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YMCA Norfolk supports new body confidence school toolkit

17 January 2017

Research, including contributions from Norfolk young people, shows almost a third of 11 to 16 year olds isolate themselves because of body image anxiety.

YMCA Norfolk has thrown its support behind a new body confidence campaign toolkit for school that teaches young people about feeling comfortable with their bodies, as new research reveals almost a third of secondary school pupils (30%) isolate themselves from activities due to body image anxiety.

Somebody Like Me, a national research report launched today by the Be Real Campaign for body confidence, has revealed the scale and damaging impact that low body confidence is having on young people’s lives.

Researchers spoke to more than 2,000 secondary school pupils aged 11 to 16 years old and found that more than half (52%) regularly worried about how they look while nearly two thirds (63%) said what others think of their looks is important to them. In addition, 36% were willing to do ‘whatever it takes to look good’.

The report also highlights the vital part schools have to play in tackling body image anxiety, as three quarters of young people (76%) who learned about body confidence as part of their curriculum said it made them feel more positive about themselves. However, despite this, less than half of young people surveyed (48%) said they had learned about the issue in the classroom.

Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools

On the back of today’s findings, the Be Real Campaign, founded by YMCA and Dove, has launched a new Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools. Available to download for all secondary schools across the country, the pack provides lesson guidance, advice and materials to help teachers educate their pupils about body image.

YMCA Norfolk which runs a wide range of services across Norfolk and works with 3,500 young people and families every year, is urging local schools to get behind the Be Real Campaign and use the toolkit to help young people tackle body image anxiety.

Tim Sweeting YMCA Norfolk Chief Executive, said: “The research released today shows how harmful body image anxiety can be for secondary school pupils as young as 11 years old.

“Young people tell us that they face increasing pressures to conform to the unrealistic beauty standards they see in the media and through celebrity culture.

“Evidence shows that schools are uniquely placed to support young people to hold positive discussions around body image with their peers and help reduce the negative impact low body confidence can have. We urge all local schools to help young people be confident with their bodies and build their self-esteem by using the toolkit so they grow into healthy adults.”

Speaking about her experience with body image, YMCA Norfolk peer mentor, Poppy George, said ” I think pressure is really on the younger generation to be a stereotypical ‘perfect’ body and with more and more Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts each day and better photo editing software becoming freely available, it is building pressure immensely.

“It is, I would say, impossible to avoid the stereotypical perfect body – it’s plastered online, in shop windows, in magazines and even on billboards and the sides of buses. This constant image screaming at us telling us we aren’t good enough is damaging. With it consistently being drip fed into our minds through all different avenues, it is becoming the normal for us to have low self-esteem and confidence around our body and we struggle to talk positively about ourselves, hence damaging our mental health too.”

Other key findings from the Be Real Campaign’s Somebody Like Me research include:

  • Four in five young people surveyed (79%) said that how they look is important to them
  • Almost three in five respondents (57%) have or would consider going on a diet to change the way they look
  • One in 10 (10%) would consider having cosmetic surgery to change the way they look
  • Almost a fifth of teachers (18%) surveyed said they did not feel confident talking about body confidence with their pupils.

Schools can download a copy of the toolkit at www.berealcampaign.co.uk/schools/