Body image: the way in which we view our body and determine our self-esteem and self worth. Unfortunately, sometimes that image isn’t so positive. Criticism in the home as well as navigating a never-ending barrage of heavily Photoshopped models portraying images of idealized thinness, merely fortifies one with negativity. This skewed idealism breeds an environment in which we declare anything above a size 6 as unacceptable. This ideology becomes the motivation for placing ourselves and our kids on fast-track, fad diets that do nothing but encourage a negative sense of health and beauty. When we subscribe to this dysmorphic portrayal of “healthy” bodies, we end up finding ourselves and our loved ones impressionable and bereft of optimal health.
I bring this up namely because with the coming of the new year, one of the most common resolutions we hear is “I’m going to lose weight.” But when we make resolutions like this, we also have to look at our motives. Are we aiming to look like the runway model who is on a lifelong diet plan, inclusive of intense caloric limitations and daily weigh-ins? Or are we aiming to be healthy and at an ideal weight for our body type? If it’s the latter, do we even know what that is? What happens if you eventually do get to your “ideal” weight? Will it be enough? Or is the nagging voice inside your head telling you a few more pounds would really be much better?
As we raise our kids in an image-saturated society, we must be conscious about whether our dialogue is helpful or harmful. How we speak about our bodies and our kids’ bodies is key–our opinions and words hold weight and become part of the early messages that influence one’s initial sense of self esteem. Negative body talk in the home, whether it be statements that are unkind to ourselves or unkind to our children, is always unhelpful. It sends negative messages, breeding dysfunction and planting the seeds of delusion about health and beauty. Frankly, I would much rather plant the seeds of self-acceptance, a healthy body image, and positive self-esteem.
Pamela Kelle, a registered dietitian, suggests a few things that we can do as parents to try and inspire a positive body image:
* Encourage and model healthy eating and exercise.
* Provide healthy foods and nutritious meals consumed by the whole family.
* Do not praise or glorify someone for being a certain body size or losing weight.
* Don’t talk negatively about your own body.
* Don’t expect perfection.
Maybe this new year, we can provide our kids with a healthy model of self-esteem and a positive body image. They’re worth it and so are you.