How do I improve my kid's body image?

May 13, 2022

How do you support your child’s body image? How do you help improve their body image?

First, you need to understand what body image is.

Body image is your perception of your body.

It’s your thoughts, beliefs, & feelings about your body.

How do we create a body image?

It’s mostly subconscious. We incorporate thoughts as we go about our day - noticing our bodies, other’s bodies - making comparisons, to others, as well as to ideals that we create, or even comparisons to what we look like at different times and in different pictures. We listen to how others talk about our bodies, and theirs. We incorporate these sentences into the narrative of our lives.

 

What is the story that you are telling about your body?

That tells a lot about your body image.

But yet, the story can change from day to day.

That’s the thing about body image - it’s not static. Think about how there are times that you feel like you’re rocking it and you feel amazing. And there are other times - perhaps just a few moments or hours or days separate from that amazing time, when you feel like you’ve got squish in all the wrong places.

 

Body image has actually nothing to do with what our physical bodies actually look like. Body image does not have a direct link to what we weigh or what size we are.

Body image is all about the story that we’re telling ourselves. It’s about our thoughts - what’s good, what’s bad, what we are comparing to, what we aspire to.

It can be a story of comparison and what needs to change in order to feel better. 

Or it can become a story of acceptance, and loving what is. 

How did we get here?

 

Very, very normally.

We are taking in information from our environment all the time.

We hear what people say - to us, around us. Some things stick, others don’t.

We see images on TV, social media, magazines in the checkout aisle.

And we are forming our own opinions about ourselves.

It’s part of our self-identity.

What is the story of us in the world?

 

Here’s the truth bomb:

We can’t just go change someone else’s story about themselves.

We can’t just create a better body image for them, ahem, our kids.

And telling them loving thoughts, supportive thoughts, can be very helpful and loving, but that doesn’t mean that they see themselves in those statements.

Imagine, if I told you your purple hair is ugly - you likely wouldn’t be upset because you know you don’t have purple hair. You have beliefs about your body and what you recognize in what others say or not. If I tell you how strong and beautiful your body is but you don’t yet think that yourself – my comment will just be “purple hair”.

 

Others words sink in when they align with what you believe about yourself.

So what do we do as parents to work on beliefs about how amazing and strong and wonderful our kids’ bodies are?

  1. Address our own body image. The story that we tell ourselves about our bodies impacts how we show up in the world. It impacts how we show up with family members, including our kids. If you’re telling yourself that you can’t eat a muffin because it will go straight to your hips, or you’re not fit enough to wear those pants…. Do you really think the kids aren’t hearing that? Seeing it?
    • We are a significant part of our kids’ environment.
    • We look to social media as having such a crappy influence on our kids. Well, we can counter those influences at home. We are a part of the difference, 100%.
    • Be the change you wish to see in the world (thanks, Gandhi).
  2. How do you influence body image? Remember it’s a construct of what you think & feel about your body. What opportunities are you giving yourself to focus on what’s working - what you are grateful for, what you love about your body, and simply… what is?
    • I swear that about 70% of my weight is in my legs. I was very sensitive to this years ago - comparing to  images that had thigh gaps (WTH is with thigh gaps), how I couldn’t get pants that would fit my thighs without getting tailoring off the bottom. And then I discovered weightlifting. Little did I know that it runs in my family (my grandfather apparently was a weightlifting champion, all 5’6’’ of him, back in the day). My thighs, my legs - became my strength. I had a secret weapon… two of them… that folks didn’t see coming on a woman who was 5’2’’.
  3. We are our kids’ environment. That is it. They get to make of it what they will. That means that whatever we say, however we are with them - they still get to create their own thoughts - their beliefs - about themselves, and about what we do.
    • News flash: we cannot create our kids’ body image. We cannot switch it. It is theirs to create, whether we like it or not.
    • But we can check OUR thoughts about their body image.
    • Ask yourself, How does it make sense that they are struggling?
    • What does their concern about their body image mean to you?
    • How are you accepting and loving of their body - as it is?
  4. Remember, most importantly:
    • Changing your body - weight, size - does NOT change your body image. We cannot lose weight to get to a better body image. Remember how some days you feel amazing, and others not so much? It’s not about your body changing - it’s your thoughts, your feelings, your day-to-day perceptions. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that helping your child lose weight or change their body will help create a better body image. While the image may change, it’s not because of the body changing. It’s because of the thoughts about the body changing.

 

Check out the Family in Focus with Wendy Schofer, MD Podcast!

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