Health and weight (young people)
The teenagers we spoke to felt the most unhappy with their appearance if they could not wear clothes they liked or when they thought that no one liked them (see Clothes and shopping and Friends, relationships and weight).
Parents said they found it hard to see their children feeling bad about their bodies and worrying about how others see them. It is most upsetting for parents to hear their children saying negative things about themselves because of their weight and size. Parents wanted to help their children accept themselves as they were, while encouraging and supporting them to have a healthier lifestyle.
Edward says he is not overweight but has always wanted the 'perfect' image.
Mary finds it hard to see her son struggling with his body image.
Many people talked about constantly comparing their own appearance, shape and weight to others their own age. This was something that often left them feeling more insecure and embarrassed. Steevie began to notice her fingers were bigger and that her feet and ankles were wider than those of other people. She said that she became ‘obsessive’ about her body. It can also be difficult to hear friends who do not have a weight problem complain that they are ‘fat’.
Huw says that when you are big you 'stick out' and it makes you feel unattractive.
In primary school it was probably that, but towards secondary school it was more me thinking it, not cos, at secondary school I got more and more who cares about, I don’t care what anybody else thinks. So to work out I, what I think about myself. I, it was all came down, my self image, I wanted to be smaller and I wanted to be able to shop with my friends, and I wanted to like go out and have and have fun with my friends without thinking that, and I wanted to have more money instead of spend less money on food. Yeah.
Becca used to feel that she'd do anything to fit in with her peers.
Emily knows what it's like to be criticised by others because of your appearance.
Young people said that they feel a lot of pressure to look a certain way. Those in their early teens felt the most pressure from other young people and the media to be skinnier. Some said that growing up would have been much easier if they had been a smaller size. At the age of thirteen Becca thought that the only way for her to lose the weight and solve her problems was to have surgery. Some thought that other issues to do with appearance like problem hair or acne would have been easier to deal with if ‘only’ their weight had not been such a problem.
In her early teens Becca thought that losing weight was the answer to all her problems.
Carrie thinks people are more worried about their size in the UK than they were in Africa, where she lived before.
The pressure to be thin is not the same in all countries; in some countries women are expected to carry more weight. Anaan and Naz talked about how this preference in their communities could make it difficult when they were trying to lose weight.
Anaan says that, culturally, black women are 'expected to be bigger' and this makes it harder to realise that you have a weight problem.
Last reviewed July 2017.