Nobody ever said that parenting was going to be easy and I must admit parenting two girls is not without its challenges. Especially when it comes to developing a good body image and tricky subjects and like weight, looks, sibling rivalry to touch on just a few! Just when you think you have it sussed they throw another curve ball at you!
Developing a Good Body Image
So my dilemma at the moment is how to encourage a healthy sense of one’s physical appearance without making an issue out of it or over emphasising the topic. I will not deny the fact that I have always been body conscious but I do try and ensure that I eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. As parents, my husband and I both try and focus on the health aspect, emphasising healthy body – healthy mind. In a perfect world this would be enough but unfortunately once our children become aware of the media and what the “world” deems as being acceptable – it feels like we are fighting a losing battle.
Statistically South Africa falls somewhere in the middle of the graph as far as fatalities caused by eating disorders, the USA has the highest rate – somewhat alarming when my daughters are trying to model themselves on American pop stars and actresses. Please do not get me wrong, I am not saying that all popular people have eating disorders but the media certainly makes a big deal if anyone of them puts on a few extra pounds!
After reading an article recently on the “Fad” diets that actresses follow, I was even more alarmed at what length someone will go to “lose weight”. The most terrifying diet mentioned in the article is “the Baby Food Diet” – you have got to be kidding me, this cannot be healthy or pleasant to do. The thing is I love good food to much too even contemplate doing something like this; what’s better than a delicious steak and a baked potato – yum! (I am making my own mouth water!) I will admit that I have certainly tried a few crazy “detoxes” in my time but never lasted more than a few days – who wants to eat onion soup three times a day!
Where does this leave us as parents and how do we deal with children who show signs of becoming obsessed with losing weight and developing a full blown eating disorder? I guess the thing we have to realise is that having an eating disorder does not always mean you are thin – binge disorders can make people over weight. The issue lies with an unhealthy relationship with food, so the most important thing we as parents can do is lead by example – ensure that our children see us eating a healthy well balance diet and exercising regularly. By doing this we can encourage them to do the same and focus on the health aspect rather than the weigh aspect.
I think we also need to be sensitive to our children’s feelings and perception of their own body – encourage them to talk about how they feel. Also be aware of what you say about others – I always maintain if its not positive or helpful, keep your mouth shut! Which brings to mind an incident which happened over the weekend – a rather insensitive shop assistant told my very impressionable 10 year old that she had fat on her ankles (we were shoe shopping) – as I said if you don’t have anything good to say then don’t say anything! I then had to spend the rest of the afternoon explaining that the woman had no idea what she was talking about and was just trying to make sales – needless to say we did not buy anything from her!
What can we do to help promote a healthy sense of being?
- Make sure your family eats breakfast and share family meal times as often as possible.
- Limit access to magazines or social media that promote underweight celebs as being glamorous – teach your children to discern what a healthy body image is.
- Encourage your children to be active and exercise regularly.
- Talk to your children about their feelings towards their own body.
- Promote healthy self-esteem and self-respect.
- Most importantly, lead by example – live a well-balanced life!
Articles I found helpful on the subject:
- Eating Disorders: What Families Need to Know
- 10 Things Parents Can Do to Help Prevent Eating Disorders