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Last Updated on March 13, 2019 by Diane Hoffmaster
Encouraging a positive body image in girls can be challenging. You are fighting against female stereotypes and unrealistic body image ideas from the media. Teenage girls are more concerned with what their peers think than what YOU tell them is real. How do you promote a positive body image? I thought I would share a few tips to encourage parents to discuss the topic of healthy body image with their daughters.
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What Influences Body Image?
You might be surprised at what influences body image ideas in your daughter. A few years ago, I sat around the dinner table with my family and watched my daughter push her food around her plate with her fork. For my normally good eater, this was a bit odd. When asked why she wasn’t eating, she replied that she thought the meal was too fattening. I was, to say the least, shocked at her response.
We eat incredibly healthy with lots of whole grains and fresh produce. I never count calories or mention the word diet in my children’s presence. I asked her why she was concerned about the fat content of her dinner. Her response? The nutrition lesson at school that day made her doubt the type of food we eat.
More Tips for Parenting Girls
- Raising Teenagers and the Art of Compromise
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- A Message for my Daughter About Acting Her Age
In my daughter’s mind, that homemade cheese sauce on her food was one of those ‘fattening’ foods the school nurse warned her about. I sat her down and had a long conversation about finding balance in our diet. And how we need to look at our entire day’s food intake as a whole rather than counting every calorie or gram of fat.
While the school nurse meant well, I think that teaching children nutrition in the manner they chose does nothing but contribute to eating problems and poor body image, especially in girls. Typically, parents, peers, and the media have the biggest impact on a girls body image. However, messages can sometimes be hidden in the strangest places.
Encouraging a Positive Body Image in Girls
With our society’s constant emphasis on weight, we have to ask ourselves the best way to promote a positive body image in girls. Girls are inundated on a daily basis with images of super skinny models in string bikinis and actresses who are so thin their collarbones practically stick out.
How do we let our daughters know that it is totally okay to have a bowl of ice cream occasionally? And not to worry if your hip bones have a tad bit of padding on them. How do we find balance between encouraging a positive body image in our kids and making sure that they don’t become truly overweight? Raising confident girls is important and without a positive body image, confidence is hard to come by.
Tips for a Healthy Body Image
Want your daughter to have a healthy body image? Develop one yourself! Of course, that may take some work. You have a lifetime of conditioning to overcome. Here are a few tips to encourage a positive body image in your daughter.
- Model good behavior. Don’t let your children hear you putting yourself down. “These jeans make me look so fat” or “I can’t have that cookie because I’m on a diet”. Those are phrases that should never be spoken in your child’s presence.
- Compliment her: Don’t be overzealous with the compliments but let her know that you love the way that color looks on her. Or tell her the new hair style she chose really compliments her face. Find something nice to say to boost her spirits every once in a while.
- Compliment what is on the inside, too: Let her know that she is a special and worthwhile person for who she is, not just what she looks like. Let her know that you are proud of her for her accomplishments or that she really excelled at a particular task.
- Set appropriate boundaries: Reconsider letting your kids watch TV shows that emphasize weight loss, modeling, or other shows that put a significant emphasis on how a person looks on the outside.
- Make being active regular part of your day. Head out for a walk with your kids. As a result, you may improve your own body image as well!
- Make and eat healthy food together. However, be mindful of calling any food 'good' or 'bad'. Be careful not to make 'bad' foods off limits.
- Don't avoid activities that make someone body-conscious. Put a bathing suit on with your daughter and hit the beach. Don't make her feel body conscious just because you don't like your love handles.
Activities for Encouraging a Positive Body Image
Our daughters have a lot of pressure placed on them from society, their peers, and even loving adults. Keep an open line of communication with your daughter and talk to her about healthy eating, food, exercise, and the true meaning of the word ‘healthy’. And maybe every once in a while take her out for a dish of ice cream!
If you find that your OR your daughter struggle with developing a healthy body image, there are things that may help. Here are a few activities for improving your body image. Do them WITH your daughter for the best results!
- Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself. Reread it often!
- Surround yourself with positive people. Kick negativity to the curb in your social life.
- Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Time for a little bit of a splurge on YOU!
- Cut back on social media exposure. There are many messages online that have a detrimental affect on body image.
- Donate your time to a good cause. Too much free time lets the brain worry about weight more than it needs to!
Want to raise a girl with a positive body image? Check out PBS.org for more resources! Have any other suggestions for encouraging a positive body image in girls?
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She has two college aged kids, one husband and more pets than she will admit to. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire but left her career in science to become a stay at home mom. Years of playing with LEGO and coloring with crayons had her craving a more grown up purpose to her life and she began blogging and freelance writing full time. You can learn more about her HERE.