TORONTO - Girl Guides of Canada is introducing a Love Yourself Challenge badge, which can be earned by girls aged five to 18 who complete three tasks that promote self-esteem and a positive body image.
''The whole idea is take away the negative body images and turn them into positives,'' says Myrtle Corkum, the organization's chief commissioner and a member for 50 years.
The girls-only organization, which among many activities promotes sports, camping and science, has about 80,000 members throughout Canada.
The new green and purple badge, which is being introduced next month, is the result of a partnership with NEDIC, the National Eating Disorder Information Centre.
Eating disorders are the third most chronic illness in adolescent females, but children affected are getting ''younger and younger,'' says Merryl Bear, program director for NEDIC. Symptoms can occur in girls as young as five, she said.
Sparks, who are aged five and six, will earn the badge by completing exercises such as Awesome Alien, a craft that will reinforce the idea that it's cool to be different.
Teenage Girl Guides will be asked to share their opinions by writing a letter to a newspaper or creating a flyer to promote a positive body image.
Eating disorders aren't about vanity, Bear said.
''They're about self-esteem and a desperate struggle to take control of a world, and self, that seems out of control and chaotic,'' she said.
Research indicates that building self-esteem and a positive body image in girls at a young age ''enables them to make healthier choices. And it does limit the impact of negative messages around food and weight.''