Promoting a Healthy Body Image in Your Home
July 10, 2013 by ANAD
Filed under Body Image, Disordered Eating, Empowerment, Exercise, Featured, Fitness, HAES, Healthy Communication, Loving Your Body, Mindfulness, Moms & Sisters, Parents, Prevention, Role Models, Self-Acceptance, Self-Care, Sharing Feelings, Talking To Kids, Weight Stigma, Wellness, Wellness, What to Say, How to Say It
As a child, I grew up in a very traditional, Italian home where dinner each night was by far the best part of my day. It was a time when my family of five would gather around the table, talking, laughing and sharing delicious fare together. Food was always a part of our lives and our conversation, and I was shown that food was meant to be enjoyed. I have fond memories of my Grandmother making pasta by hand, memories of home-grown vegetables like melanzane (eggplant), fagioli (green beans), scarola (escarole), zucchini, and rapini (broccoli rabe) gracing our table on a regular rotation. And, now that I think about it, many memories of my family, childhood, and life were hugely impacted by this consistent and positive experience.
It wasn’t until I was older (old enough that I was invited to eat dinner with friends and their families) that I realized that not everyone’s experience with food and family was like mine. And now, when I sit down to dinner with my growing family of four, it is this example from my parents that I strive to continue on in my own home as my husband and I try and teach our sons about healthy eating, exercise, and positive self-esteem.Looking back, I don’t ever remember a time where I was shamed for eating or not eating something. I was always asked to try new foods; never denied the plethora of choices of biscotti, pastries, or gelato; and I was always reminded that I was perfect just the way I was.
If you are a parent who needs some help with promoting a healthy body image in your home, consider these six tips to help your children learn to love themselves while making healthy choices.
- Check yourself. Your body image plays a role in the body image your kids adopt. A parent who models good health habits provides the most valuable health lesson. But, parents need to assess their own attitudes and behaviors about weight to ensure that they do not inadvertently model body dissatisfaction or promote size discrimination. Consider the following: Do you inadvertently promote “fear of fat” in your children by your words and actions? Are you dissatisfied with your body size and shape? Are you always on a diet or going on a diet? Do you make negative comments about other people’s sizes and shapes? Are you prejudiced against overweight children and adults?
- Lead by example. Your kids will follow your example, so be aware of what kind of example you are setting in terms of overall health and exercise. My son, Jordan, may only be three, but he knows that when I put on my shorts and running shoes and take out my ipod, he confirms my next step, “Mommy, you going to exercise?” He sees first hand that exercise is a part of my life and my routine. My husband and I have also had conversations about feeding our body, mind, and spirit with healthy food and exercise. And now, when Jordan eats his vegetables he reiterates that he eats his vegetables so that he can grow big and strong. (Exercise doesn’t have to be in a gym. Make it fun! Play outside, go for a walk, ride bikes, etc. Just find something that is enjoyable for you and your family! Limit screen time. If you are always in front of a TV or a computer screen, chances are children will want to do the same. More screen time means more time advertisers have the opportunity to tell your child that they are not good enough, in order to sell products.)
- Make meal time a positive experience. I know, I know. Life is hectic and dinner ime can feel overwhelming, so why do I set a goal of a sit-down family dinner each and every day? Families that eat together are healthier, happier, and more connected. Make meal times a positive experience centered on nourishing your bodies and souls. You can do this by involving your children in the preparation and process, sharing your daily experiences, modeling good behaviors, and making sure that there is at least one thing on the table that can be enjoyed by all without a struggle. (Increase fresh veggies and lean meats and decrease fast food/processed foods. Have healthy snacks available for after school.)
- Don’t be afraid to use food to celebrate. There’s never anything wrong with celebrating with food. It’s not wrong to have a piece of birthday cake, or to go out for ice-cream after winning a baseball game. Food is meant to be enjoyed, tasted, and savored. So don’t cut the word “dessert” out of your family’s vocabulary, instead, teach your children about balance and moderation.
- Don’t comment on a child’s weight. Instead, comment on his or skills, abilities, talents, hobbies, interests, and character. Love your child for who they are, and help cultivate them into who they want to be. Who your children are or how much you love them should not be dictated by the number on a scale. Remember, there are many easons metabolically that a person weighs what they do. Sisters who share genes may look radically different despite having the same healthy attitudes and behaviors when it comes to nutrition and exercise. Remember, puberty is a natural process that affects children’s bodies and weight gain is normal and necessary for development.
- Focus on Wellness, Not Weight. Teach your children to value and respect their body for what it is. Teach them to listen to and care for their body. Teach them to accept their body, both inside and out. Teach them to focus on overall wellness, not weight. And remember, size is not an indicator of health.
Take the time to enjoy the summer with your kids! Whether its celebrating a softball victory with ice-cream, sharing a meal around the picnic table, or packing up the car for a road trip, remember to lead by example in making positive decisions regarding your health and wellness.
By: Rosanna Catapano
ANAD Newsletter Editor