In our recent Diet Survivors Group newsletter, we posted a new lesson on the topic of children and body image. With the recent focus on preventing “childhood obesity” by first lady Michelle Obama, many parents are concerned about how to think about their children’s weight.
While we applaud Mrs. Obama’s efforts to make sure all children have access to healthy foods and physical activity, we feel very concerned about her focus on weight and the potential harmful consequences of such a campaign. Our lesson offers some positive way to help kids feel good in their bodies, no matter what their size. As you read this lesson, we invite you to think about you own experience as a child and what you were taught about weight. If there are children in your life, what do you communicate to them about body size? We hope this lesson will give you a positive perspective – perhaps you will even pass it on to other parents who are unsure as to how to deal with the topic of children and weight. (The format of this lesson is based on The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care.)
Become aware of how you speak about your body in front of your children. The way they feel about their own bodies is strongly affected by the messages of important people in their lives.
Children are born into the world without preconceived notions about thin and fat. They find joy in the pleasure of their body and its capacities. Yet sooner or later they will be exposed to the cultural messages that they must stay thin to be accepted. How they respond to these messages is strongly affected by what they learn at home.
Imagine the following scenarios. As your child watches you try on your new suit, you comment that you love the way it looks on you, rather than saying that it makes you look fat. When your child sits on your lap and cuddles into the rolls on your stomach, you say proudly, “Doesn’t mommy make a good pillow?” instead of commenting that you are going to have to lose some weight. When you eat a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, you announce how delicious it tastes, rather than stating it’s going to go straight to your hips. What you say in front of your children about your body has a strong influence on how your children will view themselves.
If you say that your stomach is too fat in front of your daughter, she will become
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