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!