Friday, April 21, 2006

10 Tips to Help Improve your Child’s Body Image:

The next time you’re in line at the market, grab a glance of the dozens of gossip mags or flip on television show and you’ll have proof positive our children are inundated with unhealthy, unrealistic Hollywood images of what a body should look like. Here’s another way of looking at it, you probably know hundreds of people. In my 18 years of experience in health and fitness, I have personally trained thousands of fitness professionals. Of all those people, I would venture to say I have never met someone as thin as Mary-Kate Olsen, Lindsey Lohan, Kelly Rippa, Nicole Ritchie, Terry Hatcher, the list goes on. Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but even this salon blonde can draw some reasonable conclusions. It’s obvious that what Hollywood considers appropriate is far from a healthy weight. It’s interesting that Lindsey Lohan rarely graced the covers until she was but the mere skeletal remains of what was once a curvy sexy young woman. I don’t blame the starlettes. I know that if I were to gain 15 pounds, I’d have a tough time selling videos. It’s tough.

We live in an image conscious world. When young women succumb to grips of it, the result is often a combination of anorexia, bulimia, diet pills and depression. Yet like a fatal car crash, we careen our necks to grab a glance. We declare our disgust; yet want to see more photos. Public demand drives the media, which rewards these women, sometimes girls with more work and more publicity.

The message we are sending our children, and especially our girls is that to be rich, famous, perfect and beautiful, your body must have an emaciated quality. Sadly, protruding ribs and hips, shoulder blades that appear as though they could tear through the thinnest of upper back skin seem to be the hottest trend in fashion.
We are all subject to constant inundation of Hollywood’s standard of beauty. Let’s face it… thin, young and beautiful is just looks better on camera. (Dang it!)

It’s not news to you. Everyone agrees that pop culture has a tremendous effect on the way our young view or in many cases loath their bodies. Even well grounded sound minded adults find themselves comparing themselves to Hollywood standards. This we know. But I can’t help but wonder what we should be doing as parents to help minimize the affect?

My full time job is helping people get fit and lose weight. Yet, I’m fully aware of the sensitivity young children and especially girls have to body image and the quest to be thinner than the next girl. Early on, Bret and I set some early ground rules. I hope these suggestions help you.

1. Never disparage your own physique in their presence. (We all have body parts to complain about, but do it in the privacy of your own bathroom!)
2. In the presence of kids avoid negative words to describe someone, like “fat”, “huge”, “chubby”, “Lazy”.
3. Occasionally compliment your kids muscles, energy, strength, or healthy glow. Avoid comments about weight or negative reference, even of a joking nature with regard to their body.
4. Don’t allow the word “fat” to be used in your household unless you’re describing a paycheck. It’s easy. In fact, I remember my son, not sure what word to use, asking me, “What do we call someone who has a big, big, big, big body?” My reply, “Someone who needs to try Turbo Jam.”
5. Try a little spin control. Make a point to comment on how “unhealthy” or “weak” stars look when their appearance is obviously under weight, malnourished and skeletal. Conversely praise those who exercise, eat right and maintain a healthy appearance and have nice muscle tone.
6. Talk about foods that make you “energized and strong” and never declare you’re on a diet. Instead, announce you’ve decided to stick to a healthy diet, which means moderation, not deprivation.
7. Make healthy eating and fitness central in your life, but declare nothing “off limits”. All foods are fine, in moderation. When my kids want chocolate or ice cream or even french fries, I make a point of telling them it’s fine because they were so active that day. If they want more than their share I remind them that it may make them feel slow, sluggish and cranky.
8. When your children make a healthy food choice on their own, praise them and reinforce their choice by
9. When asked why don’t you want a particular food in the house, avoid condemnation, like “because I don’t want to get fat.” Instead try, “Because it slows me down” or “I just prefer food that helps me feel healthy”
10. Children often confuse boredom with hunger. When your child declares, “I want something to eat,” and you’re hunch is dull drums, get in the habit of offering an activity instead of a bag of junk. The trick is not to mention boredom or food. Instead, retort with an instant activity, “Hey, want take the dog on a walk with me?”

Lastly the best thing you can do for your children is to create for them a safe and supportive environment to develop their own self-confidence and unique identity. Allow them to fail and praise them for their courage to try. Don’t shield them from every heartache and life lesson. The number one common trait of those diagnosed with eating disorders is an overly involved, over-bearing parent. Yikes! May the force be with us!



Anonymous said...

Thanks, Chalene, for a great reminder. The effects of eating disorders go so far beyond appearance. My sister past away last October due to complications from her long battle to overcome bulimia. This started as a young adult, but started as a quest to be thin; then it takes over your life.

Great suggestion on ways to keep it positive with your children!


stephanie said...

Chalene - woman you hit it right on the nose. I quit talking bad about myself when I realized my daughter was picking up on that - so no more. Now we talk about good foods & bad foods & we don't compare ourselves to others (my daughter is now 11 1/2 - as she would say & hitting a critical time in her life) so I do compliment all 4 of my kids on their bodies & their abilites. My 11 yr. old loves TJ & thinks it's fun not a workout. You da one Chalene! Keep rockin' it girl!

steph aka stufaweni

Renae said...

Chalene - great reminders. I have two sons, young men now, and since they were athletes, it was easy to concentrate on food as fuel for stamina, strength and energy.
Blessings to you rock!

Anonymous said...

Chalene- You will not believe this: my dear friend called me Thursday to ask me if I thought it was wrong for her 3 year old little girl to refer to someone as "fat." She said her husband said she was overreacting...

I immediately told her NO- she was right to correct her. I asked her when is the word FAT ever positive ?(I did not think of the fat paycheck example :0)

Chalene, you are always on the pulse of things girl... thank you

ps- i am printing the specific tips out for her - those are invaluable


Debbie R. said...

That was a wonderful post, Chalene! I have struggled with my weight being up and down all my life and recently made a commitment to being fit and healthy for myself and my family.

I see and hear a lot of my friends use the word "diet" and "fat" in their vocabulary and often in front of their own impressionable young daughters. I do whatever I can to keep things positive and have let my own two girls know that we are trying to stay fit & healthy in our family. It also helps to have the support of my husband (who by the way is a clinical psychotherapist and a master's in Marriage & Family Therapy!). Glad to see there are other couples, like you & Bret, that try to stay conistent with your parenting!

Thanks for your great words of wisdom, encouragement and support.

You are awesome!

PS--My girls LOVE doing Turbo Jam with me. :)

Anonymous said...

That was a wonderful post! I always try to keep my weight loss away from my children, to them mommy is trying to be healthy and strong! When my mother lived with us, she was always talking about losing weight, how fat she was etc. It really had a negative effect on my 5 year old daughter (who is so small and skinny she still wears 3T clothing!). She came to me one day and said "I want to lose weight when I am an adult just like grandma!". I told her that it is ok to lose weight if you need to become a healthy, but if you are a healthy weight you should just eat well and exercise to STAY healthy. We have talked about it many more times since then, and I think she is finally getting it! Thank you for your wonderful tips, I am going to print them out and put them on the fridge to remind me to keep my comments to myself, you never know who is listening!!!!


Dusk said...

Welcome Home!!!

If you're ever at my house (as if LOL), ask my son to see his muscles. You can take a little breather... it takes about 5 minutes for him to go through all his poses! He gets mad if he misses the 'turbo' on the weekends and makes me go back so he can do it too. Oh, and he thinks you should look into the song "I Like to Move It, Move It" (Madagascar) for R28 ;).

Shantel or So_Worth_It said...

Hey Chalene-

That was awesome! All too often we make the focus on losing or reaching a magic number and not in increased health and activity. I have always been heavy. Words like fat and diet were part of my everyday vocabulary. Notice the word WERE! I have grown to understand that we are not all supposed to look alike, and should celebrate our unique qualities. Thanks for making an awesome program like Turbojam that helps me to feel more positive about who I am, and who I am becoming!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Chalene for this blog! I am a young lady 22 years old and I grew up being reminded as often as possible how fat I was. Today, I'm struggling to see myself as anything else. I have a little brother now and he is overweight and the same things that were said to me are being said to him. He's hurting and hurting bad, just like I was at that age. I know my parents aren't going to listen to me when I share this info with them so I will adhere to it and become the best big sister I can be to him! I wish someone would have shared this with my parents when I was growing up because I just remember being called so many names or being told that I was too big to do something and now I really am struggling to get over it. They don't think any man will want me or anything and for a minute I started to believe that garbage myself (I know better now though). Once again thanks and I can't wait to get my Turbo Jam in the mail!

psychpom said...

Funny story in relation to this lesson....
My son's class earned a party and the class is going to vote on a movie to watch, based on what the kids bring in. We asked my son what movie he wanted to take, figuring he would say Willy Wonka or Herbie or Batman. He says, "Mom, I want to take a TurboJam!" We laughed and explained that he needed to take a movie. He was SERIOUS though, "TurboJam is so fun, the kids would really like it..." he went on, begging us to let him take it. That's how ingrained exercise has become around kids think that we are having a dance party to a fun movie everyday. And now that I have taken the TK cert, they want to listen to the CDs in the car :0) Thanks for giving us that Chalene!

Lynne W. said...

Thanks for the great suggestions on raising kids with positive self awareness. Since I started Turbo Jam, and upon the path of healthier living, the subject of food choices has come up a lot - over time my three boys have come to learn that mama doesn't like how candy makes her feel, and that I'm not on a diet, but trying to become stronger and faster by excercising and eating healthy. This "stronger and faster" definitely appeals to them as boys. What 3,5 and 7 year old would argue with that? Anyway, they're starting (slowly) to make the connection between foods and how they make them feel. What a headstart! I didn't learn these things until my early 30s.
Anyway, I love Turbo Jam. I just started 4 weeks ago, and having never been into an excercise program in my life, I can't believe how different I am feeling. I used to dance when I was a young girl, so the choreography is what captured me - the fact that I got points for being coordinated, even if I couldn't keep up the intensity throughout.
I called my girlfriend in Boston and screamed with excitement this week, that I saw lines emerging on the either side of my stomach - lines I had never seen before in all my 37 years. And this after 3 (very big) babies. I had been having back problems, and was starting to think this was it. My body was crumbling, and like my own mother, osteoporosis was taking over, and I was in decline (how depressing). The kicks have strengthened the weakest part of my lower back, and stronger abdominals are now supporting my upper body - I feel it every morning getting out of bed. I'm on top of the world right now, and so far I've gotten 3 of my friends/family to order Turbo Jam, but I'm going to keep talking it up and showing people the changes in me, until they are all benefiting from it as I am. It IS a work out art - you're right about that. And I will keep you posted on the number of lives changed on my end. So far - 1 (not counting my 3 sons and husband, who are all very happy with the results). My three year old likes the speedbag!

Lynne Wiehe
Fort Myers, FL

Anonymous said...

Hey Chalene,
I just read your blog about kids and their weight. These last 4 weeks have been so challenging for me as a parent. I have 3 amazing children. My oldest is a boy, 8 years old. He's a big kid. Not fat, but a big ol' tummy. He is an amazing athlete but...has this big ol' tummy. Comments that used to be cute are no longer cute. He's embarrassed, ashamed and feels downright sad.

He has started to share some things that have been said in the hockey locker-room about his "big stomach" and how he is "fat." We are not allowed to use the word fat in our home so this not only hurts him but he recognizes it as an "unkind word not to be shared with others." How hurtful for him that others are using it to describe him.

Kids at school can be cruel. He was recently asked how much he weighed on the playground.He didn't tell me until 9:00pm that night when I was laying in bed for our nighttime chat and he burst into tears. Guess who else did silently not wanting him to see? Feeling so sad, so angry at the 5th grader who felt like it was cool to bully my 2nd grader, but also wanting to make sure he knew he was HEALTHY, NOT FAT and God had given him this amazing strong body that could do amazing things...with a big ol' tummy.

I loved your article. It reinforced things that I'm already doing and gave me more ammunition and education. Like you, my family is the most important thing. There is never a day that goes by that my children don't walk in the door and I feel an overwhelming gush of love. I want to make this go away for Jack but I can't. His teacher has helped me better understand why kids say "mean things." My husband has helped me understand that kids need to fight their own battles and we need to continue to instill confidence and help Jack just speak the truth to someone when it makes him feel bad. I never even thought about my "big tummy" that I grew up with until middle school. How horrible that kids are having to deal with this at such an early age. So early that they can't really understand it.

So, thank you! Thank you for helping me during this time that has been so hard when you didn't even know you were. You're awesome.


tb said...

Chalene, Thanks for the incredible exercise program and blog. I've just started and, in the words of your son, I've got a really big big big big big big body....I have a question and am hoping you have the time to answer it for me. I've got a blog here on blogger as well...maybe you can give me a way to send you an email directly? Please? I don't want to give up on the program, but if I can't figure out my issue I just might have to. Thank you so much! Tevana

Amanda said...

Wonderful post! Something I need to keep in mind as my little Isabelle grows older! She's only three and already knows what it means to be "fat" :-( I hate how the media glorifies the super skinny!

Jenni said...

That is such a great way to go about things. Too often do I see a little girl who wants to be as thin as that girl on the front cover of a magazine, and I just want to hug her. Thanks for the great advice.

Heather said...

Hi Chalene, I am a high school senior who had low selfasteem about the way my body looked. My boyfriend always told me i look beautiful and not to fret about it. but i didnt feel pretty at all. one day at school, a girl sitting by me who has once had a kid asked how far along i was. i just cried. but then i saw your program and i wanted to try it. just after 2 days of working out with turbo-jam, i already feel like a new person. and i am happy with my self. your workout is my lifesavor.

Nicole said...

I just wanted to say thanks, Chalene. I don't have kids, 18 yo, but I believe its not even healthy for a loved one to hear you talk about yourself that way.. or your friends. Actually before TJ, I had very low self-confidence. Its coming back higher and higher, and I talk about how good I'm lookin! So thanks again for creating my obsession and passion and my dream. I am a lifeguard and I just started an ISSA course for personal training and want to do some endurance fitness training courses too! This canadian won't be too far from your stompin' grounds in sunny california soon! Watch out! I might be doing TJ with you!

Anonymous said...

I am sooooo glad to hear somebody else say this! My daughter is 11, and her idols are the Olsen twins, Lindsey Lohan, and Hillary Duff. I got into the habit of pointing out the way their bones stick out, and how unattractive and unhealthy it looks, and now she'll show me a picture of someone who has recently gotten to be skin and bones and say "She used to be so cute!" She has a genetic disorder that predisposes her to be overweight and have low muscle tone, and her dad is obsessed with it. She'll never be petite, but she can be healthy, and I want her to have a good self-image, so I find myself battling her fathers' comments and trying to turn it around from "trying not to be fat" to "trying to be healthy". Maybe I can email him your post so he can see how his comments hurt his baby... Thanks for the tips-- as I try to lose weight myself, I don't want her to think bad things about herself.
Lynn V

Anonymous said...

I have a 5 yr old daughter and a bestfriend that I am lossing to an eating disorder so I do understand parents influinces on a child body image. When my daughter askes if she can have candys or junk I tell her that she first need to eat something that will make her strong and healthy. She is active and healthy and is proud of herself. Someone told her she was skinny and I asked if she knew what the word ment and she said that it was because her skin was shinny from the sun. I was a proud mom.

Anonymous said...

Chalene, My 10 yr old niece already has a weight/eating problem (probably caused by an overbearing parent). Her parents recently divorced (that was one of the issues), and her mother hopes to avoid eating disorders or bad self-image issues. I copied your 10 tips to share with her. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is so amazingly true! Oftentimes parents don't realize that they are contributing to bad and unhealthy ways that their children view themselves. TJ is WONDERFUL and so are you Chalene. You are REAL and have such POSITIVE ENERGY!
Keep Jamming!

Abby said...

Where'd you go?

Anonymous said...

Chalene Johnson,

I am deaf lady. I have hard struggle to get lose deit and will ya help me how to be learn diet everything. I love watching Tubro jam but there no closed caption so. I feel still disappointment and little depression.


Meredith said...

Chalene- I love this blog and especially this posting! It's really right on target! I have forwarded it to friends of mine who have children.
You're so amazing! Not only a fitness genius but a people genius too!
Lots of Love!

Jen M. said...

"A mother who radiates self love and self acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self esteem"
I heard this on Oprah (I think it was Dr. Robin!) It was an instant "A Ha" moment for me! I have it posted on my bathroom mirror to remind me to always be conscious of what I say and do regarding my own body image and how it affects my kids! Thanks so much for these tips, they'll be posted on the mirror too...pretty soon I'll be gettin' a bigger mirror!!

Tina K. said...

Chalene, this post really hit home for me because for years I fought with my weight and until recently hated myself for it. I overcame bulimia only to gain weight faster than ever. My daughter, now 9, has grown up listening to me bemoan how "fat I am" and began to have her own issues with self image (she has been incredibly blessed with a good metabolism and a love of gymnastics! :))

Now, since my approach has changed, her's is as well. My children are TJing with me. We eat healthy together. My goal has changed from being "thin" to being healthy and fit. It has made all the difference in my self image and their own!