Body Image and Self-Esteem

To help young people think and feel positively about their bodies, schools play an important role in creating a school culture that celebrates body diversity. 

New Resource for Educators and Administrators!

School Nutrition TOOLKIT:
How to Create a Supportive Food Environment at School

Find helpful tips, and resources to help increase access to nutritious food and help students form positive relationships with food and their bodies.

View School Nutrition Toolkit

Children and youth who feel good about themselves and their bodies can have a positive body image and self-esteem. Body acceptance can be improved through learning opportunities for the enjoyment of physical activity and eating, combined with supportive social and physical environments.


Source: Hamilton Health Sciences. (2023). Body Image [video]. Retrieved from https://www.hamiltonhealthsciences.ca/back-to-school/body-image/


What are positive body image and self-esteem?

Body image refers to how we think and feel about our body. A positive body image means feeling comfortable about our own body and is developed by understanding that healthy bodies come in a variety of weights, shapes, sizes and abilities. A positive body image is linked to positive self-esteem, which means to value and respect ourselves, and to be confident in our personal abilities.  

Why are positive body image and self-esteem important?

When children and youth feel good about themselves and their bodies, it leads to positive physical, social and mental health. It also makes them more confident, more likely to engage in health promoting behaviors, and have better relationships with others.

In 2021, about 46% of Ontario youth in grades 7-12 reported concerns about food, weight, and body image (OSDUHS, 2022). These concerns can lead to disordered eating as people often turn to dieting to try to change their bodies and feel better about themselves. When people do not eat a variety of foods or start missing meals, their physical and mental health can be affected.

How can we build a good relationship with food and our bodies?

How we talk, teach and think about food at school is important because it affects our body image and eating behaviours. As we learn more about school-based nutrition, we know that past strategies meant to lower obesity rates and get students to choose only “healthy” or “good” foods have made certain foods, body types, and people to be seen as “unhealthy” or “bad.” This way of thinking has hurt the ability for children and youth to have positive relationships with food and their own bodies, and disordered eating rates have risen. 

Access to nutritious food is important, but so is exploring and taking joy in our experiences with food! When talking about food, it’s important to simply call foods by their name and not label them “good” or “bad,” so that youth can explore different foods without shame. We should also let youth follow hunger and fullness cues, decide what order to eat their food, and encourage them to appreciate different aspects of food such as smell, colour, and taste.

Learn more about how schools can create a supportive food environment that helps build positive relationships with food.

What can schools, parents and students do to promote positive body image and self-esteem?

Below you will find information and resources for educators, parents/caregivers, and students to promote positive body image and self-esteem. Educator resources are organized using the Ministry of Education’s Foundations for a Healthy School framework. A healthy school is created when schools, parents and community partners work together to build school environments that promote and support student well-being. 


Resources & Information for:

Background Resources

  • Body Image – Hamilton Health Sciences
    A video that explains body image and how health and confidence are impacted by more than body size. It teaches the importance of celebrating body diversity by focusing on all things that make us unique.
  • Promoting Positive Body Image: A Resource for Educators – Jessie’s Legacy
    Tips given to deal with weight-based bullying and what to do if school staff are concerned about a student experiencing disordered eating. Includes resources and teaching tools to promote positive body image.
  • Body Image and Self-Esteem Backgrounder for Teachers – National Eating Disorders Information Centre (NEDIC)
    This backgrounder touches on important concepts for teachers and frames some school-wide practices to have in place.
  • Mental Health and Weight Bias in Schools (French) – Ontario Dietitians in Public Health
    An educator’s resource to improve understanding of weight bias with ways to promote body positivity with students.
  • Help Children and Youth Feel Good About Themselves- York Region 
    Expands on the balanced approach to healthy living. It is important to keep what we say and do positive. 

Lessons and Activities

  • Body Image (French) - Media Smarts
    Grades K-12
    Media and web literacy resources for teachers, parents and caregivers. Select your grade and topic.
  • Presentations Related to Body Image – Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association (BANA)
    Grades K-12
    Contact BANA (519-969-2112) to arrange free presentations for your students related to self-esteem, bullying, body image and social media, including:
    • Be Yourself (JK-4)
    • Self Esteem and Body Image (Grades 5-8)
    • Sizing Up the Media (Grades 9-12)
  • Beyond Images (French– National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC)
    Grades 4-8
    Curriculum materials and lesson plans related to body image, media, friends and self-esteem. 
  • Body Image and Self-Esteem Resources (French) - Ophea
    Grades 1-12
    Curriculum-linked resources to support educators in implementing the Ontario Health and Physical Activity Curriculum. Includes lesson plans. Create an account to access resources.
  • Amazing Me – The Dove Self-Esteem Project and Discovery Education
    Grades 4-5
    Evidence-based classroom resources focused on health, social-emotional learning (SEL), and body confidence. Includes teacher guide, classroom presentation and activities. Resources for families included.
  • Confident Me – Dove Self-Esteem Project
    Grades 6-9
    Toolkit for teachers related to self-esteem, body image and media. Includes a teacher guide with training videos, presentation slides, activity sheets and short videos for students.
  • Healthy Schools Certification (French) – OPHEA
    Tools to promote and enhance the health and well-being of students, school staff, and the broader school community. Contact your school nurse at 519-258-2146 x 1555 for more information on how they can support your school in achieving a Healthy Schools Certification.
  • Mental Health and Weight Bias in Schools (French) - Ontario Dietitians in Public Health
    An educator’s resource to improve understanding of weight bias with ways to promote body positivity with students. Available in.
  • Making Your School a Commercial-free Zone – (French)– Media Smarts
    Organize an Advertising Treasure Hunt or a No Logo Day to increase awareness about advertising in schools.
  • Youth Leader ResourcesFrenchDove Self-Esteem Project
    Toolkit and activity guides for youth leaders. Activities for ages 11-14 years old.
    • Proud to Be Me – Building confidence for LGBTQ2S+ youth.
    • Free Being Me – A body-confidence program.
    • True to Me – Fun activities to get groups talking about thoughts and feelings on body image.

School Campaigns and Social Media

Additional Resources and Support

  • Kids Help Phone (French)
    Call 1-800-668-6868 or text 686868. Information and support 24/7 across Canada for kids, teens, and young adults.  Professional counsellors/volunteer crisis responder and resources that include tips to support young people with topics like self-esteem and body image.
  • BANA (The Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association, Windsor-Essex)
    Provides counselling and treatment for eating disorders.
  • Teen Health – Windsor Essex Community Health Centre (weCHC)
    Healthcare services for youth 12-24 years of age that include counselling and eating disorder support.
  • Youth Wellness Hub
    Offers services to youth ages 12 to 25 related to mental health, substance use, primary care, education, employment, training, housing and other community and social services.  Recreational and peer support programs related to wellness and mental health are included.
  • Sandwich Teen Action Group (STAG) - Windsor
    STAG offers a wide variety of after school programming for youth between the ages of 13 and 19 years.
  • South Essex Community Council (SECC) - Leamington
    SECC provides a number of community-based after school programs for children and youth.

Source URL: https://www.wechu.org/school-health/food-and-nutrition/body-image

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