For most of us school is back in swing and if it's not yet, it's coming soon. I chat with a lot of moms that are curious on how to help their kiddos create a positive body image, continue to accept themselves and have a healthy relationship with food as they continue to get older. We know most adults have tapped into the diet world. An astounding 80% of women reported to hating their bodies, according to one study done by Beauty Redefined. It's no wonder parents want to protect their children and guide them towards a life of more freedom and self acceptance. Because of research we know that by age 6 girls begin to express their own concerns about their weight and shape. As hard as it is to accept these stats it's also a prime opportunity to make some changes and do what we can to change that number. My hope is that I can offer you some tips to help navigate these waters of diet culture with your kids...and also yourself.
Tip number one
Don't comment on size, shape, weight, or body (theirs or anyone else's....yours included). Instead ask about dreams, explore values, learn new hobbies together, talk about future goals, who their best friends are and why. When we can teach our children that there is SO MUCH MORE to life than how we look we can teach them there is an entire world out there waiting for them and it has nothing to do with the size of their body.
Tip number two
Be mindful of your own talk and actions. Do you workout to lose weight? Do you label foods as good or bad? Do you pick apart your body and talk about what you want to change about it? This is where the true shift happens. The BEST thing we can do is work on ourselves. Some of my favorite resources for us as adults are
Intuitive Eating Workbook
Body Kindness (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!)
Health at Every Size
Body Kindness Podcast
Heart Space Podcast
Tip number three
Have an open conversation about diet culture and the unrealistic expectations that come with it. Here's the deal, diet culture isn't going away soon so we don't want to pretend like it's not there. Likely, our kids will have friends going on diets, they'll overhear adults talk about all the things they dislike about their bodies, they will likely be tempted and try a diet themselves. If we can be open and take the judgment away we can create a safe place for them to get curious and ask questions. Some prompting questions I like to have clients think about when it comes to diet culture is
1. Who is benefiting here? (ex: diet industry, plastic surgery industry etc)
2. What is the cost to me? (restrict food groups, miss out on connecting with family, feeling like i'm not enough, etc)
3. Does this truly work or is it a shiny package wrapped up (let's be real if all these 'diets' worked there would be no diet industry and you wouldn't be reading this blog.)
4. What am i really needing (sometimes it's easier to focus on our body instead of a stressful situation, sometimes it's easier to control food when our life feels out of control, etc... sometimes what we are really needing is connection, down time, therapy, friendship, joyful movement, rest)
Tip number four
Let them hear you be KIND to your body, not about how it looks or the size it is, instead about the things it can DO. If you are struggling with your own body image a great starting point I use with my clients is developing body respect. What things can you respect your body for, no matter what it looks like? For me, it's the basic things it does to keep me alive without me having to think twice, it's the fact it created a human and fed him for 14 months, it's the fact that when i get sick it goes into overdrive to heal me, its the fact that it lets me know when its hungry, thirsty, full, tired, energized, etc...
Tip number five
Find things you enjoy together. Go for bike rides, play outside, do a fun zumba class or whatever else feels kind for your body. This can be a really fun process to explore what activities feel good and bring connection between you and your child.
Well friends, that's it for now. Feel free to sign up for my once a month newsletter with more resources and support here. So much love and compassion goes out to each and every one of you because mama, this is an ongoing journey for ALL of us.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below,
Hanna Kuyper is a wife, a mom and a lover of all things outdoors. She has owned a women only movement studio, sat on the board of a non profit dedicated to eating disorder and body image awareness and has volunteered as a mentor for girls in school. Hanna has a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in eating disorders and body image. She currently runs groups to clients world wide through The EDC and is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.