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4 Ways to Cultivate a Positive Body Image

Amber Brandt  |  February 06, 2024

We all want to raise happy, healthy kids. But the environment in which we’re attempting to do it often leaves us swimming upstream. We all know what it feels like to wonder whether we belong, and to see bodies that look very different than ours deemed “perfect.” Our generation grew up seeing “ideal” bodies on magazine covers at the checkout aisle or in an evening sitcom, but our kids are bombarded day and night. So how can we possibly counteract the pressure?

Cultivating a positive body image starts with us. It’s more than simply being careful about the way we talk about weight and bodies in front of our kids (although that’s crucial), it’s practicing and internalizing the work ourselves. Our own journey toward body positivity or neutrality may still be a work in progress, but we can work to make sure our children get an early start on loving who they are. Here are a few ways:

1. Celebrate All Kinds of Attributes
You are more than the size of your body. You may be kind or funny, talented, strong, or trustworthy. The same is true for your child. When you’re praising the things they do well, make sure it’s not about size and shape. Focus on their problem-solving abilities, athleticism, great smile, or that sweet thing you overheard them say to a friend.

2. Reframe Your View of Physical Activity
Exercise should never be seen as a punishment for something you ate, or merely a tool for changing your body. If you can begin to see exercise and movement as a healthy outlet for stress, a mood booster, a means of socially connecting with others, or even an artistic expression, it will quickly become something fun and even meaningful. There are a million ways to move your body, it just takes a little curiosity and effort to find the ones you love. Explore activities with your child to discover what you both enjoy and maybe even be active together.

3. See Food with Fresh Eyes
Most of us were taught to clean our plates, and developed strong categories for which foods were “good” and which ones were “bad.” Our parents did this because they believed it was right, but unfortunately these labels just put undue attention and pressure on food and created anxiety around eating. Instead of giving our kids binary labels on food, we should talk to them about how our bodies need healthy nutrients, colors, and variety to grow strong.

4. Be the Change You Wish to See
If you grew up in a home where someone spoke critically about their body or yours, your journey may be complicated. You may still deal with insecurity or disordered eating, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be a good example for your child. Choose to do things differently in your home. Unfollow influencers who make you feel bad about yourself. Take steps to implement numbers 1-3 in your home and ask for help if you need it. Let’s help our kids see that their worth runs far more than skin deep.

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