As part of the ÉquiLibre The weight? No comment! week, which runs from November 23 to 29, 2020, Sport’Aide has collaborated on several projects with this organization in order to be able to better prevent and counter bullying on weight and appearance. The present series of three blogs covering this subject is part of this line. The goal is to explain the phenomenon and find possible actions to deal with this problem. This final blog was written by ÉquiLibre.
As we saw in the first two blogs, part of the problem of bullying on weight and appearance comes from values and norms developed by the group dynamic. However, these values often come from an environment in which groups are interconnected. It is therefore not surprising to observe that the problem is very present in a sports environment since the sports culture places so much value on the ideal body. That said, what can we do to change things and deal with this problem?
A climate of respect to favour the acceptance of body diversity
Accepting body diversity is the starting point so that young people practice physical activities and sports for pleasure and to thrive, without worrying about what they look like or what others think of them. The winning strategy? Create a climate of respect which favours the acceptance of body diversity! To do this:
- Regularly expose your youth to models of all shapes, sizes and appearance through the media images and platforms that you offer them. Your youth are on social media? Encourage them to review their subscriptions by choosing accounts that encourage body diversity, self-acceptance and which are good for them!
- Help your youth develop their critical judgement towards beauty standards by denouncing single models and which do not represent reality. Have the youth that you are working with reached puberty? Reassure them that the changes that take place during puberty are perfectly normal and that everyone experiences this period at their own pace.
- Explain to young people that each one has qualities and skills that enable them to move, express themselves and excel. All young people, regardless of their appearance, can engage in physical activity and sport. It is important to value and celebrate their uniqueness!
- Plan group training sessions by encouraging mutual assistance, collaboration and team spirit, even in individual activities or sports.
- Do not tolerate any discrimination or teasing related to weight or appearance between the young people in our group, those of other groups (i.e. their adversaries) and between the various stakeholders that you work with. When you witness teasing, intervene individually with the person or persons involved, the victim or victims, as well as with all young people who witness the situation by explaining that these comments are unacceptable, hurtful inappropriate.
Focus on what their body can do, not what it looks like!
As mentioned, weight and appearance can become the centre of attention and the target of many types of comments in a context of practicing physical activities and sports. As stakeholders in physical activities in sports and leisure, your words and your actions have a great influence on young people!
By favouring a sports culture that focuses more on acceptance and body diversity and which values and appreciates young people’s bodies for what it allows them to accomplish and not just for their appearance, young people will be able to develop a more positive body image. Consequently, young people will be more inclined to develop their confidence in their body, their skills and their capacity to excel.
Karah Stanworth-Belleville. Dt. P., M. Sc.
Project Manager at ÉquiLibre
Petrie, TA. et Greenleaf, C. (2012). Body image and sports/athletics. Encyclopedia of Body Image and Human Appearance, Volume 1. Doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-384925-0.00018-3
Soulliard, ZA et al. (2019). Examining positive body image, sport confidence, flow state, and subjective performance among student athletes and non-athletes. Body Image, Volume 28. Pages 93-100. ISSN 1740-1445. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.12.009
Trudel, J., Dufour, C., Dagenais, F. et al. (2015). 5 PISTES D’ACTION pour favoriser une IMAGE CORPORELLE POSITIVE. Guide à l’intention des éducateurs physiques enseignants du primaire, du secondaire et du collégial. Québec : ÉquiLibre. https://equilibre.ca/product/guide-de-recommandations-5-pistes-daction-pour-favoriser-une-image-corporelle-positive-dans-le-cadre-du-cours-deducation-physique-et-de-la-sante/