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Changing our attitude towards body image

Liza Liew spent her placement year researching the perception of body image in young children.

Research assistantship

Together with a team of researchers at the UWE Bristol Business School, BSc (Hons) Psychology student Liza Liew explored the relationship between physical activity and body appreciation in children, looking at how much and what type of physical activity can improve children’s positive body image.

Through her research and self-awareness, Liza became a passionate advocate for body positivity and developing individual’s body appreciation through regular exercise.

Everyone has a story

'Like most other people, I remember having my body scrutinised on a regular basis. When I was younger and used to compete at international fencing competitions, I was the muscular one. Then puberty and college stress hit me with acne and weight change, and people suddenly found different names to describe my appearance.

'The way we perceive our bodies has been deeply ingrained in our way of thinking. Throughout history, art and more recently due to media pressure, people have been used to describing themselves and each other by what they looked like rather than how they behaved or what they achieved.

'Because of this, instead of being proud of my achievements as a fencer, I was too preoccupied with whether the acne will go away or how my legs looked in a dress.

'Now I hope that my research will help break this vicious cycle of appearance scrutiny, encourage children to have a more positive outlook on their bodies as well as be more mindful of other important traits they have.'

The real impact of research

'Throughout the process, we have collaborated with a pilot school in Derbyshire, where we collected stories from the students, teachers, parents and council members about what they value in physical activity.

'We then analysed the stories by value (such as improved wellbeing, health and learning achievements), and created an action plan on how to improve physical activity in the schools, which the school decided to take on board.

'I am also really proud of being able to do real research in the social science world and working with other academics – we’ve submitted abstracts of our work to an international conference in October and got accepted!'

Moving forward as a society

'The more research into body image I did, the more I realised how impactful children’s perception of body image can be for their future life and wellbeing. Children also tend to pick up on views and behaviours of adults around them, so to move forward as a society, it is important to be accepting towards bodies of all shapes and abilities, and be more appreciative of people’s character and achievements.

'I hope the research can have a wider impact on policy makers, schools, parents and society. Also, I definitely want to pursue my research into body image and physical activity further, and possibly apply for a PhD.'

‘Let's start having real conversations. Tell someone you admire their work, rather than comment on how they look on the outside.’
Liza Liew BSc (Hons) Psychology (2018)

Read more about Liza's placement journey

Liza's blog

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