Good afternoon! Today we’re going to talk about body image positivity. It’s such an important subject to get our heads around as parents and mentors to kids. A lot of us have been fed a view on our bodies that just isn’t as helpful as it could be. So let’s reset our expectations and help our kids grow up strong and healthy.
#1: Understand that Healthy Bodies Come in Many Shapes and Sizes
You and your kidz’ healthy body image starts with understanding what’s healthy. First, there are many looks that are “healthy”. Not everyone looks the same, and that’s okay. While we don’t need to celebrate unhealthy habits, we do need to celebrate feeling good and doing the right things, no matter how we look. No matter where we are, this is a starting place to improve. And maybe there is no improvement needed! We’re bombarded with what we’re told is ideal, but sometimes our society’s ideals are simply unrealistic. And sometimes those ideals aren’t even healthy! What looks healthy on one body may or not be healthy on another.
When a child – or an adult – develops a negative body image, it’s often a downward spiral that’s not helpful for anybody. So let’s celebrate what we can do: that we have the power to improve our health no matter where we start.
Be a Role Model for Your Child’s Self-Image & Body Image Positivity
The first thing we need to do as adults is speak about ourselves and others in a way that celebrates what’s good. We have to have a good idea of our own relationship with our body image so we can project that healthy positivity for our kids to soak up and learn from. Our children are learning and absorbing so much from our behavior and that of the people we talk to. Social media, of course, doesn’t help often when it comes to promoting a healthy and happy body image.
Try to avoid speaking negatively of others’ bodies. Our kids are subjected to so much detrimental talk and media that just doesn’t help! It’s difficult to change our habits, but it’s important for our kids that we do so.
Adjust Our Attitudes to Physical Activity
Rather than thinking about exercise as the way to lose weight, let’s look at a healthy amount of physical activity as a way to unlock our potential to do more and feel better. Of course, if you have athletes in your family, exercise and fitness are part of achieving better results on the field. But healthy physical activity also crucially includes stretching and sufficient rest. Turning exercise into a chore can be quite detrimental to our attitudes to physical activity and our body image when we don’t feel we’re doing enough. Looking to exercise only as a way of losing weight isn’t helpful either, as we understand that a healthy body requires a much more complicated metric of eating right, a sufficient amount but not too much, and resting and hydrating properly. Physical activity is important for that, especially in kids who should get a lot more as their bodies grow up healthy and strong. But it’s not the only factor. Having a positive, healthy body image requires a healthy relationship with physical activities.
Nurture a Healthy Relationship with Food
Rather thinking of food as good and bad, it’s helpful to think of food as fuel that can help us feel better when we consume nutritious foods in healthy and appropriate quantities. It’s so easy to think you’re hungry when you’re not! Particularly when you’re a kid growing up and you’re not clear on what different signals from your body mean. Eating too much of any food, even nutritious foods, can lead to poorer overall health. Eating too much unhealthy food leads to feeling tired and not feeling good, both physically and mentally. Eating too much unhealthy food can promote a negative body image even when a body is healthy and in great condition! Slipping once in a while, while not ideal, isn’t the end of the world. Our bodies are resilient so long as we honor and respect them. Focus on feeling good – not just in the moment, but also in the longer term. Rather than looking at “bad food” as a reward or “good food” as punishment, focus on overall health and feeling better and being capable of doing more. Good food and bad food can be a body’s reward and part of nourishing a healthy body and body image. Good hydration and healthy foods help us feel better, think more clearly, and accomplish more of what we want.
Celebrate Your Kidz’ Many Positives!
Television, films and social media barrage our children with theoretical ideals that are often impossible – or at least extremely difficult – to achieve. Rather than allowing the focus to be on all things visual, let’s work together to control the things we can control and celebrate the many positives. Is your child kind and caring? Are they empathetic? Do they work hard to achieve something? In school or outside of school? Help them focus on the positives and celebrate on those good things they can control, while nurturing them where they need mentorship.
In the end, working on your own relationship with your own body and body image will help both you and your children feel better and be happier. So let’s all work on doing what we can to celebrate what’s good!