We live in a world that is obsessed with looks. No matter how much we try to protect kids from unrealistic expectations, they are still exposed to it through TV and movies, in magazines and online, at home with family, and at school among friends. You can help the kids in your life havea healthy body image with these five tips.
Start with You!
Before you do anything else, look at your own beliefs, actions, and behaviors. Do you have an unhealthy relationship with food or dieting? Be mindful of the message that you are sending about your attitude toward your own body and appearance. This includes criticizing yourself in ways that communicate that what you look like is more important than who you are.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds us that kids will always pick up on the negative messages we send about ourselves. Be positive about your own body first, and then you’ll be able to help your child.
Inspire a Healthy Relationship with Food
Encourage children to eat a healthy variety of foods, in moderate amounts. Food shouldn’t be treated as either a reward or a punishment, but simply a method for satisfying hunger. Kids should not be focused weight, calories, or rules. Remind children to pay attention to their bodies’ hunger cues, and eat tasty, healthy snacks that will fuel their bodies through their favorite activities.
Part of a healthy body image is the feeling of being fit and strong. Encourage your children to play! This could be through organized team sports like soccer or softball, or solo activities like riding a bike or swimming. The American Heart Association encourages children to practice physical activity daily for strong hearts, better sleep, more energy, and healthy muscles, bones, and joints.
A National Institutes of Health study found that children learn about healthy and unhealthy body images and self-esteem from friends and family. It’s important that the message kids receive is that self-esteem should not be tied to being “perfect.” Kids should be encouraged to focus on what their bodies can do—not what they look like. Bodies that can play, run, dance, jump, and climb are bodies that should be appreciated. Children that feel good about their bodies are more likely to have higher levels of self-esteem.
Children who feel safe and supported are often healthier, better adjusted, and less likely to be unhappy with their body or self-image. Parents and grandparents should aim to create an environment where children feel comfortable asking questions and sharing uncomfortable thoughts. Kids whose family members listen to their concerns and discuss how real value is found in character and not appearance, will have better self-esteem, and are less likely to fall into the negative body image trap.
For other ways to reinforce a healthy body image for kids, consider enrolling in AltaMed’s 12-month STOMP Wellness and Family Nutrition Program. Through classes and activities, your family will get tips for healthy eating, family fitness exercises, and participate in fun challenges! You and your family could even win prizes!
Call us for more information on STOMP: