NEW Resources for Teaching Teens About Body Image

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I can hear my fellow health teachers now: “Here we go again. More new resources, just as we had the unit figured out.”

They like to give me a hard time, but it’s one of the reasons we love teaching health: There is no shortage of new information to share with the kids, and our curriculum is constantly changing.  

Yes, it can be overwhelming to sift through all of the videos and articles, but with a topic as personal as body image, even students are able to add new resources to the list:

Here are the latest:

Day 1: Media influence and body image

1. Have students reflect on the following questions in their journals

How does the media influence the way you view yourself?

How about the way you view others?

2. Brief discussion

Students usually have a lot to say about this topic. Some key topics to emphasize: pervasive use of Photoshop, celebrity obsession, social media, and the overall message that while the media portrays the “ideal body type” as thin for women and muscular for men, those body types are NOT the norm.

3. Body image article jigsaw

Distribute the following articles for students to read. After they’re done, they’ll “jigsaw” with students who read the other three articles and share a summary and key information in groups of four. Knowing that they’ll be responsible to report on their assigned article to their peers adds a little pressure for them to read carefully.

CNN: Barbie’s New Body

The New York Times: Instagram Has Become a Body Image Battleground

The Atlantic: Body Image Pressure Increasingly Affects Boys

The Atlantic: The K-Pop Plastic Surgery Obsession

(These articles are listed in order of varying length and difficulty, so you can differentiate by reading level without the students even being aware.)

4. Small group discussions

Each student shares the key points of their article with their group, then they can share with the entire class about the extremes that people go to to achieve unrealistic ideals.

5. If there’s time after the article, show this cute video clip of kids reacting to Barbie’s new body.

Day 2: Health at every size

1. Meditation

We start every lesson with a few minutes of mindfulness, either journaling or a short meditation. For this lesson, a guided meditation on appreciating your body would be a great lead-in.

2. Have students read this article about the April 2016 cover of Women’s Running, which features a plus size model

Students love this story, because it’s new, easily digestible, and featured on their preferred news outlet (Buzzfeed!). Plus, the positive message it conveys is a powerful one: Everyone should be exercising, and nobody should feel ashamed of it.

3. Reflect on the article

Depending on your student population and the dynamic of your class, you can debrief as a group, or have students reflect on their thoughts in their journals.

4. Then watch this powerful PSA from the UK campaign #ThisGirlCan featuring women of all shapes, sizes, ages, and ethnicities getting their sweat on in a wide variety of physical activities. (Just make sure you screen it for language first.)

5. Exit ticket

To end on a positive note, I have my older students create posters with inspirational messages of self-acceptance for my 6th grade class and plaster them up on the walls. If you’re at a school with laptops, students can use a fun program like Canva to create Instagram-style posts, but it’s great to leave hand-written notes, as well.

For a comprehensive guide to the media’s biggest body image “winners and offenders,” check out the awesome advocacy group About-Face.org.