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Bullying and Body Image

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Although bullying can occur among individuals of any weight, overweight and underweight children tend to be at higher risk for bullying. Targets of verbal bullying based on weight, sometimes referred to as  “weight teasing,” can experience a number of negative consequences, including a change in body perception.

Weight teasing by both family and peers has been associated with high levels of anxiety and low self-esteem among adolescents. Having low self-esteem because of peer criticism can change an individual’s body image. Body image is the positive or negative feelings you have about the way you look.

A study in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology found that adolescents teased about weight tended to have a body image that was more negative than those not teased because of weight. Victims of weight teasing who have a negative body image may be at a higher risk for developing unhealthy eating and exercising habits. This could lead to disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating.

How can I encourage a healthy body image among adolescents?

  • Promote healthy eating and exercise habits.
  • Encourage adolescents not to compare themselves to their peers.
  • Set a good example by not criticizing your own body or the bodies of others.
  • Help victims of bullying boost self-esteem by focusing on their positive attributes.
  • Encourage them to do the things they love. This boosts confidence and builds healthy friendships.

Resources for individuals, schools, and families on how to deal with similar issues are available on .