situations better.

If you are concerned about your own child, you may want to assist your local Girl Scout group leader to introduce this wonderful program. My personal example shows how important and necessary promoting self-esteem and positive body image in young girls can be.

For more information on this subject, please read Give Your Daughter the Gift of a Positive Body Image and Like Mother, Like Daughter

3 responses to “How to Improve Young Girls’ Body Image”

  1. Nan Dellheim says:

    I’d like to recommend our journal and handbook for middle-school girls – the “How I Look Journal” by Molly and Nan Dellheim – which can be used by girls independently or in conjunction with health and wellness classes to help them see their beauty, their power and their potential. It’s written in a girl’s voice, with age-appropriate information covering the various topics that have been shown to improve girls’ body image and self-esteem.
    It shows how to develop a style that flatters a girl’s particular body type, which can not only help improve body acceptance but may help a girl resist peer pressure and withstand the relational aggression frequently tied to how we look. The “How I Look Journal” has been vetted by the National Eating Disorders Association and can be previewed at Thank you for addressing this important topic.

  2. Cathy says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

  3. matt says:

    This article deals very intelligently with the issue and gives me an opportunity to get in touch about a further ‘resource’ that might interest you and your readers… I have just launched a website and I hope it will provide teens with a safe environment in which to discover optimism around weight and other issues. The site is intended to provide an environment which is often missing at home. I invite you to review my site and hope you can see the potential for it. Thanks for your consideration.

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