Body Image Workshop: Part 1

Today begins a new series on our blog: The Body Image Workshop.

Last month I had a little piece of my heart break when I received two emails in the same day, one from the mom of a preschooler who had already developed body image issues, and the other from a pregnant mom, scared for her unborn daughter’s future body image issues. My head was spinning. Both moms needed info and resources and I sent some their way, but I had a hard time putting my head around the fear of an unborn girl’s body image. I had a hard time putting my head around why that is such a legitimate fear. Because it is.

I called my friend and colleague Marci Warhaft-Nadler, a certified fitness instructor and body image consultant, and asked if she would help me. I needed someone who would help me dig deep, really push the issue, unpack the numbers, and get underneath this massive rock of body image that sits on top of our daughters. Marci and I are both raising sons, and boys will be included in this series as well. But when you look at the numbers that reflect what is going on in with our girls, it is enough to make you want to scream. Or cry. Or both.

We MUST create a meaningful change. And we must do it now.

Hopefully this isn’t affecting your family, these posts will get low viewership, and Marci and I can focus our efforts elsewhere. Something tells me that is not going to be the case.

Marci and I care deeply about all of our kids. We’re going to be honest. We’re going to really dig into this issue. We’re not going to pull our punches. We’re going to give you the tools and resources you need. We might say things that sting, we might say things you disagree with. We’re going to pull in medical and nutrion experts. We’ll talk to authors and psychologists. We’re going to give you printouts and talking points. Not generics, but specific go-try-this-today info. We’re going to give you the chance to be the expert bloggers and give us tips on what you do in your homes. We’re going to give you the chance to ask questions and talk to experts directly. For free.

You have no idea how much energy Marci and I have on this subject. We’re going to get this thing done. And we’re going to do it right here.

 

Buckle up, here comes Part 1: A Parent’s Guide To Talking About Body Image – Age 0-3

by: Marci Warhaft-Nadler

The facts are beyond disturbing.

Recent studies show that boys and girls as young as 5-years-old are struggling with body image. Day after day, they are bombarded with messages from the media, society, peers as well as a number of other sources, telling them that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, attractive enough and certainly not THIN enough. As a result, more and more kids are putting their health and lives at risk by engaging in dangerous behaviors to attain what they THINK is the ideal physique.

The scary truth:

80% of 10 year olds HATE their bodies

25% of 7 year olds have already tried dieting

Eating Disorders in kids under 12 years old rose 119% over the last 9 years

42% of 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders want to be thinner by the time a girl is 17 years old, she’s seen approximately 250, 00o messages from the media telling her what she’s supposed to look like.

Gaining weight is the #1 FEAR of teenage girls, over losing their parents or getting cancer.

In 1970, the average age a woman started dieting was 14 years old, by 1990 the average age was 8 years old.

As parents, we want to protect our children from the superficial and often judgemental world that awaits them, but it’s a task that can feel somewhat overwhelming. Here’s the good news: There is A LOT we can do, starting from the minute we bring our babies home, to empower them with strong, healthy self-esteem and to help them grow up with the self-confidence they deserve.

How do we get started?

0-3 years old:

When our kids are this young, we are pretty much in control of their environment. We control what they see and hear, and this definitely works to our advantage. Here are a few suggestions to help create the kind of environment that will help our kids grow up loving who they are, instead of judging who they think they’re not:

1)  ROLE MODELLING

I cannot say this strongly enough. Little girls learn SO MUCH about how to treat themselves by watching their moms (and sisters and grandmas and aunts). It is crucial that daughters see their mothers being kind and accepting of themselves. This can take work, because it’s become almost second nature to criticize our jiggly arms or round tummies and we don’t realize that these seemingly harmless comments are anything but harmless. As silly as it may feel sometimes, make a point of complimenting yourself, out loud, on a daily basis. Challenge yourself to do so in creative ways. For example: Feel free to look in the mirror and proudly say, “I LOVE my arms because I use them to lift and hug my baby, to roll out cookie dough and maybe even do a few push ups!” and, “I LOVE my thighs because I use them to dance with my baby and walk through the park!”

{Melissa adds: Say to baby:  “Oh! Look at your strong legs climb the steps!”  or “Let’s wash those busy arms and feet!”  or “Does it feel good to have a tummy full of healthy food?”  or  “Big girl! Look how much you’ve grown since Christmas!”   or  “Can your strong arms help me clean up the toys/rake the leaves/walk the dog?”.  Your little ones won’t understand the concept of ‘healthy food’ or how much time has passed since Christmas, but they will understand your tone of voice and attitude as you set a framework for how your family will view body image.}

By doing this, your daughter will grow up loving her body for what it can DO, not judging it for how it looks.

The BEST part of this exercise, is that by committing to just a few seconds of self-appreciation every day, you’ll see your OWN self-esteem increase as well!

  

2) IMAGE-PROOF your home

We’ve all heard of Baby-proofing our homes, the act of removing any potential dangers our babies may come into contact with; we plug electrical outlets, soften sharp table edges and lock cupboard doors. Well, now we can also Image-Proof our homes by clearing out the negative messages and replacing them with positive ones. It’s a pretty simple exercise actually, just look around your house for magazines, books, posters or anything that promotes the unrealistic images of beauty that surround us today. Even though, kids this young aren’t reading yet, they are soaking in everything they see around them and we need to make sure that what they see is helpful and not harmful.

Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting that we can put blinders on our kids and keep them from ever seeing the evils of the beauty obsessed world we live in; but the fact is, if we can show our kids examples of beauty in all shapes, sizes and forms from the time that they are very little, they will be better armed to deal with the superficial and critical messages that start coming their way as they get older. A big part of the body image problem, is that kids see impossibly perfect models on TV and in magazines and then compare themselves to these images and walk  away feeling inadequate, like they just don’t measure up. However, if they have already seen beauty in a variety of forms, it will be easier to understand that the problems aren’t with their own bodies, but with the ones they are seeing on TV.

{Melissa adds: Use family photos of past and present to decorate your home…like where that stack of fashion magazines used to be. Teach your children that beauty is passed down through families, not by marketers and Photoshop.}

3) Make your home FAT TALK – FREE

We already know how important it is to avoid criticizing ourselves in front of our kids, but we need to extend that to guests in our homes as well. Kids hear everything, they take it in, process it and then, oftentimes, repeat it. Make sure that people who visit your home understand that any kind of fat or diet talk is not appreciated. It sounds strange, but there are a lot of people, who can’t go one full day without mentioning the calorie content of something they’ve eaten or making reference to their desire to lose weight.

{Melissa adds: The number one offender that I hear about all of the time is Grandma. We’ll have a post on this coming up.}

Remember, our  focus should be on function over esthetics. We need to teach our kids to love WHO they are, because if they grow up liking and respecting themselves, they will make better choices in all aspects of their lives.

The negative messages our children get from the media and society are strong, but that just means that our positive messages as parents, have to be even STRONGER.

Self-Worth should not be measured in pounds!

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Melissa here: See? That was easy and painless. Three sure-fire steps you can take with your itty bitty to get your family started on the right foot. Are your kids older? Still works! And? You can start doing this today. Right now! Go! Go pitch that Victoria Secret catalog and Vogue. Chuck it. Go find a photo of your grandma when she was 24. She was gorgeous. Your daughter has her eyes. Focus on that. Define beauty for yourself.

We can do this. Together.

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Marci Warhaft-Nadler is a certified fitness instructor and body image consultant. After overcoming her own body image and eating disorder issues, Marci created her Fit vs Fiction program to tear down the dangerous myths related to beauty and fitness and empower kids with the self-esteem they need to tune out negative messages and be proud of who they are instead of judging themselves for who they think they’re not. 

Self-Worth should NOT be measured in pounds!

www.fitvsfiction.com

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marciwarhaft@rogers.com