A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog about Moms and Body image. That entry wasn’t just a love letter to my amazing mom, but also a real life example of the foundation we can lay for our own children. As a mom, and as a body-positive-warrior-mom, it’s incredibly important to me to focus not only on learning to love myself, but teaching my daughters to love themselves from the beginning. There is so much out there that will hurt them. There are diet ads and billboards for liposuction and mean kids at school. I can’t make all of those go away, but I can arm them with the best tools and support I have available.
Raising our kids to be body positive is one of the most radical things we can do to further the Body Acceptance cause. By raising a generation to be critical of diet culture, by raising them to love their bodies as the amazing tools they are, and to spread that love and acceptance wherever they go, we as parents have the ability to change our culture, one beautiful child at a time.
Even if you aren’t a parent, these tips can be incredibly useful in all your dealings with young people in your life. Below are my top 3 tips for raising body positive kids.
- Don’t talk negatively about your body, or anyone else’s.
This is hard one for a lot of people. Even though you would never tell your child they are fat, you may often say it about yourself. Without even thinking, you may sigh about how you used to be smaller, complain about the size of your arms in a picture, or bemoan your double chin. All within earshot of your little ones. Hearing a parent talk negatively about their body means that’s how you should talk about your body. They are tiny little mimics. And the way you talk becomes the voice in their head.
- Make “Fat” a neutral word
Did you know that the average 10 year old girl is more afraid of getting fat, than getting cancer? In a world that demonizes fat, it’s often seen as the worst thing a person can be. Fat is equated with stupidity, laziness, and even evil. Fat characters on TV shows your kids watch are often portrayed as dumb or bad.
The word Fat is simply a descriptor word. When discussing a body it’s talking about adipose tissue. You can use it to describe someone who has a lot of adipose. When talking about food, it’s simply one of many nutrients that your body needs. A nutrient that young minds especially need, as fats are what help build their brain tissue.
When discussing the word fat, use it neutrally. Talk about how fat in food can make them smart. Foods like salmon, eggs and olive oil are all very fatty, and nutritious for their growing bodies.
- Don’t moralize food
In our modern, media driven world, it’s hard not to have issues with food. Food is both championed and demonized. There is always some new Super Food that is supposed to melt belly fat or some new Bad food that it turns out is awful for you. Kale good, Gluten bad. A few years ago, Fat was the demon, and a whole gaggle of fat free foods came out. Turns out they had twice as much sugar. Then sugar became the demon and it was sugar-free, stevia and agave.
Listen to me: Food has no moral value. Food is simply a fuel we need to intake to survive.
Recently my daughter came home from school talking about how vegetables are Healthy and French fries are not. I paused, and then asked her some more questions. It turns out they had been having a lesson about Healthy Food (a term I hate) at school. I tried to reframe the discussion. First of all, food can’t be healthy. It doesn’t have health. It can be nutritious though, so that’s the word I switched to. Then I asked her what about vegetables were nutritious? Fiber, vitamins, minerals, all those things were indeed very nutritious. Then I asked about French fries. Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin B6 and carbohydrates needed for fuel. They are also nutritious. Then we discussed moderation. If you only ate broccoli, your body wouldn’t be happy, if you only ate French fries, your body probably wouldn’t be very happy either! Balance is the key to being happy and healthy.
Framing food as fuel, neutralizes it. Food is a necessity to live, and helping to prevent your child from having issues with that fuel is incredibly important.
These are just my top three tips, and I will follow up with more. Please comment below if you have any tips or stories of raising your body positive child!