By Bobby DeMuro
Body image (and more specifically, poor body image) is becoming a bigger and bigger issue in America today. With all of the unrealistic images of both men and women on television, in magazines, and in movies, children grow up thinking they are inferior if they don’t look perfect at all times. As a parent, it is extremely important to nurture a healthy, wholesome body image in your children — here are a few simple ways to help improve (or hopefully, maintain) your child’s positive body image. Be Well!
Consider the thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors toward your own body and the way that these beliefs have been shaped by the forces of weightism and sexism.
Then educate your children about the genetic basis for the natural diversity of human body shapes and sizes and the nature and ugliness of prejudice. Make an effort to maintain positive attitudes and healthy behaviors. Children learn from the things you say and do!
Examine closely your dreams and goals for your children and other loved ones.
Are you overemphasizing beauty and body shape, particularly for girls? Avoid taking the stance that I will like you more if you lose weight, don’t eat so much, look more like the slender models in ads, and fit into smaller clothes. Decide what you can do and what you can stop doing to reduce the teasing, criticism, blaming, and staring that reinforce the idea that larger is bad and smaller is good.
Learn about and discuss with your children the dangers of trying to alter the body through fad dieting, the value of exercise, and the importance of eating well-balanced meals.
Avoid categorizing and labeling foods (e.g. good/bad or safe/dangerous). All foods can be eaten in moderation — nothing should be forbidden for fear of being over-consumed. Be a good role model in regard to sensible eating, exercise, and self-acceptance.
Make a commitment to exercise for the joy of feeling your body move and grow stronger.
Do not use exercise simply as a punishment to purge fat from your body or to compensate for calories, power, excitement, popularity, or perfection.
Do whatever you can to promote the self-esteem and self-respect of all of your children in intellectual, athletic, and social endeavors.
Give boys and girls the same opportunities and encouragement. Be careful not to suggest that females are less important than males, or vice versa, in any area of life. A well-rounded sense of self and solid self-esteem are perhaps the best antidotes to disordered eating