Watch Your Words Around Girls (and Boys!)
It is the season of swim suits and minimal clothing which can often lead people to be more conscious of their bodies and can result in depression and/or negative body image.
Do you regularly comment about your body in a negative light? Do you constantly compare yourself to other’s bodies? Have you been verbal about not wearing a bathing suit because you feel too fat?
….whatever say about your body sends a message to your daughters.
Young girls can easily interpret what you say to mean that a woman must be skinny in order to do the things she wants to do. She might begin to think that she must be thin in order to be beautiful enough to be seen in public. She might decide that she has to be lean in order to be loved and be thought of as beautiful.
Girls as young as 5 years are dieting! Where do you think they are getting the idea for the need to diet and lose weight? Sure media plays a big role but it’s a lot closer to home than that! A young girl’s mother (and father) is her most important role model. Values, principles and beliefs are instilled at such a young age and last a lifetime. If a young girl believes you have to be skin and bones to be attractive, she will struggle with her weight and body image for the rest of her life. Moms, think before you speak. If you comment on your thighs and your cellulite perhaps your daughter will start examining her own thighs more closely and determine she’s not too happy with hers either! If you compare yourself to other women or models in a magazine, your daughter will start comparing as well. If you only drink ‘diet’ drinks, eat no-fat processed products, deprive yourself of all goodies and then go on an all-out junk binge, your daughter will adopt the same practices. Moms – you can’t think only about yourself anymore. Mimicking is how most young children learn and develop. You have the power to help your daughters develop into strong, confident, beautiful human beings – on the inside and out or to become insecure, unhealthy, and negative.
Here’s some tips to consider:
- Learn to love your own body. Easier said than done! You may have 30+ years of media brain-washing to try to overcome but your daughters can still be helped! At the very least, never comment on your own body in a negative manner, especially in front of your daughters.
- Never comment on other women’s bodies and compare them to your own. Avoid scanning magazines with your daughters and remarking “I’d love to have her legs”, or “She’s got such a great body”. Instead, when looking at magazines ask your daughters if they know that each of the models are made-up for hours and air-brushed to create the final unrealistic image. Discuss with them how distorted and unhealthy this is. Talk to them about the scary consequences of these unrealistic ideals such as poor body image, extreme dieting, anorexia, bulimia, and death. Openly and regularly discuss these issues.
- Promote healthy eating and an active lifestyle. Diets don’t work for you or your daughters. Instead focus on encouraging your daughters to eat lots of fruits, vegetables and drink lots of water – not because it’ll keep them thin but rather, keep them healthy. Avoid exercising excessively. What message are you giving to your daughters if you remark “I’ve got to get to the gym to burn off that piece of chocolate cake” or if you consistently sacrifice other things in your life because you have to get to the gym? Remember little eyes are always watching and taking mental notes!
- Be watchful of the men in your home – your husband and sons. Do they make digs about other women’s, yours or your daughter’s body? If so, deal with it immediately. Make sure they understand how harmful, hurtful and damaging their remarks can be. Be sure they know that any further comments are inappropriate and unacceptable and will be punished!
If you do notice your daughter is practicing unhealthy eating and exercising habits, stay calm but seek help immediately. Consult with your physician to get a referral to see someone who specializes in this area. There may be something you can do before things get worse.
The vicious cycle of body hatred can be stopped and it starts with you. Each of us has the opportunity to deposit a little bit of love into a little girl’s self esteem bank everyday!
Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for over 25 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson. She can be reached at www.nwPersonalTraining.com or www.ShapeupwithSherri.com
Note: As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started. Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.