Body Image: Unrealistic Body Ideals And Body Dissatisfaction

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In a society that promotes unrealistic body ideals, it is challenging to ignore the unrealistic standards presented to us every day. Many individuals find themselves experiencing mental illness including; depression, anxiety, anger and even self-hate due to negative body image (Beyond Blue, 2020). Body dissatisfaction is a serious, often fatal mental illness that affects nearly one million adolescents in Australia. Currently poor body image is an increasing trend where 26.5% of adolescents experience poor body image in Australia (National Eating Disorder Collaboration, 2020). Mission Australia are a community organisation with the goal of strengthening communities across the country. Each year, they hold a survey asking people to ‘speak up’ about their greatest personal concerns. Mission Australia’s annual survey provides the strongest recognition of poor body dissatisfaction needing to be a national mental health concern (Mission Australia, 2020). There is a stigma developing that the skinner someone is, the better. This has become an unhealthy worldwide ideal, and as this stigma spreads, eating disorders and dangerously low BMI’s have become glorified. To support students undergoing issues with poor body image, many resources are available at Mansfield State High School such as; guidance officers, Chappy Glen, healthy food options in the tuckshop, SDP lessons, school gym, breakfast club, HPE and many sporting activities. However these resources may not be enough to help students struggling through body image issues. This is because these resources may seem out of reach or uncomfortable to students. Research suggests students feel more comfortable confiding in their friends or family (The Butterfly Foundation, 2019). In order to strengthen community action at Mansfield, a number of stakeholders need to be considered and addressed. The support of these key stakeholders is vital for the implementation and innovation of the creation of a supportive environment. Mansfield’s key stakeholders include; MSHS school principle, Karen Tanks, teachers, head of departments and deputies. At MSHS it has been identified that unrealistic ideals on social media are an issue. Therefore, a lesson plan was designed to educate students on the dangerous and deceptions of Photoshop used to make models look extremely thin. The development of the PowerPoint by fellow students, creates information that the younger children are more likely to absorb – taking more a friend approach rather than an adult-child advice approach. The presentation aims to provide a deep understanding of healthy and unhealthy habits and thoughts, ultimately aiming to create a supportive environment through the development of student’s personal skills.

Defining and Framing the Issue:

Poor body image has detrimental health outcomes for young people that can be supported with the implementation of appropriate resources and strategies within a school community. It is important to combat negative body image because it can lead to depression, shyness, social anxiety, eating disorders and self-consciousness in intimate relationships (Hawkins, 2020). Currently, QCAA (Queensland Curriculum & Assessment Authority) details an extensive health education program to be delivered to year 7 and 8 students. This education includes; food and nutrition, health benefits of physical activity and mental health and wellbeing (Queensland Government, 2020) Schools have been identified as a positive resource to enable young people to improve their body image. This is because students grow and learn in a safe, caring, responsive and empowering environment where they have spent a lot of time. It is important for health-promoting schools to view health holistically, addressing the physical, social, cultural, mental, intellectual and spiritual dimensions of health comprehensive programs (O’Dea, 2012). As previously discussed, Mansfield has an abundance of available resources, however, they may not be enough to help students struggling through complex body dissatisfaction issues. This is a result of resources feeling intimidating to students who may prefer to confide in a close family member of friend. In order to achieve healthier outcomes within the community; the four principles – equity, access, participation and rights must be properly considered and addressed. Therefore, it is imperative that MSHS implements strategies addressing social media which has a high peer influence, in order to support the improvement of body image amongst junior students.

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Barriers and Social Determinants

Current barriers at MSHS includes the schools lack of control over the toxic social media students are consuming. While students are supported at school, it is vital to develop personal skills which allow students to deal with the negative media they consume at home. This barrier can be overcome by education programs promoting self-worth and exposure to realistic and reliable facts about healthy body weight and weight loss. The program will be implemented as an SDP lesson addressing the dangerous and ‘fakeness’ on social media, explaining to students how unrealistic the media they are consuming is. At ages 12-13, students are particularly vulnerable and impressionable by role models and influencers, so it is important to provide education that gives the students skills and self-worth. The Mission Australia survey revealed that 57% of young people report that their interactions on social media cause concern. Alarmingly, 47% of girls reported a want for weight loss because of pictures on social media, and 69% of Mission Australia survey respondents detailed that social media influenced their idea of a perfect body (Mission Australia, 2020). These statistics highlight the need of proper education to combat the harmful ideals presented daily on platforms such as Instagram. The research clearly identifies that schools help students to grow and learn in a safe, caring, responsive and empowering environment. Therefore, it is imperative that schools implement resources so that the number of students suffering negative body image and health harm can reduce. The Mission Australia survey revealed that 57% of young people report that their interactions on social media cause concern (Mission Australia, 2020). This resource clearly addresses the gap where students are uncomfortable responding to the available sources at MSHS and allow a class discussion for students to communicate to those who are the same as them. This strategy will help improve every student’s body image and allow junior students to feel better about themselves and become healthier.


  • State the who, what, why and how about your idea – Why are you claiming this idea will address this determinant (mentioned in paragraph 2?).
  • Why should the school use the h.p. idea?
  • What is the key message used in the new h.p. Idea?
  • What healthy actions does your ‘idea’ encourage young people to adopt? How will this action (change of attitude) improve body image within the school community and address the current barriers to holistic health? France
  • How will the new idea be able to successfully overcome the barrier you are aiming to address?

Mission Australia’s survey details that in the development of any public policy to address a health issue, young people’s voices need to be included. This is vital when forming evidence-based policies and programs for young people. In order to provide strong intervention, it is important to understand where young people go for help with important issues. The Mission Australia survey revealed that friends (83%), parents (75%) and relatives (57%), were the three most frequently cited sources of help for young people (Mission Australia, 2020). This suggests the limitations of policy that simply increases funding to counsellors, GPs and/or guidance officers as this is not often where young people seek help. By allowing adolescents to consume social media with models that are underweight, there is the assumption being subtly formed that this is normal and healthy. The recommendation aims to tackle the spread of normalising eating disorders through Instagram models negatively influencing impressionable young teenagers. By providing images on social media that promote stick-thin picture-perfect, airbrushed images of models and influences, teenagers are led to believe that from a young age, this image the goal. This is highly toxic for one’s body image. The idea of implementing a body image policy banning the underweight model is employed at France. Therefore the school should diffuse the idea of implementing an SDP lesson on poor body image at MSHS.


Body dissatisfaction affects students daily, impacting everyday tasks. Negative body image as a result of unrealistic social media ideals causes students to experience self-doubt, which can lead to mental health issues including eating disorders, anxiety and depression. Currently, they are education programs provided and services including guidance counsellors available to students to support them through body image issues. However, many students feel intimidated by seeing a guidance officer, and the education programs do not cover the toxicity of social media. Therefore, an SDP lesson designed by fellow peers will be implemented to develop the personal skills of younger students, to take home. This program aims to improve the resilience and self-worth of students through a program designed by their friends. Body image is a complex issue that will not be solved overnight, however, through providing a number of different resources and support for students, healthier outcomes can be achieved.


  1. Beyond Blue. (2020). 3 million Australians are living with anxiety or depression. Retrieved from Beyond Blue:
  2. Hawkins, N. (2020). Ways to Overcome a Negative Body Image. Retrieved from BYU:
  3. Mission Australia. (2020). Annual Youth Survey. Retrieved from Mission Australia:
  4. National Eating Disorder Collaboration. (2020). Body Image. Retrieved from National Eating Disorder Collaboration:
  5. O’Dea, J. (2012). Benefits of Developing a whole-school approach to health promotion. Retrieved from The University of Sydney:
  6. Queensland Government. (2020). Health and Physical Activity P-10 Syllabus. Retrieved from QCAA – Queensland Curriculum & Assessment Authority:
  7. The Butterfly Foundation. (2019, November 28). Body image concerns need a national response for young Australians. Retrieved from Butterfly:


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