I have seen so many mothers, often with young girls, coming into my office wanting to lose that unrealistic 10-15 pounds – when their bodies are already in the healthy range. They eat healthy and exercise regularly, all labs are normal – yet they are plagued by wanting to be just a bit thinner. What does that teach our girls?
We cannot shelter our children from all of the media exposure that is found in magazines at the grocery store line or television commercials or endless weight loss commercials. However, we can limit the amount that they are exposed to, and we can balance any negative influences out with positive messaging. It is so important that we work hard to build healthy self-esteems in our young girls.
In addition to the advertisements, children are influenced by:
- Having mothers concerned about their own weight
- Having mothers who are overly concerned about their daughters’ weight and looks
- Natural weight gain and other body changes during puberty
- Peer pressure to look a certain way
- Struggles with self-esteem
Now the good news is that there are so many things that we can do to build a healthy self-esteem. One big way is to have a healthy self-esteem as their mothers. Let’s start with ourselves!
Other ways we can off-set negative influences are:
- Make sure your child understands that weight gain is a normal part of development, especially during puberty.
- Avoid negative statements about food, weight, and body size and shape.
- Teach your children about a balanced approach to eating which excludes calling foods “good” or “bad” but instead seeing them more as “sometimes” and “always” foods.
- Allow your child to make decisions about food, while making sure that plenty of healthy and nutritious meals and snacks are available.
- Compliment your child on her or his efforts, talents, accomplishments, and personal values.
- Restrict television viewing, and watch television with your child and discuss the media images you see.
- Encourage your school to enact policies against size and sexual discrimination, harassment, teasing, and name-calling; support the elimination of public weigh-ins and fat measurements.
- Keep the communication lines with your child open.
For more information on helping to build self-esteems within yourself and your daughters, visit womenshealth.gov.