Information and Resources

Butterfly Information and Resources

The Butterfly Foundation would like to welcome you to our Information and Resources page. Here you will find our body image and eating disorders fact sheets, links to current and relevant articles, clips addressing body image and the latest material from the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC).

Butterfly endeavours to help people foster positive body image, strong self-esteem, resilience, media literacy and a healthy attitude towards food and exercise. Most of all, we want people to know that they are enough as they are! Engaging in thought provoking conversation and exploring one’s own opinion and feelings towards certain issue is how we can all gain a better understanding of ourselves and what we value. This in turn can boost self-esteem and body image.

Butterfly Reports

Paying the Price: The economic and social impact of eating disorders in Australia

In 2012 Deloitte Access Economics was commissioned by The Butterfly Foundation to examine the economic and social costs of eating disorders in Australia. This review was supported by an advisory panel of experts in eating disorders, mental health and population health. To download a version of this report, click HERE.

Investing in Need: The economic and social impact of eating disorders in Australia

In 2014, The Butterfly Foundation commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to undertake a cost benefit analysis of treatment for eating disorders in Australia. The report examines the cost-effectiveness of ‘treatment as usual’ versus ‘optimal treatment’ for eating disorders in Australia, using the prevalence trends and costing framework from the 102 Deloitte Report, Paying the Price. To download a version of this report, click HERE.

Fact Sheets

Articles - Changing the Conversation


Changing the Conversation

The information and articles below address a number of issues around body image and eating disorders. We explore topics such as advertising, the media, photo-shopping, parenting tips and the responsibility of mainstream magazines. Butterfly welcomes your comments and discussion around these articles.

  • Diets Don’t Work

Body Dissatisfaction and Dieting

Body image is the number one concern of young people under the age of 25. (1) Body dissatisfaction develops during childhood and typically 40–50% of 6–12 year olds report being unhappy with the way they look (2) By 6 or 7 years of age, girls’ level of awareness of the thin ideal body matches that of girls five or six years their senior. Around 50% of preadolescent boys and girls aged between 8 and 11 desire to be thinner. (3) It is estimated that 19% of adolescent girls and 6% of adolescent boys experience significant distress associated with body dissatisfaction. (4)

Poor body image is significantly linked to dieting and dieting is the major factor in the development of disordered eating, eating disorders and a significant contributing factor in the development of obesity. (5, 6, 7)

There is a substantial body of evidence that demonstrates that ‘dieting and the use of unhealthful weight control behaviours are not effective in weight management’. (16) For example, Stice and colleagues found that girls who dieted in year 9 were more than 3 times more likely to above their most healthy weight than those who had not dieted in year 9. (17)

Dangers of Dieting: Dieting is the commonest path to the development of eating disorders and can lead to weight gain

Field et al found that ‘dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain’ (18) Due to the nature of dieting, dieters often blame themselves when they don’t lose weight and therefore many become frequent dieters (19) George Patton and colleagues found that teenage girls who engage in frequent dieting and unhealthy weight control practices had a 1 in 5 chance of developing a partial or full eating disorder within a twelve month period. (20)

Poor Body Image, Dieting and Mental Health

Early intervention to reduce the onset of negative body image among young people is crucial. (5,8). Poor body image among children and adolescents can have severe health-related implications, including reduced exercise behaviour (9), unhealthy eating behaviours, (10) mental health problems such as depression (11) and high risk taking behaviours. (5,12) Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. (3, 7)

The development of clinical eating disorders among children has also increased with hospitalizations for children younger than 12 years increasing by 119% from 1999 to 2006. (12) Furthermore, 95% of those who have an eating disorder are between the ages of 12 and 25. (13) Around 1-3% of the adolescent population has an eating disorder while around 15% have subclinical eating disorders. (6) 95% of those who have an eating disorder are between the ages of 12 and 25. (13)

 Eating disorders and the development of obesity have a number of shared risk factors, some of which include; dieting, weight-related teasing and body image dissatisfaction. (6) Around 15-17% of young people aged between 6-19 years are above their most healthy weight. (12, 7) with the prevalence of obesity increasing over the past few decades (6, 14, 7) Many researchers in the area of the prevention of weight related disorders are now advocating for an integrated prevention approach that includes eating disorders and obesity. (5, 7, 14, 16)


(1)       Mission Australia, (2010) National Survey of Young Australians
(2)       Smolak L. (2011) Body image development in children. In T. Cash & L Smolak (Eds), Body Image: A handbook of science, practice and prevention (pp. 67-75)
(3)       Evans EL, Tovee MJ, Boothroyd LG & Drewett RF. Body dissatisfaction and eating attitudes in 7-to 11-year-old girls: Testing a sociocultural model. Body Image, 2013. 10 (1), 8-15
(4)       Cash TF. ‘The situational inventory of body-image dysphoria: Psychometric evidence and development of a short form.’ International Journal of Eating Disorders, 2002. 32, 362-366
(5)       Neumark-Sztainer D, Levine M, Paxton S, Smolak L, Piran N, Wertheim E. ‘Prevention of Body Image Dissatisfaction & Disordered Eating: What Next?’ Eating Disorders, 2006. 14: 4, 265-285.
(6)       Haines J, & Neumark-Sztainer D. ‘Prevention of obesity and eating disorders: a consideration of shared risk factors’. Health Education Research, 2006. 21: 6, 770-782.
(7)       Sim L, Lebow J & Billings M. ‘Eating Disorders in Adolescents With a History of Obesity’ Pediatrics, 2013. 132:4.
(8)       Crow SJ, Peterson CB, Swanson SA, Raymond NC, Specker S, Eckert ED & Mitchell JE. ‘Increased mortality in bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders.’ American Journal of Psychiatry, 2009. 166, 1342-1346.
(9)       Tremblay L & Lariviere M. ‘The influences of puberty onset, body mass index, and pressure to be thin on disordered eating behaviours in children and adolescents.’ Journal of Eating Behaviour, 2009. 10,75-83
(10)    Xie B, Unger JB, Gallaher B, Anderson Johnson C, Wu Q, & Chu C-P. Overweight, body image and depression in Asian and Hispanic adolescents. American Journal of Health Behaviours, 2010. 34, 476-488.
(11)    Paxton S, . ‘Body image dissatisfaction, extreme weight loss behaviours: Suitable targets for public health concerns?’. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 2000, 10, 15-19
(12)    Hayes S & Tantleff-Dunn S. ‘Am I too fat to be a princess? Examining the effects of popular children’s media on young girls’ body image.’ British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 2010, 28, 418-426.
(13)    Funari M, ‘Detecting Symptoms, Early Intervention and Prevention Education. Eating Disorders & The School-Age Child’ NASN School Nurse, February 2013.
(14)    Darby A, Hay P, Mond J, Quirk F, Buttner P & Kennedy L . ‘The Rising Prevalence of Comorbid Obesity and Eating Disorder Behaviors from 1995 to 2005’ International Journal of EatingDisorders, 2009, 42:2 104-108.
(15)    Neumark-Sztainer, D (2005) ‘I’m, like, SO fat!’ New York: Guilford Press
(16)    Neumark-Sztainer, D, ‘Preventing the Board Spectrum of Weight-Related problems: Working with Parents to Help Teens Achieve a Healthy Weight and a Positive Body Image’. Journal of Nutrition Education & Behaviour, 2005; 37, S133-S139
(17)    Stice E, Cameron R.P, Killen JD, Hayward C, Taylor CB, (1999) Naturalistic weight-reduction efforts prospectively predict growth in relative weight and onset of obesity among female adolescents. Journal Consult. Clinical Psychology. 67; 967-974
(18)    Field A, ‘Relation between dieting and weight change among preadolescents and adolescents’. Pediatrics, 2003, 112; 4 . Page 900-906.
(19)    Paxton S et al, Weight loss strategies and beliefs in high and low socioeconomic areas in Melbourne, Australian Journal of Public Health. 1994, Vol 18. 412-427
(20)    Patton GC et al, Onset of Adolescent Eating Disorders: population based cohort study over 3-years. BMJ, 1999; 318: 765-768

  • Body Image & Parental Influence

Neumark-Sztainer, D. Preventing the Broad Spectrum of Weight Related problems: Working with Parents to Help Teens Achieve a Healthy Weight & a Positive Body Image. Journal of Nutrition Education & Behaviour, 2005;37, No 2.

This article by Dianne Neumark-Stzainer discusses the ‘web of socio cultural influences’ on healthy choices, and in particular, body image, and the role that whole communities and families play within that web in promoting positive body image and healthy behaviours. She argues that our ‘society makes it far too easy to have unhealthy weight and negative body image’ and while we all need to take responsibility for the prevention of weight related issues we need to support families to role model positive behaviours and filter negative messages. The merits of an integrated prevention approach for all weight related issues including eating disorders and obesity is also discussed.

The discussion in this article is based on data from Project EAT, a large epidemiological study with a goal to identify sociocultural, personal and behavioural factors related to weight concerns and eating behaviour in adolescents. Findings from past research and Project EAT make three key points clear:

  • Weight related problems can co-occur and individuals can cross over from one problem to another.
  • Mild problems and low-level unhealthy behaviours can lead to more severe problems and more detrimental behaviours.
  • Behaviours such as extreme dieting, perceived in some circles to be answers to the problem, are not solving issues such as obesity. In fact, these so-called solutions can exacerbate or lead to other problems.

The articles goes on to discuss the fact that extreme dieting does not work, in fact it is now well documented that people who practice extreme dieting often end up weighing more. The author looks at the vast number of interconnected sociocultural influences on weight and body image and argues for supportive communities that encourage families and young people to make healthier choices.

Change can be difficult, so parents are encouraged to take small, manageable steps. Some of the questions that parents (and other key community members such as teachers) can ask themselves;

  • “What can I do to model more healthy eating and physical activity and take the emphasis off weight issues?”
  • “What can I do to make my home environment one in which it is easier for my children to make healthy food choices and be physically active?”
  • “What can I do to help my children focus less on weight and more on healthy eating and physical activity?”
  • “What can we do to enhance communication about weight-related topics and general adolescent concerns within our home.”
  • Is Fat Talking a Risk Factor for Body Dissatisfaction?

In the mid 1990’s, ‘fat talking’ was introduced as a sociocultural contributor to body dissatisfaction. Body dissatisfaction is becoming a significant public health concern due to its role in the development of eating disorders and association with ‘low mood, low self-esteem, over and under exercising, obesity and unhealthy weight control behaviours such as smoking.’
A study conducted by Sharpe, H, Naumann, U, Treasure, J, Schmidt, U. called “Is Fat Talking a Causal Risk Factor for Body Dissatisfaction? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” reviewed and analysed the results of 24 studies to determine whether fat talk is a causal risk factor for body dissatisfaction.
While further studies have been recommended, this review did reveal a ‘significant positive relationship between fat talking and body dissatisfaction in adolescents and adults.’

Sharpe, H, Naumann, U, Treasure, J, Schmidt, U. Is Fat Talking a Causal Risk Factor for Body Dissatisfaction? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders 2013, 46: 643-652

  • Fat Prejudice Amongst Young Children

There is an unjustified fear of fat in society today and a hysteria surrounding obesity. Sadly children are picking up on this message before they are cognitively developed to actually process it. If we want young people to grow into happy young adults, with a good self esteem, body image and self respect, we need to fight this prejudice and teach them to challenge it. Diversity is a beautiful thing and we need to teach children to treasure it. This article is shocking and sad but acts as a reminder that we need to keep on fighting and really work to celebrate diversity with young people. Try telling young people that they each make up a piece of the puzzle that holds the world together. Or that before they were born, no one like them existed and when they leave this planet they will never be replaced. Diversity is to be celebrated.

Click HERE for the related article.
Huffington Post, 15th May 2013

  • Mid-life eating disorders

When you hear the mention of an eating disorder chances are you picture a young woman; either Anorexic or Bulimic. However, eating disorders affect an increasing number of men and women in their 30’s and 40’s and it’s not always a case of losing weight. Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is increasingly diagnosed in this age group and among men. We need to be more aware that eating disorders are not a female disease in order to provide treatment and support to every person struggling with this illness.

Click HERE for the related article.

  •  Anorexia Images – Who Needs Them?

Eating disorders are a mental illness – they are so much more than the physical. So why do people always want to show emaciated images? Some want the shock value, others are simply innocently ignorant to the dangers of particular images. Unaware that they can be triggering, that they can unleash the competitive side of an eating disorder and that they can stir up significant emotional responses. Eating disorders are far more complex than someone’s weight, and there are many living with an eating disorder who’s weight is not in an unhealthy range. This article clearly explains the dangers and the misconceptions that anorexic images can provoke.

Click HERE for the related article.
Huffington Post, 9th July 2013

  •  “Fitspiration”

The danger of “Fitspiration” is unclear to some. “What’s wrong with motivating me to get fit? These images inspire me to be “healthy””, I hear you say. If we take the WHO definition of health as our complete social, physical and mental well-being, is “Fitspiration” really “inspiring” us to be “healthy”? Or are they “inspiring” us to value ourselves based on what we look like? Are they “inspiring” us to judge other people’s bodies? “Inspiring” us to push through physical and mental barriers just to get a toned stomach?

There is so much about “Fitspiration” that is wrong and dangerous. I’m sure you have heard of the dangers of “thinspiration” – an online world perpetuating eating disorders. Well, “fitspo may be thinspo in a sports bra”. Fitspo supports an idea that women are no more than the physical body. Fitspo objectifies the female body, encouraging us to judge and compare. This objectification leads to serious body shame, self esteem issues, habitual body monitoring and eating disorders.

Lastly fitspo encourages people to believe that they can be the master of their own body – that with hard work and commitment you can get whatever body you like. THIS IS A LIE! The body we have has been pre biologically determined. Genetics have decided our natural height, shape, weight. To think we can master control of our body is to show our body complete lack of respect. And to show ourselves this lack of respect is only going to worsen our body image and our self esteem. We must remember that EVERY BODY IS DIFFERENT. Diversity should be celebrated. Health comes in all shapes and sizes and is determined by our complete social, physical and mental well-being.

Click HERE for the related article.

  • The Thigh Gap

Just another thing the media and celebrities have decided is the latest trend … or the latest way to objectify women whilst preying on their self esteem and body image. Once it was boobs, then booty and now this. This article reminds us that there is always going to be another “thing” that the media has decided will determine our “hotness” and “worth” and that to chase this is to waste our time and energy, not to mention shows ourselves lack of respect. Just as chasing beauty ideals is unobtainable and will leave us feeling worse off than before we started, so is chasing this trend – because there will always be another one around the corner! Let’s work on showing our selves self respect and loving and accepting our body’s shape for what it naturally is.

Click HERE for the related article.

  • Passing on Body Hatred

This is a touching article about what we can learn from our mothers … for good and for bad!
Click HERE for the related article.

  • Boys Wanting to Be Men

Some boys seem to be think it’s “OK”, “normal” and “common” to be chugging back protein shakes and supplements. Sadly some boy’s think it’s “healthy” that they workout, rain hail or shine, even when sick. Unfortunately they too think it’s “healthy” focusing solely on legs, or arms or abs. Are they going to the gym for their overall health and well-being or simply to look lean, ripped and muscular? The use of protein shakes and supplements has become common throughout many boys schools and particularly amongst the school sportsmen. These shakes when overused can be dangerous, damaging kidneys, livers and hormones. And the long term consequences are yet to be known. Unfortunately they are overused and abused as many are not fully informed about proper use.

If you can’t ban protein shakes from your schools, try and engage the students in a discussion about it. Why are they taking them? Do they know when to use them? Do they think it’s good for their body? And of course reminding them that their worth and “manliness” is not determined by how big, lean, ripped or muscly they are.

Click HERE for the related article.
Pumped:Boys who can’t wait to be men, SMH 18th May 2013

  • You’re Not Pretty Enough or Ugly Enough to Talk Body Image. Do It Anyway.

Think you will never be “pretty enough or thin enough or ugly enough or fat enough to be a credible spokesperson for positive body image and media literacy?” Do it anyway! This article written by two sisters, Lexie and Lindsay Kite, the creators of Beauty Redefined, are leading the way in the US with positive body image, fighting against the sexualisation of girls, and telling everyone, including the 2013 Superbowl audience, that women are much more capable than “looking hot”. Beauty Redefined is forever showing people that their “ideas of ‘ugly’ and ‘beautiful’ are distorted by profit driven messages that are holding us back from health and happiness”.

Click HERE for the related article.
Beauty Redefined Blog, 10th May, 2012

  • “Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model!”

This fantastic TED talk by Victoria Secret’s Model Cameron Russel, discusses the power of image and how even though we know it’s superficial and unreal, we are still fixated by it. This is a real eye opening clip and young students are absolutely shocked by it. This clip sends home the message that body image is a FEELING and has nothing to do with what you look like – even if you do look like a beauty ideal, even if you are a Victoria Secrets model!

Click HERE to view the clip on “The Power of Image.”
Cameron Russel: “Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.” Filmed Oct 2012

  • What We Can Learn from Children

What do babies do when they are hungry? Cry! What do toddlers do when they are full? Throw their food away. Young children, or anyone (lucky enough!!) to have not yet been affected by social, environmental, external (media!!) influences around food, eat when they are hungry and stop when they are satisfied. They are in tune with their body. They listen to their hunger cues. They have a level of physical awareness that they respond to. Sadly this physical and bodily awareness gives way to other areas attracting our attention as children grow up.

We need to learn from the younger ones! The below article stresses that we need to un-learn everything we have learnt about eating and get back to the basics of eating when hungry and stopping when satisfied. We need to realise why we are eating… is it hunger, stress, boredom, thirst? Once we regain this awareness and mindfulness we will begin to eat everyday foods everyday, and sometimes food only sometimes. If we take away the guilt and fear and just listen to our body, we will find ourselves naturally eating (and wanting) “everyday” foods everyday, and only eating “sometimes” foods, sometimes. Our body only needs and wants sometimes foods, sometimes. Let it tell us when.

Click HERE for the full article.

  • The Ultimate Ad

The media makes us promises that they can’t keep. With every image, every product we are sold, we are promised something. We are promised more confidence, sex, to have better body image, even love! We need to become media savvy. We need to learn to take products and advertisements at face value. Advertisements work by praying on our vulnerability, by creating a chasm between the life we are living and the life in the ads, and by promising us that that product will fill that void.

Click HERE to view the ad.

  • Retouching!

Photo-shopping and retouching is not just as simple as smoothing out pores and bringing a waist line in, enlarging breasts and enhancing muscles. It’s not just distorting the image. Its distorting viewers’ perception of what is normal. It distorts our perceptions of what is healthy, beautiful and attainable. Photo-shopped images confuse our understanding of what people really look like. We are bombarded with an overwhelming amount of images where none of them are realistic. As such, we gain a new understanding of normal and some of us pursue this at all costs. We will ultimately fail if we try to look like those in the images – as it is unobtainable!

Here are plenty of images showing just how much retouching happens. Please share!

  • Parental Pressures

How do we protect our child from getting a little porky? We don’t want him or her to get teased!! Firstly, if we have that thought, then we are already judging people based on what they look like. We are already reducing the words, thoughts and ideas that come from that person to nothing more than a bunch of physical parts. If we think this, our child will too. Secondly, children are going through growth spurts and puberty and lumps and bumps are coming at different times in different places. If we just trust the body, leave it alone and treat it with love and respect, our child’s body will find its equilibrium, its perfect place, which is different for everybody! The body knows what it’s doing!! And finally, if we want our child to have healthy eating habits, we need to treat them with love and respect so they treat themselves with love and respect and in turn develop healthy attitudes towards food and exercise.

Click HERE to read the related article.
Feeling Bullied by Parents about Weight, NY Times, 9th January 2013