Body Image

As adults we struggle – I struggle. And having three kids has forced me to look more closely at how I see myself and my health and how I could spare my own kids.

Beyond them, we have a nation of obese children to consider. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has almost tripled since 1980. This puts American kids at a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma – not to mention social discrimination. There was a story in the New York Times years ago that said for the first time in two centuries, children in America have a lower life expectancy than their parents. It cited childhood obesity taking off as much as 5 years off their lives.

What if we could save one child from the years of misery and abuse we have put ourselves through? What if we can find ways to help our children be happier with whom they are, rather than focusing too much on what they look like?

To get off the weight loss cycle of one step forward, two steps back, we need to focus on truly important life goals – health, happiness and setting positive examples for our ourselves and our families.

Nutrition and exercise should not be an annual intervention, but a part of our everyday life. Maybe if we were focusing on goals that are truly meaningful to ourselves, we’d be more successful. What if we cared – really cared – more about being happy and healthy? It sounds like a dream!

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try to guard my kids from all the pain I have put myself though. In researching ways to help my children, I have come up with a few strategies that might help. Maybe the road to my own healthy body image can be found as I try to guide my kids.

1. Praise – Kids need praise!
Place value on their achievements, talents, skills and personality characteristics. Teach children about nutrition and how to make good food choices for themselves and praise their good decisions. Let them know they are more than their looks. Placing less emphasis on how kids look helps them value themselves in broader ways later in life.

2. Lead by example
The most influential role model in your child’s life is you. Eat and serve healthy food, don’t crash diet, accept your own body image, don’t judge others, and exercise yourself and with your family. If you are overly concerned about your own weight, your children will pick up on this and be concerned about their weight.

3. Take responsibility
Teach your kids to take responsibility for themselves, their eating, exercise and behavior. If you teach your children why it’s important to eat healthy food and how it can help their body grow and stay healthy, your child will be more willing to eat the healthy food you prepare them. Having your kids help to shop for and prepare food will expand the food they eat. It will also help them take on more responsibility around what they are eating.

4. Start a health plan
Enjoy healthy delicious food. The more you can cook at home, the more you and your kids will be eating healthy food. Follow the MyPlate guidelines. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. That alone could change how healthy you are eating. Exercise regularly by yourself and with your family. Emphasize the importance of being healthy rather than losing weight or weight management.

5. Talk to them
If your kids are struggling with body image, you might share your own insecurities and how you dealt with them. Let them know that you understand. Have family dinners as often as possible. This is a great way to enjoy a home cooked healthy meal, talk about their day, and be together as a family.

For more information on body image, see the links below:
School Family – 6 Tips To Help Kids Develop a Positive Body Image
Common Sense – Girls and Body Image Tips
Common Sense – Boys and Body Image Tips
USDA – Choose MyPlate – The five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet
Let’s Move – America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids
Rhode Island Department of Health, Initiative for Healthy Weight

*Article written by Kristie Stark, originally published on