Should Body Confidence Be On The National Curriculum? Jameela Jamil And Dove Experts Say Yes

Calls have been made for body confidence to be taught in schools as nearly half of young girls opt out of exercise because they don't like the way they look.

A roundtable discussion organised by Dove as part of the company's body confidence week saw Jameela Jamil and industry experts publicly call for the issue to be included on the national curriculum.

L-R: Lucy Attley, Dove UK brand director; Mumsnet founder Carrie Longton; Dr Phillippa Diedrichs; Jameela Jamil; body confidence campaigner Natasha Devon; PSHE expert Pooky Knightsmith.

"You can't measure your self worth on a weighing scale," presenter and DJ Jamil said. "I don't know any single friend who has a healthy relationship with their bodies. Not one can take a compliment."

Jamil held up social media and the fashion industry as partly to blame for the epidemic, where 73% of adults agree the UK is suffering from a body confidence crisis, and seven in 10 (71%) agree children in particular are under unbearable pressure about the way they look.

Body confidence campaigner Natasha Devon said teenagers fail to understand "no-one is perfect", as magazines and advertisers portray females with airbrushed figures.

Devon insisted it is the role of schools to instill in students a healthy attitude towards their bodies, saying a whole school approach is needed to create a "high moral environment".

The attitude of schools was criticised by other members of the panel, including Dove UK's brand director Lucy Attley.

"I don’t think anyone can deny what impact school has on children’s upbringing, it’s massive," she said. "Schools have a responsibility to open children's eyes up to what is real and what is not.

"We are in the midst of a body confidence epidemic where children don't even feel they put their hands up at school.

"It is a big issue that transcends generations and one we want to address."

Jamil added: "At school we did an exercise where we weighed each other to work out our BMI. At the end of the next year one girl was eating on a weighing scale to make sure she didn't gain weight. Its like the wild west out there. It's so much easier to scar emotionally when you're that young.

"A GP surgery feels like a practical place to have a weight check; a school is an insane place to bring weight issues into. It is tremendously inappropriate to weigh a child at school."

Devon also urged gyms to take a portion of the responsibility.

"We have to raise the age to join a gym to 18. You go into a Year 9 class and every male belongs to a gym. They find this community of people and they are sold to them and they are taking protein shakes and steroids and develop an unhealthy obsession with this unrealistic physique."

It was a common consensus whatever the method, youths had to be taught about body confidence and the surrounding issues.

"We have to educate them about the media, airbrushing, eating disorders," Jamil concluded. "We have to teach them that this is just in the West. Where I am from being thin it is a sign of being poor.

"Young people need to learn we are supposed to look different and this uniform look is created by advertising and gyms and companies to sell a product."