Body Image • ep. 098

An asian teen or tween girl with long black hair stands in front of a mirror pressing her hands up against it

What is Body Image

The term body image means your thoughts, feelings and perception of your body, height, weight, shape and size. And you’ve been forming your body image for years, like a sponge soaking up information, observing others’ behavior, taking mental notes from feedback you received. How you view your body, whether positive or negative, has been influenced by messages you’ve seen and heard from brands promoting products, from random people sharing their opinions on social media, from your friends and classmates talking about each other, from your extended family, siblings, and even your parents making judgy comments about other people and even you directly.

Typically when people talk about body image, it’s negative–what they don’t like about their body, what they envy about others, what they wish they could change about themselves. Criticizing our bodies has become a common practice, with memes and jokes that make shaming ourselves seem ok. Beauty/fashion/fitness/wellness product ads treat diet culture as if it’s normal, acceptable, even desirable. When left unchecked, all these messages bombarding you can make you develop a negative body image.

Body Image + Diets

Nearly ten years ago Common Sense Media studied research on children, teens, media and body image. One thing they found was that 80% of ten year old girls had been on a diet. I’m scared to know what that percentage would be today, given the explosion of misinformation and harmful trends on social media promoting diets and products for girls so they can try to change their bodies. But multiple studies have shown that diets do not work long-term, and can even backfire leading to stunted growth, disrupted menstrual cycles, nutrition deficiencies, unhealthy relationships with food and exercise, disordered eating, mental health struggles and more. Any changes to the food you eat, or don’t eat, should be under the direction of a pediatric doctor, nutritionist or dietician. Unless there’s a diagnosed food allergy or medical reason, fuel yourself with a variety of foods and plenty of water.

Body Image + Exercise

I used to believe (because of the messages surrounding me) that exercise was punishment for what you ate and how your body looked. I thought working out stemmed from feeling shame and wanting to look different. There was so much focus on numbers (weight, size, measurements), before and afters, and slimming down for summer. But that’s a very superficial view, exercise is so much deeper than that. Our bodies are designed to move, and staying active is essential for our physical and mental health. If you want to work out, do it so you can see what you can do–how far you can run, how much you can lift, how long you can hold a plank, how much energy you have. Because our bodies can do way more besides “looking good.” They can ride bikes, jump on trampolines, hike trails, stay afloat in wave pools, score goals, leap across stages, dive off cliffs, roll down hills, sprint across finish lines, and throw dance parties. Your body can do incredible things without having to change a thing.

All Bodies are Different and Good

As a gentle reminder, all bodies are different and all bodies are good. It’s common to look around at friends and classmates, and wonder or worry about why you don’t look like them. But even twins’ bodies can look different and they’ve got the same parents! So it’s not fair to compare yourself to someone else when you each have different puberty timing, hormones, weight distribution, fat, muscle, height and genetics. All bodies are different and all bodies are good. Another gentle reminder, weight gain is normal during your tween and teen years. You’re supposed to change, your body is shifting out of childhood and toward adulthood. Also weight fluctuates throughout menstrual cycles. So before you get hung up on increasing numbers on the scale or clothing sizes, remember your body will continue to change, and that’s normal.

How to have a Beach Body

I’ve seen a meme going around that says, “How to have a beach body: Step 1 Have a body, Step 2 Go to the beach.” You might shrug that off as corny, but there’s truth to it. Whether it’s the beach, or the pool, or the lake, or a waterpark, you don’t have to change your body to look a certain way or fit a specific size before you can go enjoy those activities. Some girls think they have to stay home until they qualify or meet some body requirement to participate in those experiences. But that’s totally bogus. You don’t have to put your life on hold and miss out. Wear the swimsuit. Go to the beach. Play at the pool. Swim in the lake. Ride the slides at the waterpark. Enjoy your summer, party, vacation, holiday. Enjoy living.

Put into Practice

You may be thinking, well that’s a lot of mindset stuff, but what things can I actually do? So here are some tools to help you develop a more positive body image. First, remember that the fashion industry is flawed, so focus less on the size on the clothing tag and focus more on what fits and makes you feel good. Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself and your body, and if certain friends in real life have that effect on you too, go spend time with others that make you feel welcome and wanted just as you are. Make a habit of sharing non-physical compliments, like people’s unique traits and skills, how they make you feel, or the impact they have. Not only will this help you see more in others and yourself, it will also model this practice for them, too. Reach out to a trusted adult or mental health professional about your body image struggles. Talking with a therapist doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you that needs fixing. You don’t have to navigate this alone, there are people who care about you and want to help.

Develop Positive Body Image

Developing a positive body image is a journey, not a destination. Even when you feel like you truly love yourself and accept your body, there will be moments when negative messages cut deep. But you don’t have to master body positivity and neutrality to experience their benefits. You just have to practice. And practice makes progress.

I need you to listen to what I’m about to say. You cannot hate your way into loving your body. You cannot shame yourself into accepting yourself. You have one life, and it’s too precious to spend wishing you looked like someone else. You are the only you, you are unique, you do not need to change a thing, you deserve love and joy, you are already worthy, and you are enough.


Episode 035 Hype Girl Summer
Episode 040 Intuitive Eating with Laura Cragun
Episode 044 Puberty: Shape and Body Hair
Episode 048 Compliments
Episode 054 Before and After
Episode 069 Be AI Aware
Episode 076 It’s Not You, It’s The Clothes

Book: “More Than a Body,” by Drs. Lindsay and Lexie Kite, and its accompanying workbook. On instagram @beauty_redefined

@nourish.boldly, founded by Registered Dietitian Nutritionists Devrie Pettit and Erica Hart

@theembracehub, body image resources for kids, founded by Taryn Brumfitt and Dr. Zali Yager

If you have a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to .

If you have social media already, follow me on Insta or tiktok @empowerfulgirls. I’m not encouraging or endorsing social media, but I’m on there to offer an unfiltered, uplifting alternative to what’s in your feed. Remember to get on the email list for the newsletter!

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