Australia’s first body image program for primary schools aims to help children gain self-confidence


Maddy Tyers wishes positive body image was taught when she was in elementary school.

“My journey with an eating disorder started quite young – I was scared, I was eight years old when my kind of toxic behaviors regarding food, diet and exercise in general started to kick in,” she declared.

The 31-year-old has spent much of her adulthood battling the mental illness that set in during her formative years.

“It wasn’t until I was 15 that I was medically diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and was hospitalized. So there was quite a long time, from eight to 15. years, where these kinds of habits slowly took hold, ”she said.

“Having so many years for them to somehow solidify makes the recovery process so difficult and I often wonder now, at age 31, what could have happened if I had somehow choked this in the ‘egg earlier. “

Maddy takes comfort in being able to help the next generation.

As a survivor, her lived experience helped inform a positive body image program that will be available in all Australian schools later today.

“It’s going to do such a fantastic thing for our younger generation, to infuse those messages early on and hopefully raise a generation with, I think, a little more self-confidence, a little more self-esteem and a little bit. more self-possession – so that’s hope anyway, she laughs.

The resources are designed to teach children a healthy body image and promote self-confidence.(

Provided: The Butterfly Foundation


The Butterfly Body Bright program is designed by the Butterfly Foundation, a charity for those affected by eating disorders, and uses positive psychology to help children be happy with their bodies and stay active.

Students will learn about risks and protective factors under six headings: Courageous, Resilient, Inclusive, Grateful, Happy, and Thoughtful.

It also aims to develop self-esteem and acceptance, as well as equip children with tools to speak out against bullying and improve media literacy so that they can be aware of unhealthy body stereotypes in the classroom. publicity.

Butterfly’s national education director Danni Rowlands said the program is age-appropriate and therefore won’t address eating disorders like anorexia. But it will have resources for teachers and parents to identify the warning signs.

Danni Rowlands smiling for the camera in front of a green leafy bush.
Danni Rowlands hopes that over time the program will be used in all Australian schools.(

Provided: The Butterfly Foundation


“What we know from research, and also anecdotally, is that more and more children are struggling with body image and the way they feel about their bodies, and this can also affect many aspects of their life, ”she said.

Butterfly Body Bright has been mapped to each state’s current physical education and health programs.

“What we really hope over time is that this will be the curriculum that is in all Australian primary schools, across the country, so that all Australian children can feel bright and positive in their bodies,” Ms Rowlands said. .

In addition to being shaped by the experiences of eating disorder survivors, the program was designed with educators and experts.

NSW Elementary School teacher Lea-Ann Marinos is one of the educators who have reviewed and commented on Butterfly Body Bright.

“I think it’s an incredible resource,” she said.

“I think Australia is very fortunate to have such amazing people who have put so much time and effort into creating this type of content that will be available to schools.”

Lea-Ann Marinos standing in the corner of a railing in front of a pond and a green park.
Elementary school teacher Lea-Ann Marinos says the resources use a lot of positive psychology.(

Provided: Lee-Ann Marinos


Ms Marinos has been teaching body image for a decade and said the program will target all students, regardless of gender.

“It’s definitely something that unfortunately starts at an increasingly younger age,” she said.

“Body image is something each of us has, it’s not exclusively girls or a particular age group, we all have it and where we stand on the healthy to unhealthy scale will obviously vary. from one person to another.”

Ms Marinos said the program’s focus on instilling positivity and strength was important.

“It uses a lot of positive psychology and I just feel like the kids I’m dealing with right now have a lot of knowledge on their heads,” she said.

“They can tell you what body image is, but we don’t see that translating into behavior change.

“So I think it has to go from head to heart.”

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