“Body image is the perception of the person’s physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception.” Michelle Sperling, Clinical Psychotherapist
What’s important in that sentence is that it’s the person’s ‘perception’ of how they look, not necessarily the way they actually look.
Teenagers, girls in particular, can become preoccupied with how they think they’re supposed to look and begin to develop a negative body image themselves.
This is exacerbated by things like social media, TV, film and magazines and the way society treats thin people versus those who are overweight or ‘fat’.
It’s extremely important to equip your child with a positive body image growing up as it’s one of the core factors in ensuring they don’t develop an eating disorder.
Don’t glorify or glamorise weightloss
If someone has lost weight or gained it and looks all the better for it, don’t say ‘You look amazing, did you lose/gain weight?’
Instead, say, ‘You look really happy – what have you been up to? People want to know that you care about and value who they are, not how they look.
Don’t refuse certain foods because they’re ‘fattening’
It’s definitely a good thing to promote healthy eating in your household and make sure that everyone is eating nutritious food with plenty of fruit and vegetables. However, it’s important that you don’t vilify certain foods like cheese or meat or butter just because they have a high fat content.
Similarly, having dessert or treats in moderation is not a bad thing. If you want to discourage excessive sweet eating, it’s better to say that it’s bad for their dental health than their waistline.
Focus on positive health goals rather than appearance benefits
Exercise is a vital part of maintaining your family’s mental wellbeing but be careful that you encourage it for health reasons rather than weightloss.
Your children should know that being thin is not the same as being healthy just as being overweight doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhealthy. Good fitness levels come in all shapes and sizes and that should be celebrated!