Dame Kelly Holmes has told how sport can empower girls and stop them obsessing about how 'skinny or fat' they are.
The double Olympic gold medal winner said watching competitive sport could also encourage girls to have a healthier attitude to their bodies.
Speaking at the Women of the Future Awards 2013, she added: "The Olympics showed girls that you can be whatever type of woman you'd like to be and still have sport as an outlet.
"They also showed how sport should be used as a health and fitness tool, and that's inspired young females to think differently about their appearance rather than how skinny or fat they are."
The retired runner said: "We try to help disadvantaged young kids back into education, employment or some form of training, and using sportspeople allows us to bring a fitness and health element to it.
"The people we see who come from poor backgrounds don't do a lot of sport, and often experience deteriorating health, which causes them to lose their confidence and self-esteem.
"Introducing them to sports people who have been there, and who are from different backgrounds and upbringings, really helps the kids."
Dame Kelly, who was BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2004, said she had seen how 'bringing sport to young people empowers them'.
She won gold in the 800m and 1500m at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and still holds several British records.