Healthy Body Image for Children and Young People Advisory Group minutes: September 2019

Minutes from the second meeting of the advisory group on 23 September 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Julie Cameron (Co-Chair) 
  • Katie Reid (Co-Chair) 
  • Rachel Thomson 
  • Helen Forrest 
  • Carolyn Fox McKay                                         
  • Leanne Ferries 
  • Petya Eckler 
  • Fiona Duffy 
  • Helen Sharpe 
  • Frances Duffy
  • Simita Kumar


  • Fariha Thomas

Secretariat and Policy Officials from the Scottish Government were also present.

Items and actions

13:00 - Welcome 

The Chairs welcomed everyone to the second meeting of the advisory group.

13:05 – Review of terms of reference and minutes of the first meeting

Chair recapped first meeting and what was discussed.

Concerns were voiced about the use of “healthy body image” as those with disabilities may not feel this includes them. The chairs clarified the use of “healthy” was intended to be a mind-set rather than physical health, but agreed that this discussion around definitions is one that is likely to continue.  

Group signed off terms of reference and minutes with no amendments. 

13:30 – Review of definition work lead by Julie and Katie

A powerpoint was presented including existing definitions for healthy body image and positive body image. The group felt that there were parts of several of these which were good, particularly those from previous body image campaigns, but none which were perfect.

Katie reported on a search of Instagram and Twitter where she found that social media posts including “#healthybodyimage” by male users were based on healthy eating and fitness, whilst female users posted about self-love/acceptance. 

Leanne recommended the Childline website and their existing resources. Julie asked if it would be possible to have a thread included on the Childline website asking young people “what is healthy/good body image to you?” Leanne agreed to enquire.  

The group agreed that the definition should be inclusive to all and include appropriate language for younger people. Some ideas suggested in this vein included “body image is how you see yourself” and “having good/positive/healthy body image is appreciating what your body is and does, and knowing that your value is more than your appearance.”

There was discussion about the use of the word “healthy”; this may not be appropriate for young people with long term illnesses as they may never see themselves as “healthy” but could still have a body image which was separate to that. 

Members agreed to consider the definitions discussed before the next meeting, including whether the group prefers ‘good/positive’ or ‘healthy’ as the first word of any definition, and proposed getting the final definition cleared by primary school teachers and/or students and will include real life examples of how this would look, to make it more accessible. The use of “good/positive” may seem unachievable for some young people as it is binary (i.e. good/bad). The group discussed using language around neutrality or acceptance instead. 


  • Leanne to request question thread to be put on Childline website. “What does good or healthy body image mean to you?”
  • all to consider potential definitions which use inclusive and appropriate language to define what a “healthy body image” is
  • Katie to circulate BEAT material used for school presentations
  • Katie to send feedback received from young people in schools about what they thought body image is

14:00 – Review current policies lead by Rachel 

Rachel discussed current policies and work targeting body image issues within the UK, beginning with feedback she had gathered from relevant Scottish Government policy teams. 

The SG LGBTI policy team were concerned about body image issues for this community. They advised that body image issues affect different genders, sexualities etc. differently, and that the group should take this into account and view body image through a gendered lens. The group felt that this was a good approach, and also that they should be sure to include other Equalities groups too.

The SG Substance Use policy team reported an increase in those taking performance enhancing drugs (the majority of whom are men in their late teens and twenties) which is likely to be linked to body image issues. The policy team are interested in working with the advisory group if this is a topic they wish to follow up on. 

This led to wider discussion amongst the group about drugs on the fringes of legality, such as weight loss pills and drinks, and the recent legal change meaning that social media influencers are now not allowed to offer discounts on weight loss pills to those who are known to be under 18. Group members expressed concern about informing young people about dangerous “easy” fixes such as weight loss pills and fat binders, which are highly unlikely to work and have potential to cause serious harm.

The SG Education policy team highlighted the importance of utilising the resources that already exist, and recommended the upcoming Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) resources on body image for p5-p7 and S1-S3 young people which are being launched this month. The group agreed these resources could be valuable. There was also group discussion on the SG commitment to money for counsellors to be located in each secondary school in Scotland within this year. The group agreed that while these counsellors would not exclusively be focused on body image, they could be a potential professional group for the group to provide recommendations to e.g. on training.

Several relevant UK Government enquiries and policies were also discussed including:

  • the ongoing public enquiry into role of reality TV and their duty of care to participants and viewers. Julie was able to confirm during the meeting that the scope of this has now been widened to include duty of care to viewers
  • the recently published Online Harms White Paper which plans to establish a new statutory duty of care to make companies take more responsibility for the safety of their users. Consultation on this paper has now closed, though responses have not yet been published
  • recently commissioned research on body image issues which included a workshop with social media influencers. It is not clear when this work is likely to be published, but SG will remain in discussion with UK Government
  • the report from the All-Parliamentary Group on Social Media about the impact of social media on young people’s health and wellbeing
  • the previous UK Government body confidence campaigns, which ended in 2015 but are likely to contain useful resources for the group to pull from

The group agreed that the discussion had been helpful and that the ‘table’ of policies Rachel and the CYP Mental Health policy team had created for the meeting would be a useful document to keep updated. Rachel will add any new policies or consultations which group members become aware of during the process.


  • Rachel agreed to continue leading the work on current policies and keep the policy table up to date
  • all group members to forward any relevant information on policies or consultations that they are aware of to Rachel
  • Scottish Government policy official to share framework work with group about counsellors in schools
  • Julie to add information about the duty of care for reality TV and digital manipulation apps
  • Secretariat to enquire about inviting equalities stakeholders to the October meeting
  • Secretariat to contact healthy eating and obesity policy officials to discuss their involvement/potentially to present at the next meeting

14:30 - Break

14:55 – Review risks and protective factors lead by Helen S and Petya

Helen and Petya presented a powerpoint on the existing research evidence around risk factors for poor body image. However, they began by highlighting that most of the evidence is only able to report on associations, rather than causal links between body image and any characteristic.

There are associations between poor body image and gender, age, ethnicity and many other factors. In particular, boys are consistently affected less often than girls, and for both genders the likelihood of having poor body image increases with age. Homosexual men are at a greater risk of being affected by body image issues, whilst homosexual women are less likely. White teenagers have worse body image than black or Asian teenagers in the United Kingdom. 

There was discussion on the evidence around ‘fat shaming’ and the inequality faced by people with higher BMI, which is associated with poorer health and social outcomes e.g. lower wages. The evidence suggests that those who are ‘shamed’ or made to feel bad for their weight are actually more likely to gain further weight than those who are not, and that being overweight/obese is not only about individual choices but has much to do with the wider social environment and poverty. However, the group was keen that their remit should not be focused just on weight but on body image more generally, and that it should steer away from making any statement on losing or gaining weight as this is the role of others e.g. public health.

15:25 – Exploring good practice around capacity building for professionals

The group discussed equality groups and social media influencers, who may provide examples of good practice on engaging the public which the group could learn from. Katie had contacted two influencers who declared an interest in speaking to the group – she will follow this up for the next meeting. The group enquired about bringing equality groups in to speak at the October meeting – this included LGBT Youth Scotland and Face Equality. 

Katie discussed that the co-chairs were keen that the group begins gathering details of potential site visits and starts doing these between meetings. She and Julie have begun the process of finding places and will be in touch with the group about trying to organise dates when people can attend.

Frances mentioned that the RSHP resource discussed earlier was being launched at the Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow on 25th and 26th September. Rachel and Julie expressed interest in attending if possible, with the intention of reporting back to the group. Frances is already planning to attend so can report back if this is not possible. One option for a site visit would be to visit a school that is using these materials, or the wellbeing course which Frances has previously taught as part of the Scottish curriculum.


  • Katie to follow up with influencers
  • Katie and Julie to follow up on potential site visits, and all group members to consider whether they have any potential links for these
  • Leanne to share links for counselling for young people
  • Carolyn to share contact at Face Equality with secretariat
  • Frances to organise tickets for Scottish Learning Festival if possible, and report back to the group at the next meeting if not
  • Secretariat to enquire about contacts presenting to the group
  • Chairs/Secretariat to send out doodle poll to members to arrange external engagement out with regular meetings

15:55 – AOB

It was discussed that it would be helpful to cover public health approaches as part of the next meeting if there is space on the agenda.


  • Secretariat to finalise date for October meeting and prospective dates for future meetings
  • Rachel and Fiona to prepare to discuss public health approaches at next meeting
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