Research has shown that children and youth who diet are much more likely to develop eating disorders. In fact, the earlier that dieting begins, the more likely a significant eating disorder can occur. Body positivity begins at home.
Suggestions for parents to help children develop body positivity:
Based on documents from the National Eating Disorders Associtation (NEDA).
1. Stop talking about your weight.
Don’t criticize your own appearance. Value yourself more for your character. Learn the difference between weight and health and concentrate on health enhancing behaviors.
2. Make a list of people you admire.
Practice taking all people seriously for what they do, not how they look. Give boys and girls the same opportunities and responsibilities. Work for and speak out for the rights – fairness, equity, safety, respect, control of their bodies – of those with marginalized identities.
3. Encourage critical thinking about media messages.
Talk with your children about the pressure to “look good” and the ways in which media images are manipulated. Discuss the dangers of dieting. Teach them to be critical viewers of social media. In fact, consider limiting their access to social media. We know negative body image correlates directly with the use of social media platforms.
4. Stop weighing yourself!
Get rid of the scale. Do not equate certain foods with positive or negative behavior or morality. Eliminate commenting on weight or body size – period. Don’t diet and don’t ever restrict calories for your children.
5. Concentrate on things you like (and do) well.
The more you enjoy your life, the less critical you will be of your body. Learn to accept compliments graciously. Focus on family, friends and faith – those things that bring true joy from within. Tell your children frequently that you love and accept them just as they are. This builds self-esteem and body positivity.
6. Get physical for fun!
Choose to move for your heart health, not to change the size of your body. Any kind of movement can help; do something together as a family. Have fun. Do not communicate the message, “I can’t do _______ until I look a certain way.”
7. Spend your dollars wisely.
Support retailers who portray diversity in their advertising and hiring practices. Research the businesses whose values align with yours. Support them. Consider carrying a note card listing these businesses as a reminder (or save on your phone). Teach your children to be responsible shoppers.
8. Voice your opinion.
Write letters, send emails or call about products you won’t buy. State the reasons why. Businesses really do want to hear from you, and may respond with change.
9. Be a role model.
Notice, in a complimentary way, how people vary. Express appreciation for body diversity. Don’t judge others by their appearance. It should not be more acceptable to practice “weightism” than any other form of prejudice.
10. Break barriers!
Protest – stand for what’s right. Many inspirational people have blazed new trails in body positivity. Help your children recognize and celebrate achievements made by them. Seek friendships with like-minded others.