The importance of modelling a positive body image

Last night, I took my daughter to a screening of the movie Embrace – a documentary that explores how poor body image has become a worldwide epidemic. If you’re a woman, I’m sure this comes as no surprise. Research suggests that 91% of us are dissatisfied with our bodies, so chances are this topic resonates with you as much as it does with me. When are we going to get that true beauty emanates from self-love; not skin and bones?

The screening took place in the safe and sacred space that is my local yoga studio. I planned this date thinking it would be good for Lucy. The morning of, I realized this film wasn’t just for her. It was for me. I am not someone who most would consider overweight. I’m neither waif-like nor chubby. I’m somewhere in between. Somewhere that is good enough for others but not for me.

I bounce from diet to diet

Over the last five years, I have lost 20 lbs through four separate endeavours. Four because I gained the 20 lbs right back following each endeavour. First, I followed the Primal Blueprint. Next, the Isagenix program. Next, the Isagenix program (again). And then, Weight Watchers. Will there be a next? I would honestly like to say no, but I can’t say that with conviction.

While I believe I model a healthy lifestyle for my daughter in many ways (I do yoga regularly, walk frequently, and prepare health-conscious meals 95% of the time), I also model the very obsession this film is based on. Sure, I try telling Lucy (and myself) that I’m counting calories because I want to be healthy, but the truth is, I don’t want to be fat. Or rather, I want to be thin.

When the screening was over, our host shared a reading with us.

How to talk to your daughter about her body

The number one step, according to this article by Sarah Koppelkam, is “don’t talk to your daughter about her body.” As our host read this, I felt as if she were speaking directly to me. For years, I commended Lucy on her shapely posterior as if that were some attribute she should be proud of. What was I thinking?

Our host continued reading. “Don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter.”  Too late for that. She’s seen me do it time and time again, always trying to talk a healthy talk while clearly walking a body-obsessed walk. And don’t say, “I’m not eating carbs right now.” I’ve blown that too, trying to justify why there’s pasta or rice on her plate but zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice on mine.

It’s essential that we model a positive body image to our children – now

A 2015 study called Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image, undertaken by Common Sense Media, revealed these disturbing findings:

  • By age 6, children are aware of dieting and may have tried it;
  • 26 percent of 5-year-olds recommend dieting as a solution for a person who has gained weight;
  • by the time kids reach age 7, one in four has engaged in some kind of dieting behavior; and,
  • between 1999 and 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders among children below the age of 12 spiked 112 percent.

EmbraceSarah Koppelkam’s article and Common Sense Media’s research are all great food for thought. Here are five additional resources in and around the same subject that you may wish to explore:

  1. Promoting a Positive Body Image – Health Canada provides tips to help you do right by your child.
  2. A body image workshop kit for teachers of children 9 through 13 – Consider sharing this with a decision-maker at your child’s school as inspiration for a similar program.
  3. What is low body confidence? – As always, Dove addresses the issue head on with its self-esteem project.
  4. 10 Ways to Overcome Negative Body Image – The Underground Health Reporter shares tips on how to dial your body image obsession down.
  5. Join The Body Image Movement Help body image activist and Embrace storyteller create global change.

Here’s hoping for healthier, happier, perfectly imperfect generations ahead!

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By | 2017-08-13T17:01:40+00:00 June 17th, 2017|21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Liz June 19, 2017 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    Having daughters, this is an important topic for me. I am always very careful what I say and we focus on being healthy. I don’t want them to have issues with their bodies, ever.

    • THE WORDY MOM June 20, 2017 at 8:09 am - Reply

      Yes, Liz. Confidence is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children!

  2. Brittney Kubicki June 19, 2017 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    Yes! I couldn’t agree with you more, portraying a positive body image is sooo important! My daughter is 5 and I hope she always sees me as comfortable in my own skin and pray she always is as well!

    • THE WORDY MOM June 20, 2017 at 8:11 am - Reply

      I’m glad you are aware of this while your daughter is so young. She’s soaking it all in. And I hope that all of us moms can be confident in our own skins for our own sake’s as well as our children’s.

  3. RM June 20, 2017 at 1:16 am - Reply

    i have struggled with my self body I,age for years… Your post was something I really needed to read.. Thank you for reaching out and sharing…

    • THE WORDY MOM June 20, 2017 at 8:07 am - Reply

      Remember, you’re one of the 91% RM. You are not alone. I am glad you enjoyed the post.

  4. Jasmine Hewitt June 20, 2017 at 2:15 am - Reply

    it’s so important to have a healthy body image, no matter what size you are

    • THE WORDY MOM June 20, 2017 at 8:12 am - Reply

      Agreed!

  5. Kanani Stone June 20, 2017 at 3:05 am - Reply

    Body image is so important and can be hard to present positively all the time for girls and for boys. Society has put such expectations on outward appearance we really can only fill up our children’s cup of self esteem as best we can.

    • THE WORDY MOM June 20, 2017 at 8:08 am - Reply

      You’re so right Kanani. It is equally important for boys. And as some have pointed out to me, it’s important for them to see their mothers embrace their real selves, so that they can have realistic expectations of the women they meet.

  6. Caitlin June 20, 2017 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    These are great tips and so important to teach our kids from a young age.

  7. Addison Messer June 23, 2017 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    Wow. Those stats gave me chills. Body image is such a crazy thing, especially for young woman. Great post! Also, I love your scrolling recent post. Do you have a plugin? Please share your wisdom.

    • THE WORDY MOM June 23, 2017 at 10:23 pm - Reply

      Yep. The 91% is pretty shocking. Re scrolling recent posts, I’m not sure if this helps but I use WordPress, Fusion. When I go to appearance, and then through to theme settings, there’s a sliding bar option. “Sliding bar on desktop” is switched to on. I have no idea if that’s where the magic happens though!

  8. Jiya B July 25, 2017 at 1:10 am - Reply

    The post is very well written. My daughter is 7 yrs and I was thinking to talk to her. Will surely use the tips now as per this post.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 26, 2017 at 8:56 am - Reply

      I don’t think you can start the conversation too young, Jiya. Pointing out how unrealistic Barbie’s body is makes for a good start to the conversation. I mean seriously, if she was real she’d fall over – she’s so top-heavy.

  9. Maranda July 25, 2017 at 2:52 am - Reply

    Such a great post. Body image is such a touchy subject and I am going through this with my daughter who is 8. It is hard to try to make a positive out of all the negatives in society about body image!

    • THE WORDY MOM July 26, 2017 at 8:59 am - Reply

      I know Maranda. It’s a huge task, isn’t it?

  10. The Salty Mamas July 25, 2017 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    I think it is so, so important. I try to model positive self-talk in front of my daughter, but it’s not always easy! However, I’ve heard that a mother’s dialogue becomes a daughter’s internal monologue. I try to be mindful of that in the things I say when my little lady is in earshot!

    • THE WORDY MOM July 26, 2017 at 8:54 am - Reply

      Good for you. I have to say, my mom never spoke poorly of herself but I have always been incredibly hard on myself. Point being, we as parents aren’t 100% responsible for our children’s self-image, but it’s still important to conduct ourselves as if we are.

  11. Nicole Kamai July 26, 2017 at 1:32 am - Reply

    I believe everything about these stats. While I don’t have the perfect body image of myself especially after baby, I am working towards it by just treating my body right. I do however notice my 9 year old niece say some things that I want to cry about. Her mom says things like she is one stomach flu away from the perfect weight and while it can be quite humorous to some, I hate when my sis-in-law says it.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 26, 2017 at 8:51 am - Reply

      Hi Nicole. Your sis-in-law has a great sense of humour, but you’re so right.These subtle (or not so subtle) self-deprecating remarks can definitely leave their mark on young minds.

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