Childhood Obesity and Learning to Love your Body

Learning to love your body is no easy task in our overly fat-conscious society. In this part of our series on childhood obesity, we’ll take a look at some healthy ways you and your children can begin to nurture self-acceptance.

As a parent, you are the most influential person in your child’s world. If you hate or disrespect your body, your children will hate or disrespect theirs. Your children are watching you. Like sponges, they take in every aspect of your behavior, particularly those aspects you try to hide from them. If you complain about the size of your thighs or the tightness of your jeans or obsessively count calories, your children will fall into step with you.

Bombarded as we are by images of an impossible ‘ideal,’ learning to love your body is incredibly difficult for adults. It can be even more difficult for children, especially in the early teen years when a child’s self-image gets lost in the carnival house of mirrors that is peer pressure. While waiting for likes on Instagram or hoping not to be the last picked for kickball at recess, even the more confident youth can lose his or her sense of self-worth.

But peer pressure is not the only threat to a child’s self-worth. His dignity and self-respect are based largely on how you, the parent, view him. And by extension, your view of your child is influenced by how you view yourself. Thus teaching your child to learn to love her body starts with you learning to love yours. We were born with this level of self-love. (Imagine the delight in a baby’s eyes when she discovers her own fingers or toes.) Relearning it takes times. The first step is patience.

Here are some other steps that can help you along the way:

Compassion – Treat yourself with compassion and gentleness. “In a harsh world, gentleness is the antidote. Like compassion, gentleness has transformative power. Gentleness is both soft and strong.” (http://www.upworthy.com/how-to-teach-kids-to-love-and-respect-their-bodies-in-8-steps)

Challenge – Listen to your inner critic. “Self-talk is often skewed towards the negative, and sometimes it’s just plain wrong. If you are experiencing depression, it is particularly likely that you interpret things negatively. That’s why it’s useful to keep an eye on the things you tell yourself, and challenge some of the negative aspects of your thinking.” (https://psychcentral.com/lib/challenging-negative-self-talk/)

Pay Attention – Start to notice what really makes you feel good – both emotionally and physically. This may mean that you have to slow things down. This is particularly important when eating. Eat intentionally. Do nothing else while eating. Don’t watch TV or look at a screen while you eat, pay attention to each bite of your food. Imagine how it nourishes your body. Feel its textures, notice its smell, chew it slowly and thoroughly…

Play – Play is essential for a healthy brain. Play nurtures happiness, development, education, creativity. It promotes physical activity and dexterity. It encourages exploration, confidence, and resilience. Play is important for adults and vital for kids. (source: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182)

Rest – Without sufficient good rest, we are not able to do our best work or have the most fun. Rest diminishes fatigue, reduces stress, and fosters clear thinking.

Practice – Practice these things. We get good at what we practice.

image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Photo_challenge/2016_-_April_-_Children_playing/Voting