Shaping Perspectives…A Woman’s Way to Joy
Just the other day I received a text from a past client that said:“I am finally at peace with my body, and today my daughter came home from Kindergarten and told me a classmate called her fat. This is my worst nightmare! I don’t want her living a lifetime over consumed and stressed about her weight and size like I did, SHE IS IN KINDERGARTEN!”
She was angry, hurt, frustrated and scared. And rightly so. There is no doubt our society has placed a tremendous amount of pressure on our kids to fit into “societies thin-ideal”. Actually, a National study found that “overweight” students were more likely to be bullied in school as compared to their ”normal weight” peers. This type of bullying, directly related to body size and weight, can contribute to increased depression, anxiety, and mental illnesses such as eating disorders and addictive behaviors.
The truth of the matter is that the desire to be thin actually for girls, has its greatest growth between the ages of 5-8. And the desire to be more muscular for boys is between 6-9. So what is a parent to do? We live in a weight biased culture that seems to evolve, and grow every decade.
One of the most important things parents can do is remember that kids (especially between 4-8) OBSERVE AND HEAR everything that goes on around them. They notice parents, friends, and friends’ parents eating behaviors. They hear negative body talk (A mum looking in the mirror and saying “Ugg, I hate my stomach or this outfit makes me look so fat!”). They notice how parents talk about and treat others who have lost or gained weight. They get fed a message about how bodies “should” or “shouldn’t” look and about the foods they “should” or “shouldn’t” eat.
If we want our kids to grow up with a healthy relationship with both themselves and their bodies, we must show them what that looks like, one parent, one teacher, one coach at a time.
Here are a few tips on what that might look like for you.
Use Positive Self-Talk and Notice your own body descriptors.
How do you think and talk about your body in general? Do you look in the mirror and smile or do you put your hands on your stomach, sigh with disgust and say this top makes me look fat? Do you pull and tug on your clothes, trying to cover up “trouble” areas? These are all subtle images, words, sounds and looks can all be internalized by your children.
They quickly will get the message about what bodies are right, worthy and acceptable and what bodies are not.
Healing your own relationship with your body is a great place to start. This can begin with a practice of simply appreciating what your body can do for you, instead of focusing on what it can’t do. These legs of mine are strong and can walk my daughter to school. My arms can carry the laundry or groceries and can mow the lawn. My stomach digests my food, holds my pants up and if you’re a mum, provides a comfortable, amazing home for the incubation and development of a child.
Teach your children how to use positive, encouraging, compassionate self talk. Think about talking to your own body like you would talk to your daughter or sons. By talking to, thinking about and treating your own body with kindness, gratitude, respect and compassion, no matter what size it is, will make a big difference in how your children feel in and about their own bodies.
Model eating a variety of foods to nourish and fuel your body
Just as thoughts about body size are interpreted by children, so are relationships with food.
Children who grow up in an environment where one or both parents value dieting and weight loss, the majority of children will take one of two paths. The child either becomes a chronic dieter, perpetuating the yo-yo dieting cycle OR they decide to rebel and intentionally find ways to eat foods that are prohibited in the house, when-ever and wherever they can.
As a role model, generalizing food by thinking of it in terms of energy and fuel, instead of being good or bad is a great way to start. From there you can begin to teach your children to listen to and hear their own internal hunger and fullness cues. Ask them what does it feel like to be hungry? How can you tell? How do you know that your full? How does your belly feel after that meal?
When possible provide and serve a variety of different foods to offer them some independence of choice. Would you like salad or broccoli with your chicken? Would you like beans or meat in your taco? For more information check out: Raising An Intuitive Eater: What Works With Kids and Teens in Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch)
Encourage joyful movement and play
What is your relationship to exercise and movement? is it a chore, a “have to” or a punishment? Or is it a great stress reliever, fun and confidence builder?
When we share and model fun and joyful relationships with movement and exercise, they will perceive it differently. I start by helping my clients disconnect exercise from calorie burning, losing weight or trying to change their body. I encourage them to start thinking about exercise as just play and movement.
Our bodies were designed to move and they love to move. In all sorts of ways. Maybe let your kids see you move your body in more non-traditional ways. Dance in the house, stretch during a commercial, take an after-dinner walk, play twister with them (good luck with that one). Head outside with your kids to a playground, show them how much fun moving their bodies can be!
Modeling positive body talk, and sharing an open friendship with food, joyful movement and play are 3 great ways to help take the focus off of weight and put it onto health. The impact of Diet Culture and Societies Thin Ideal on our children is so much bigger than I wish it was. That is why YOU make a difference here. ONE PARENT or family member at a time is what it takes to make change. Let’s do this…together.
For more support and guidance, please join The private body joyful revolution on facebook. A community of women empowering other women (and girls) to feel comfortable and confident in their bodies, regardless of size, shape or weight.
Anne Poirier BS, Certified Intuitive Eating and Body Confidence Coach
Founder Shaping Perspectives…A Woman’s Way to Joy
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/shapingperspectives