Did you know that between 1999 and 2006, hospitalization for eating disorders among children rose almost 120%? Source
Some of us tend to not think twice about what we say in front of children in regards to body image and relationships with food. Children pick up on everything from what we say to how we act and that goes for image and food as well. For example, you put on a pair of jeans that you've owned forever but suddenly they don't fit you. What comes to mind? "Oh my goodness, I got fat" or "I need to loose weight" and your little 5 year old girl just heard all of that. Or think about the time you went to dinner with your family and decided not to order your typical dessert and you said out-loud that you are "trying to loose weight" or that you're "on a diet". Sure, this may seem extremely normal and acceptable in today's society but sometimes we need to think twice about what we say and how we say it- especially around children.
We go about our daily routines not realizing how much we think about body image and how much many of us evaluate food. From a young age this can effect us and it is important to note how harmful negative body and food talk can be on children. There is no such thing as a "bad food" first off. Some foods can be unhealthy, yes but I don't agree in labeling food "bad" and "good" because this can lead to negative relationships with food and cause many problems later on.
At a young age there is pressure in society to "look a certain way". Growing up as a dancer I saw this first hand. I was told when I was 15 years old (as a class) to not eat too much for Thanksgiving otherwise we may not fit into our costumes. The sad truth is that this happens even younger than that. The pressure to be small and thin and creating a constant battle with yourself and the mirror. It needs to stop. Media in general does not help the situation but there are things we can do as a community to help prevent this and keep children in their happy, carefree lifestyles for as long as possible. Read my list of Do's and Don'ts to help prevent children eating disorders and image dysmorphia.
Do's and Don'ts:
1) DO NOT talk about being unhappy with your weight with your children. There is no need to get them concerned about their weight at such a young age.
INSTEAD talk about being healthy and educate them on exercise and living a FIT lifestyle. This will have a much more positive impact on their lives.
2) DO NOT be overly concerned with your children's image. Again, be careful with how you phrase things. Telling your child they are chubby and need to loose weight can really set up a bad road ahead.
INSTEAD try getting them more active if they are overweight and start teaching the importance of fruits and veggies while also limiting unhealthy food in the house. Monkey see, monkey do!!
3) DO NOT talk negative. Being negative about food or image will do nothing but harm. Yes there are foods that aren't nutritious that are linked to obesity but teaching your children that moderation is OK will be a lot more beneficial than telling them certain foods will make them fat or are called "bad". Your child may not be overweight but if they associate being overweight in a negative way they can treat others who are overweight poorly. Be careful how you explain things.
INSTEAD make sure they don't relate food with emotion. Again, moderation is key. It is OK to have a cookie but not every day. Eating a piece of fruit would be healthier.
4) DO NOT let them watch endless amounts of TV. Not only does TV not promote activity it also showcases unrealistic body images that aren't attainable in a healthy matter.
INSTEAD limit your child's television time and encourage them to get outside and play - as a child should!
Please help in making children having a more positive outlook on their body image and encourage them to lead healthier and more fit lifestyles. I promise it will only do good for their futures.
In good health,
Cristina Walterman, owner of CW Physique, let's you in on fitness and nutrition tips, recipes, exercises and much more. With over 8 years of experience in the industry, she loves to inspire and motivate individuals. She always practices what she preaches and leads by example.