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Session 2

Professionals – Body Image and Healthy Eating

Session 2

Social media & beauty standards

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How are body image issues caused and


Lack of



and stigma



As a first step towards supporting your YP to improve their body image issues, it’s important to reflect on the thoughts and behaviours that may have caused or continue to maintain them. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy recognises that thoughts, actions, emotions and physical sensations are interconnected but focuses on thoughts and behaviours in particular. This is because we are able to directly access and change our thoughts and behaviours more easily than our feelings or physical sensations.

It’s also important to reflect on society’s
impact, including the media’s

The hot cross bun model

CBT approach: If we challenge irrational thoughts with evidence and alter unhelpful behaviours, we can overcome negative emotions and unpleasant physical sensations.

The hot cross bun model is a helpful way to identify the factors affecting a young person. It helps to untangle and demystify an experience that might feel complicated and overwhelming. This makes it easier to consider what kind of support and useful solutions are needed.

Kim’s thoughts/images
about her body

She thinks she looks fat and ugly.

What Kim did as a result


Kim’s feelings towards
her body

Ashamed, disgusted and embarrassed.

Physical sensations
Kim feels in her body

Disgust, discomfort, shaky and sick.

Scenario 1: Kim

Kim has just gone into Year 9. In the first term, she has been timetabled for swimming for her weekly PE lesson. Kim is worried about what she might look like in her swimming costume, so the day before the first session she tries it on in her bedroom in front of the mirror.

Kim is disgusted by what she sees in the mirror and thinks she looks fat and ugly. She has the image in her mind of her classmates laughing at her as she walks out of the changing room.

This makes her feel ashamed and embarrassed. The following day Kim wakes up shaking and feeling sick. She asks her Mum to call the school to say that she is poorly. 

What thoughts/images might they be having in response to seeing themselves on Zoom?

Critical thoughts regarding appearance.

What do
they do?

Tell their friends
they're tired and
log off the call.

What might
their feelings be?

and low.

What physical sensations might they be feeling?

temperature rising and tearful.

Scenario 2: Rob

During lockdown, Rob’s friends organised a catch up on Zoom.
While on the call, Rob noticed his image on screen and became self-conscious.

Rob felt he looked unattractive and worried his friends would be judging his appearance and thinking the same.

Feeling ashamed, embarrassed and low, Rob told his friends he felt tired and needed to go to bed. He then logged off the Zoom call.


What thoughts/images might they be having?

"My teeth, hair and skin are not good enough."

What do
they do?

Avoids classmates and isolates themselves.

What might
their feelings be?

Anxious, nervous and ashamed.

What physical sensations might they be feeling?

Uncomfortable, tearful and high temperature.

Scenario 3: Sam

Sam is scrolling through Instagram and comes across a picture of a celebrity they like.

They begin to compare themselves, noticing that their
teeth aren’t as white, hair isn’t as smooth, skin isn’t as clear.
Sam begins to think that their classmates must notice and judge these things in them every day and starts to feel incredibly anxious.

Sam feels nervous arriving at school and decides to sits at the back of class so that they can avoid talking to anyone up close.


The hot cross bun model

Consider a challenging scenario your YP has faced and fill in the blanks...




Physical sensation

Social media comparisons
and media literacy

Your YP’s social media usage may impact their body image.

Research shows that viewing body positive social media has a positive effect on men and women's body image, self-compassion and mood.

Who they follow on apps like Instagram and TikTok may make a bigger difference to body image than time spent on social media. Diversifying their feed is important!

Consider why your YP chooses to follow certain accounts. How do they feel before and after going on social media?

Media literacy

It’s important to think critically when it comes to brands, advertising and well-known apps like Instagram.

Billion dollar industries would be impacted if body image improved. Arguably they would prefer if it doesn’t.

Does your YP know what is real and what is not when it comes to the media?

When scrolling through social media,
encourage them to ask themselves:


What is the purpose
of this post?


Do I need to buy
something to achieve
this ideal?


Who is profiting
from this?

Media checker

Support your YP to ask the following questions when looking at social media posts...

  • Who created it?
  • Who paid for it?
  • What is its purpose?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Who benefits?
  • Who is harmed?
  • Who/what are the sources of this information?
  • In what way has the image been manipulated?
  • What are the values of this message?
  • Do I agree with the values it represents?

Examples of media influence on young people...


Detox = laxative. Short term way of eating that
is mostly liquids and restrictive.

Did you know our bodies naturally filter and detox every single day? If you have a functioning liver and kidneys, its likely a detox is not necessary or even beneficial for you.


Guilt free = eat as much as you
want and buy more of our product.


Who profits from this? Be critical of food marketing, it is created to sell products NOT to teach us about nutrition or what you should eat.

Looks aren't everything. Believe me, I'm a model. | Cameron Russell

The effects of photoshop...


Airbrushing – this is where techniques are used to smooth out imperfections, such as spots or moles.


Digital manipulation – this is where an image is altered in a more drastic way, such as changing the model’s body shape or the shape of their facial features. Sometimes a body part of the model is replaced with the same body part from another model.


Use of lighting – special lighting positions can be used when the picture is being taken to highlight certain areas of the model’s body and hide others.



Parody accounts and images

These can help to remind your YP of social media’s unrealistic beauty standards.

Parody accounts drive home the idea that entire teams of professionals are needed to create the images that we unfairly compare ourselves too.

They subvert our ‘thin ideal’
expectations and remind us of what’s real.

img img
img img

img img

Viewing body positive content

Encourage your YP to follow accounts that promote body acceptance and appreciation and that challenge society’s thin ideal and celebrate all bodies.


Remember, the modelling industry changes through the ages.
What is considered 'beautiful' and 'ideal' by society changes dramatically over the years.



Means having confidence in one's own worth or abilities - also known as self-esteem.


Self-worth and body image 

Most people evaluate their self-worth (or self-esteem) based on a variety of things. They might evaluate how happy they are based on how well important things in their life are going.

People with eating disorders tend to judge their self-worth based largely on their shape and weight and their ability to control these.

They may have other interests, but over time these seem to take a lesser place in their lives.

Offer to sit with your young person and consider the ways in which they judge their self-worth.

Draw up a current self-worth pie chart and create a future self-worth pie chart. Reflect on the differences that exist.

Your current self
Your future self

List 5 things in order of importance. Consider what behavioural and thinking style changes would help to achieve the future self-worth pie chart. Begin to implement these!

Ask them: What are the things that are important to your self-worth? How many ‘slices’ have you got in your self-worth pie chart? Is controlling eating, shape and weight in one slice? Is it very much larger than the other slices? If this is the case, then you are banking on this ONE area of your life to work out for you so that you can believe that you are of worth.

They may also have other interests and things in their life, but over time, perhaps these have taken a lesser place.

One important and effective way of reducing their over-evaluation of body shape and weight (and their control) is to begin to extend the other areas of their life – enlarging the other slices of their pie, so to speak.

When they start doing this and keep at it, they will find that their life becomes more balanced and they will feel more content over time. 

A young person's self-worth

What matters to them?

What are the things that they judge their self-worth against? Choose 5.

  • 1. Family
  • 2. Career
  • 3. Travelling
  • 4. Music
  • 5. Weight
  • 6. Friends
When we work towards positive body image, body shape may remain a factor in self-esteem, but it is no longer the largest or most pressing element.



Well Done!

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References or Creators Credit


My Notes

Supporting Videos

The Fight, Flight, Freeze Response

If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be?

Mindful Eating