Body-positive Resources for Girls and Young Women

I have always suspected that there are tens of thousands of women in the world who hate their bodies. Writing this blog has confirmed my belief, if not my estimate of numbers, and I feel that it’s my personal mission to do everything in my power to help those women embrace their gorgeous bodies. Now, and going forward.

But when conversations arise about truly changing the tide, the focus often turns to girls and young women – the generations that are just LEARNING to hate their bodies, the girls who are sensitive and malleable, the young women who may be able to not-learn or un-learn before those negative messages get ingrained. And I’ll admit that I feel less equipped to advise and help tweens and pre-teens.

So I wanted to pull together some resources for younger readers, readers who have young daughters, or really anyone looking to help up-and-coming generations improve on self-image.

gURL.com

This jam-packed site designed for teens and tweens has a body image section, active discussion boards on body image and other body/health topics, and loads of body positive content tailored to a younger audience. The site itself is owned by Alloy.com and there are some aspects of it that irk me – like giant animated beauty products ads on the body image section – but overall, the content is solid.

Rookie

Although this online magazine touches on all aspects of teen and tween life, every article about body image, style, or confidence takes a decidedly positive and uplifting tone. I wish I’d had access to it when I was younger.

Teaching Tolerance lesson plan

This will be most helpful to anyone in a teaching or mentoring position, but is truly stellar material. It includes a PDF for use in the lesson, and a PowerPoint to accompany the learning session. It’s a long and detailed lesson suited to high schoolers that includes exercises designed to get students to dissect the current social norms about physical size and appearance. Click here to see the lesson plan.

About-Face

This website puts its fabulous mission front and center: About-Face’s mission is to equip women and girls with tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect self-esteem and body image. There are galleries of good and bad ads, a section where readers can contribute and talk back, and a list of body-positive resources. Click here to visit About-Face.

Bodypositive.com’s Children and Weight section

More of a resource for parents, teachers, and mentors, this section examines myths, behaviors, and misconceptions about young people and offers advice on actions that can be taken. Click here to visit the Children and Weight resource page.

Center for Young Women’s Health

The writing on this site is extremely simple, which means that it may appeal more to tweens and younger than teens and older, but it’s a pretty fabulous site overall. The self-esteem section does a great job of explaining WHY it’s important to love yourself, a key point that is often overlooked. There’s even an article on cultivating positive body image in young women with facial differences. Click here to check out the Center for Young Women’s Health.

Image courtesy IMs BILDARKIV

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  • Again, a brilliant post! It’s important to talk openly about this issue and raise awareness.

  • Wish I had known about some resources like this when I was a teenager. You are doing an awesome thing. Your blog makes me take a closer, more flattering, look at myself đŸ™‚

  • Thank you so much for including these links. I am mom to an almost eleven-year old daughter, and she’s begun to make more negative comments about her body. As a girl on the cusp of puberty, I know she struggles with the changes her body is making, and it’s hard for me to find the right words to ease her anxieties. I really appreciate this post.

  • Barbara

    It seems to me that the best way to help our girls grow up with positive body images is to model that ourselves. If Mom loves her imperfect body, that sets an example that is more important than the airbrushed celebs.

    • Sal

      True! But some young girls and women are more introspective, and having some reading materials to mull – especially ones aimed at people their age – can be helpful in supporting what they see in their role models.

      • This is a good point. I’d imagine many girls will be more comfortable reading a book or a website on body image than negotiating a conversation on it with someone else (which can be emotionally fraught on both sides).

        Not that I’m advocating not talking to friends or family about body image, but I was too shy and uncomfortable to do so until it had become a major problem for me. If someone had handed me a list of resources like this when I was 11 or 12, my teenage years might have gone differently.

    • I absolutely agree about setting a positive example – I’m currently trying to do so with regard to my teenage sister – but I think harmful body-related messages are so insidious in Western culture that even girls with the most body-accepting families are at risk. When I was little, neither of my parents ever dieted or talked about weight; there were no diet books or women’s magazines in our house; nobody ever encouraged me to restrict my food or pay attention to my weight; and yet at the age of seven, I once told my friends I was “on a diet”, because I understood that dieting was what grown-ups did. (I wasn’t actually dieting, nor was I unhappy with my weight; I just wanted to seem more grown up. In hindsight, I find that scary and sad.)

      So, in summary, I think both positive role models and positive, informative resources have a role to play.

  • There’s a new blog regarding body image for Asians called Thick Dumpling Skin: http://www.thickdumplingskin.com/. As an Asian-American, I always felt incredible pressure to not just be thin, but to be “Asian” thin. This site helps to bring together people who’ve felt these same pressures.

    • Sal

      Indeed! I linked to those gals several weeks ago – a fabulous resource.

  • You’d think, as the mother of a tween girl, I’d have some resources up my sleeve! These are fantastic. Thanks.

  • Carol

    Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for providing these resources. I have 9 yo B/G twins and both of them are starting to make negative comments about their bodies (yes, even the boys feel so much pressure to have perfect bodies). I don’t want to just shut them down with a general “you are beautiful/handsome” comment, so I’ll definitely check out these sites.

  • This is great! I am almost 25 years old, and I still have body image issues to this day. It’s a difficult situation, especially for younger girls, and they need a place to go where they are going to be taught that you don’t have to be a size 0 to be pretty.

  • I was part of a wonderful pilot program through the old Girl Scout organization. All this anti-violence work was abruptly terminated when the national movement for Girl Scout council realignment began three years ago.

    Alison had brought together experts and then encouraged and funded selected councils all over the nation to build new resources and techniques. The best part was that everything had been thoroughly tested and adapted using real girls! It was working and we were just at the tip of the iceberg!

    We had a collection of tools now that worked and we were able to share with each other to spread the good news. Then the realignment came about……..its so sad when something like this gets lost in a corporate merger. I will try not to cry now.

    Alison continues her passion with an organization she created. http://www.ci4girls.org She is a national expert on what will really work to make change for our daughters and granddaughters! I would urge you to visit her website and contact her!

    • Sal

      Kitty, that link is broken … let me know if you can post again. I’d love to learn more!

      • Yes, I see that I didn’t get it quite right!

        It’s Alison Hill at Critical Issues 4 Girls
        http://www.ci4g.com or
        criticalissues4girls.com (no www in front of it)

        Alison plans to check out your site, so I hope you hear from her soon!

  • Eleanorjane

    My mum regularly told me how beautiful I was as I was growing up, and admired the way I looked (as well as my academic achievements etc). So even though I was bullied at school, I had a core of self-belief that could come out later when I had a better social situation.

    So, my advice would be – praise and genuinely admire your children for all their attributes – physical and otherwise.

  • sui

    http://somethingfishy.org was a great resource for me as I was recovering from an ED. While it’s not exactly what one might consider body-positive, it IS a great resource to recover from destructive thoughts and lack of self-love!

  • I think that the best body-positive resource on the internet is alreadypretty.com!

    • Sal

      Awww, thank you, Angie!

  • isidore

    Thanks for the resources. I don’t know if you’ve ever covered this before, but do you have any advice for shutting down the negative body talk when around grown women? I can’t eat lunch with any of the women I work with without the talk instantly turning to how much they hate this and that part of their bodies or how they need to be on a diet. The worst part is that they are all thin, and I’m overweight. I never know what to say, I just want to shake them and yell, you look fine! We all look fine!

    • Hannah

      Isidore, I know just what you mean! “Fat talk” among friends is very common, and very frustrating! I recently saw a t-shirt that said, “thank you for not talking about your diet.” I loved it! When I’m around women who do this, I try to speak the truth in a gentle way. I talk about what I’ve learned through resources like this blog, suggest reading, and, most importantly, set an example of positive body image. These women live in our toxic culture, so they have been conditioned to think the way they do. It’s become acceptable and expected for women to hate their bodies.

    • Sal
      • And girls are always listening on the sidelines. We have to set a better example for them! It’s fine to talk about things you hope to improve about yourself – that you are on your life journey to better health and better self-esteem. As long as you are also saying that TODAY you are quite alright with you – and that you deserve to love and be loved just the way you are! This is how we want them to feel about themselves. When we allow ourselves to feel it, we have hope that they will begin to believe it too.

  • Hannah

    Hi Sal,
    A resource I love is Kathy Kater’s Healthy Body Image Cirriculum; “Teaching Kids to Eat and Love Their Bodies Too!” There is a ton of research behind it. It’s filled with several lesson plans to use in elementary school classrooms, but I’ve used the information in presentations to audiences of all ages. You can find it at healthybodyimage.org. I also absolute LOVE The Body Myth by Margo Maine.

    Thanks đŸ™‚

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  • Great resources. As I often work with this age group, I’m always looking for new ways to reach them–ways that are relevant and appropriate and contemporary. Thanks for the post!

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  • Michelle

    I loved your blog and how you are taking action to help young women with there body images. I also want to make it part of my life to show young women that you are beautiful and embrace yourself. I have always struggled with this myself my whole life. I also recently got involved into the fitness world competing in shows. It really opened my eyes when I saw how many of these young girls competing have fake boobs and how this is seen as the better look. It also crushed me how all the photo shoots were edited retouched and then published in magazines. Lets shows young girls and women that this is not what women really look like. These women in these magazines dont even look like that in real life. Yes they are beautiful,but beautiful with the what is concerned “flaws”. I would love to start a program and do this as my full time project.

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