Be Real launches body confidence research and schools toolkit

Posted on Jan 17, 2017

Almost a third of 11 to 16 year olds isolate themselves because of body image anxiety


Be Real Campaign launches Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools to tackle low body confidence in the classroom


Almost a third (30%) of secondary school pupils isolate themselves to avoid activities because of low body confidence while more than half (52%) regularly worry about how they look, according to major new research from the Be Real Campaign.

Somebody Like Me, has revealed the scale and damaging impact that body image anxiety is having on young people’s lives.

Researchers spoke to more than 2,000 secondary school pupils aged 11 to 16 years old and found that more than a third (36%) were willing to do ‘whatever it takes to look good’ and that nearly two thirds (63%) said what other people think of their looks is important to them.

The report also highlights the vital part schools have to play in tackling body image anxiety, as three quarters of young people (76%) who learned about body confidence as part of their curriculum said it made them feel more positive about themselves. However, despite this, less than half of young people (48%) surveyed said they had learned about the issue in the classroom.


Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools

On the back of today’s findings, the Be Real Campaign has launched a new Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools. Available to download for all secondary schools across the country, the pack provides lesson guidance, advice and materials to help teachers educate their pupils on body image.

The Be Real Campaign is a national movement made up of individuals, businesses, charities and public bodies. It was formed in 2014 in response to the Reflections on Body Image report 2012 from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image. YMCA and Dove are founding partners and the campaign is sponsored by bareMinerals, N Brown, New Look and Superdrug.


Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of the National Council of YMCAs in England and Wales, said:

“The Be Real Campaign’s research released today shows how harmful body image anxiety can be for secondary school pupils as young as 11 years old.

“We’ve found evidence of young people not only isolating themselves from activities, potentially causing long-term physical or mental health difficulties, but also considering cosmetic surgery and extreme diets to improve how they believe they should look as a result of the body image ‘ideals’ they see in media and advertising.

“As such, we are proud to launch the Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools on the back of our findings. Evidence shows that schools are uniquely placed to support young people to hold positive discussions around body image with their peers and help reduce the negative impact low body confidence can have.

“We are now calling on schools across the country to download the Be Real Campaign toolkit to support their pupils to lead body confident and healthy lives.”

Other key findings from the Be Real Campaign’s Somebody Like Me research include:

        • Four in five young people surveyed (79%) said that how they look is important to them
        • Almost three in five respondents (57%) have or would consider going on a diet to change the way they look
        • One in 10 (10%) would consider having cosmetic surgery to change the way they look
        • Almost a fifth of teachers (18%) surveyed said they did not feel confident talking about body confidence with their pupils.


Speaking about their experience with body image, young people taking part in the research said:

“It is everywhere. It’s something that I think about every day, all the time, what I’m looking like, you know, how I’m dressing and how other people perceive me,” Isabel, 15, East of England.

“I find it is quite a big problem, but boys will kind of hide their feelings; they are embarrassed to say something. I think it’s because they’d be seen as a bit ‘wimpy’ and not as ‘manly’, because men are meant to be the tough, strong ones according to media and stuff,” Nathan, 14, East of England.

“I Photoshop every one of my profile pictures, I kid you not. I get rid of my spots, I get rid of my double chin. It genuinely takes me 25 minutes to make a profile picture,” Josh, 16, Scotland.

Meanwhile, teachers have backed the importance of teaching body confidence in school.

Julie Hunter, Assistant Headteacher at Bradon Forest School, in Wiltshire, said:

“The Be Real Campaign Toolkit is a vital resource to help us go beyond our current approach to body confidence. By making curriculum links beyond PSHE, the toolkit ensures a broader buy-in from teaching staff, who need to build their confidence in tackling this issue.

“For me it’s about enabling teachers to use accurate language so they’re confident when delivering these lessons. Equally it is vital that we make students aware of this issue. We work hard to make students aware of their own mental health and wellbeing, so the toolkit fits into our ethos as a school.”

The Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools follows on from the Body Image Pledge, released in November 2016, that asked fashion, media, music and advertising industries to ‘Be Real’ in their use of images.


Read more about the Somebody Like Me research

Download the Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools.