January is the month that’s full of detox and diet chatter. It’s a time I really despise because everyone seems to allow their (non-scientific) opinions on how to lose weight to dominate conversations all around them.
Here’s the thing that troubles me most…people don’t realise that all this talk of diets and detox and fatness and body shapes etc, may actually be having a damaging effect on the people who you are talking in front of….your kids! It’s worth baring in mind that kids are like sponges when it comes to taking in things, plus they look up to adults, so you might be teaching your kids to grow up self conscious about their body’s. When kids hear us complaining about lumpy legs or cellulite-y thighs, legs transform from being what they’re actually needed for which is walking, running, jumping and dancing to being a body part that needs critically analysing of an ongoing basis. When kids hear a certain food being criticised as being bad or that it will make us fat, this may instigate food restriction or guilt over eating that food.
Children already have a plethora of pressure to face in this modern world we live in, why add to those pressures by making them feel like they should question that the shape they are might not be the perfect one, or that they should look more ideal that they do.
We as parents, friends, relatives have a role to play in promoting positive body image, which in turn promotes positive mental health.
My tips for healthy self image and self worth are not mind-blowing new concepts but they are associated with words and comments that can slip out unnoticed so it’s worth thinking before you speak in front of the kids about the way you look.
- Stop complaining about body dissatisfaction like your weight or how body parts seem to look to you in front of the kids.
- Stop examining, picking apart and commenting on the air-brushed women in magazines, unless of course you are explaining to kids that this is not what real people look like.
- Set a good example, eat a variety of foods and be comfortably active. Teach that food is for fuelling the body and exercise is for mental health and building strong bones & muscles.
- Avoid discussions about body weight, caloric intake and obsessing over what size clothes you wear.
- Don’t call foods good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. Share your knowledge that all foods have their place as part of a balanced diet. ‘Food is just food’ and should not have a label.
- Learn to accept people of all body shapes and sizes as this will help you accept your own body better.
- Don’t say you are on a diet, EVER. Studies have shown that parents who have had weight related conversations in front of teens went on to have diet conscious teens who also engaged in binge eating.
- Make your home a ‘no body bashing zone’! If we don’t love & respect our own bodies, how can we expect our children to do the same.
- Don’t buy into the ‘ideal body shape’ that the media are selling. 80% of these people have an eating disorder.
- Teach children that beauty has to do with character, compassion, kindness and a sense of purpose in life.