How do we talk to children about body image and weight loss in 2019?
Children today face more pressure than ever in regards to their looks, but children today can also order a 3000+ calorie meal from their favorite fast food restaurant with the help of Grub Hub, Door Dash or Uber Eats. According to the National Institute of Health, rates of childhood obesity AND rates of childhood eating disorders continue to raise. So how do we talk to children about these topics? Especially considering as adults a new list of New Year’s Resolutions is probably already in the trash; a list which was almost guaranteed to included things like “eat healthier” or “lose weight”.
* The Center for Disease Control reports childhood obesity has tripled since the 1970’s.
* In 2016 1 in 5 children were considered obese.
* The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports 10 in 100 woman will suffer from an eating disorder.
* Model healthy eating. First off start having family meal times if you are not already! Second, be mindful during those meal times. Strive to make healthy a dinners, encourage your family to try new foods, and try to limit the visits to the drive through.
* Model healthy body image. Kids are always watching! They are going to observe and copy not only what you eat, but what you say and yourself and others. If your teenage daughter is talking negatively about her body image, stop, listen, and sympathize. If you find yourself saying negative things about someone’s body (or your own) stop, and think of something positive to say instead. Better yet, teach your children that a person’s value does not come from what they look like but from what type of person they are.
* Shield your kids, because they grow up fast. If you have little ones it just may be best to watch the Kardashians after they go to bed. But if your children are older take the time to watch a shows with them. If unhealthy habits or body image issues come up during the show ask them their thoughts, and have a conversation about it.
* Get Going. Get your children involved early on with exercising, sports, and physical activities. Maybe swap out that family movie night with a family walk or a family basketball game.
* Talk to your children about their body. Don’t assume they know, or that they will learn from their friends or school. Talk to them about things like puberty and how their bodies will change.
* Encourage self-expression. Within limits, let your child be an individual when it comes to fashion (and try your best not to cringe when they walk out the door).
* Keep it age appropriate. Over sexualization is a real thing with real consequences for children. If you are uncomfortable with what your child is saying or wearing put your foot down.
* Praise. Kids look for approval. Find ways to compliment them on the things they are doing right, not solely on their looks or appearance.
When to be concerned:
* Signs of an eating disorder can be tricky: eating too much or too little, hoarding food, eating alone, over exercising. As a parent trust your gut if something feels wrong and reach out for help.
* Throughout a child’s development body fat will fluctuate, so carrying a little extra weight might not be a huge cause for alarm. If you are concerned check in with your child’s pediatrician; they are likely documenting your child’s height and weight on a growth chart each visit anyway, and they can help you understand if your child is within a reasonable range.
So remember …
… it’s not only how or what we say to kids, but it is also about how we act and model behaviors. So start with yourself!! If you were one of those adults who threw out your New Year’s Resolutions, make a new list. If you focus on the negative parts of your body, remember all your other positive qualities. If you find yourself eating the unhealthy option, choose better next time.