DEAR PARENTS: POSITIVE BODY IMAGE BEGINS AT HOME
Are you one of the few women on earth (or maybe even the only woman) who can look at her reflection in the mirror and love everything you see? Unfortunately, this is an extremely rare occurrence. About 91% of women are less than satisfied with their body and resort to dieting, often unhealthily, to try to obtain the image of the body shape that society displays in movies, on the runway and now on social media. Most models weigh an average of 25% less than the average woman. Twenty-five years ago, this difference was around 8%.
As an Integrative Nutritionist, I’m no stranger to helping women battle through weight loss struggles, poor body image, food addictions and the life long battle with yo-yo dieting. However, if you asked any one of our three children to define the word, diet, each would say something about healthy eating. As parents, my husband and I are responsible in guiding and teaching our children to love and respect their bodies, to feed their bodies healthy foods and to learn the power of healthy thoughts. We want our children to have the energy to be strong and fast, to have the wisdom to be non-judgmental and to remember to be inclusive rather than exclusive of all people. Beauty is about feeling comfortable in your own skin. This responsibility is no easy feat when children are constantly bombarded with body image judgments, but as parents, we must be the role models for our children.
Below, I have five tips to support parents as we navigate teaching our children to love their bodies and to love one another:
1. Teach Children To Respect Their Bodies
Teach your children that his/her body is unique, special, strong and created just for him/her to be present in the world. Talk to your child about what messages the body may be conveying. Discuss other messages the body may relate and how important it is to listen carefully as the body is incredibly intelligent. At home, demonstrate that we honor our body by feeding it healthy foods and exercising to help keep it active and strong. If parents model a healthy lifestyle, stock the home with healthy foods, provide opportunities for family time and generate positive praise, then it trickles down to their children.
2. Redefine Beauty
Teach your children that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. We all come in different shapes, sizes and colors and beauty is to be found in all, if we use not only our eyes and but also our hearts to see. Help your children discover beauty in nature, in kind words spoken, in small deeds done for one another, in talents and hobbies. Most importantly take time to recognize the beauty in each one of your children. Take time to really listen to your child. If your child speaks the negative, ask him/her to look again and find the positive/beauty. Beautiful words we all love to hear… “I think you’re fantastic! You did great! You make life fun! You make me smile! My day isn’t complete without a hug from you! I admire your hard work! Thank you!”
Children need the security and comfort in knowing that they are always beautiful in the eyes of the parent…unconditional love - even when their behavior may need coaching.
3. Care Less About Looking Good and More About Doing Your Best!
Don’t put too much emphasis on how your child is dressed for the day or how their hair is styled. Instead, get excited about the activities they get to partake in during the day, what you spy on the way to school and the songs you sing together. “Did you get to try the jungle gym bars today? How fun was it to race around that track? You were so fast! You’re an amazing tree climber – you’re so strong! I love to hear you sing! Wow, what a great piece of art!”
4. Children Don't Need Help Developing A Negative Body Image
Parents, it’s beyond important to be diligent when it comes to detecting the negative messages your children are bombarded with from advertisements, peers and the media. Emphasize that building a strong and loving relationship with his/her body and one another is so important. Feeding it healthy foods and positive thoughts and moving it as much as possible are most vital. Talk to your kids about how negativity makes them feel. If you say something negative or hear your child say something negative, let’s help one another find the good and be less judgmental. Negative messages are all around. Let’s all work together to make our homes and the world a more positive place to live.
5. It Starts At Home. It Starts With YOU!
Make a commitment to respect, love and honor your body in the same way that you hope your children will with their own bodies. If your children constantly hear you complain that you look and feel fat, are on a diet, look old - how do you expect them to think/talk differently about their own growing beautiful bodies? Feed yourself the foods and thoughts that make you feel your very best and teach your children to think positively and to choose healthy foods - foods that provide the energy to be his/her beautiful self! Be a role model. Love your strong, capable and glorious body and love your children!
Parenting Reminder: Be the change you want to see in your children. Teach love of self and others. Feed your children healthy foods. Exercise. Listen.