How You Look

How You Look

How You Look


Everyone is unique. We are all different and that makes life more interesting. How you look is part of that. But there is a lot of pressure in modern society to look a certain way. Everyone worries about how they look from time to time. But it becomes a problem if you are unhappy with how you look most of the time.

What you think of your appearance is your body image. Some of us have a negative body image. That means we don’t like what we see when we look in the mirror and we judge ourselves for it. Having a negative self image may mean we do things to try and change the way we look. This can include dieting, working out, wearing makeup or changing our clothes.

Sometimes making changes can be good if they’re done in the right way and for the right reasons. But you might be worrying about how you look a lot. Or you could be putting pressure on yourself to fit in with someone else’s idea of what’s normal. This can make you feel insecure and unhappy and that’s not ok.

Sometimes other people can put pressure on you to look a certain way. Your friends or family might encourage you to change the way you dress. Other people at school might comment on how you look. You might feel pressure to change your body shape because of what you see on the TV, online or in magazines.

Always remember you should do what makes you feel comfortable. You should be happy being yourself. When you don’t feel happy about how you look it can be difficult to feel confident. People with a negative body image often have low self esteem.

That means you don’t value yourself and this can lead to other problems for your mental wellbeing.

Remember that as you get older your body will go through lots of changes. This is totally normal. Boys and girls can both gain or lose weight during puberty. You might suddenly get taller. You may also get spots. Girls will start to develop breasts. It can be a confusing time. Just remember that it’s part of growing up. 

What is a normal body size and shape?

There is no such thing as a normal body size or shape. Everyone is different. What is normal for you won’t be the same for someone else. The size and shape of your body can be affected by many things, including your genetics.

For example, some people will store fat around their stomachs and others will store it on their hips or bum.

The NHS uses a measure called body mass index (BMI) to decide if someone has a healthy weight or not. This is based on their weight in comparison to their height. A high BMI is associated with being overweight or obese. But it isn’t always accurate. For instance, a rugby player who is very tall and very muscley will have a high BMI but that doesn’t mean they are unhealthy or obese.

If you are worried about your weight you should go and see your doctor. They will be able to calculate your BMI for you and tell you whether you are a healthy size for your height and age.

Remember that being healthy isn’t only about your weight. People can be very skinny and very unhealthy. Eating a balanced diet and doing regular exercise will help you stay healthy, regardless of your shape or size. 

What is anorexia?

Anorexia is a mental health illness that makes people stop eating food. People who are anorexic often believe they are fat, even when they are very underweight. They will stop themselves eating because they think they need to lose weight. They might also exercise a lot or take pills to help with weight loss.

Being very underweight is very bad for your health. You can experience a number of problems if you stop yourself eating. They can include hair loss, heart problems, weaker immune system and weaker bones. If anorexia continues for a long time you can die.

Boys and girls can become anorexic. There are many reasons why people can develop anorexia. If you have noticed you are not eating and are constantly trying to lose weight you should get help.

You can recover from anorexia and there is support to help you. Speak to your doctor, they will be able to help you get the support you need.

What is bulimia?

Bulimia is also a mental health illness that focuses on food. People with bulimia will eat a lot of food in one go and then try to get rid of it. Normally this means making themselves sick. But they can also do a lot of exercise or use laxatives to try and get the food out of their body.

This is known as binging and purging. It can become a cycle and breaking out of that cycle can be very difficult without help. Making yourself sick a lot is very bad for your body. It can damage your stomach lining, give you a sore throat, make you have bad breath and damage your teeth.

Boys and girls can be bulimic. Like anorexia, it can start for a number of reasons. You can often feel guilty about eating and that can make you want to purge. If you start having these kinds of feelings and noticing this behaviour with food you should get help.

You will be able to recover from bulimia with help. Your doctor will be able to help you access the support you need. 

What is orthorexia?

What is orthorexia?

Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy eating. It isn’t recognised as a medical disorder but it can lead to mental health problems. If someone is orthorexic they fixate on healthy eating. This will often mean they exclude certain foods from their diet. They might exercise obsessively too. It can lead to people stopping eating.

Although eating healthy food is important it can be dangerous when it is taken too far. Cutting out whole food groups while you are still growing is bad for your body. Healthy eating is about having a balanced diet. People who are orthorexic will often follow very strict diets that exclude a lot of foods. It can be very controlling and lead to mental health problems like OCD and anxiety.

If you think you are becoming obsessive about what you eat you should speak to your doctor. They will be able to tell you more about having a healthy lifestyle.

Is binge eating the same as bulimia?

Binge eating is different to bulimia. It can also be called compulsive overeating. It is when you eat a lot in one go. Although we all do this sometimes, binge eating is something you do to help you deal with difficult emotions or situations. It’s different to bulimia because you won’t purge afterwards.

You might eat a lot even if you’re not hungry. When you binge eat, you will eat until you feel bloated or sick. You might feel guilty after you’ve binge eaten. You may feel as though your eating is out of control.

If you are binge eating to help you deal with something painful in your life you should get support. Talk to someone about why you feel like you need to eat. Your doctor can offer you support. You might find talking to a counsellor about what’s making you unhappy can help you stop binge eating.

I’m obsessed about my appearance. What should I do?

If you find yourself worrying about how you look all the time try to think about why you feel this way. Are you putting pressure on yourself or is someone else putting pressure on you? It can help to talk to someone about how you are feeling. A counsellor from a helpline like Childline can listen and help you understand how you’re feeling.

Remember that it’s normal to worry about how we look sometimes. But it shouldn’t make you feel unhappy. If you notice that you are changing your eating habits or becoming obsessed about your weight you should go and see your doctor. 

I’m worried that my friend is developing an eating disorder. What should I do?

If you are worried about a friend, you should try to talk to them. Often people can become very secretive when they develop an eating disorder. This might mean they try to shut you out.

You should let your friend know that you are there to support them. Spend time with them and don’t judge them. When you are together it’s a good idea to avoid talking about how you look or making comments about other people’s weight. If you’re really worried about their health you could talk to their parents.

Giving them compliments about their personality rather than their appearance can help build their self esteem. Remember that mealtimes can be difficult for someone who is recovering from an eating disorder.

I get bullied at school about how I look. What can I do?

Being bullied because of how you look can really affect your self esteem and confidence. You might get bullied because of your hair colour, your skin colour or because you wear glasses. Whatever the bullies say, remember that it’s not true. It’s never ok to make someone else feel bad because of how they look.

You should talk to someone about what’s happening. Tell an adult you trust, like a teacher or your parents, to get some support. You can also do things to build up your confidence. Try something new with one of your friends. Or you can write down all the things you like about yourself.

I feel really self conscious about my spots. What can I do?

When you go through puberty you can get outbreaks of spots. This can make you feel very self conscious and make you worry about how you look. Most of us get spots from time to time. When you often have spots this is called acne.

It’s very common in teenagers and young adults, so don’t worry. If you are bothered about your spots you can try using an over the counter treatment from the shops. Supermarkets and chemists will sell these treatments.

You should also get into a good skincare routine. This means washing your face twice a day with warm water. Don’t scrub your face though because this will make your skin produce more oil and that can lead to more spots.

Wearing makeup to hide spots might seem like a good idea but it will make them worse. You might also be tempted to squeeze your spots but don’t because this can leave scars. If you’re finding it really hard to deal with your acne go and see your doctor. They can prescribe treatments to help.

Did you know?

-39% of teenage boys and 49% of teenage girls have been on a diet to lose weight or change their body shape

-56% of young people who’ve been bullied said their appearance was the focus of the bullying

-90% of girls and young women think there’s too much focus in the media on what women look like rather than what they achieve


Help & Support

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