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According to Kater, there are four common myths that parents need to address with their kids. Use the tips and activities below to combat negative influences and nurture the seeds of a healthy body image.
Myth #1: "How I look is more important than who I am.”
Read “Beauty and the Beast,” and discuss the idea of objectification.
Explore, together, the history of body ideals—corsets and Chinese foot binding are good places to start.
Page through a magazine together, noticing the unrealistic images that predominate the pages. Search for realistic standards that promote self-esteem and healthy lifestyles.
Watch a video that illustrates how the media's images of beauty are often fabricated.
Emphasize inner qualities in your children. Complement their accomplishments, good deeds and personalities.
Myth #2: “Everyone can be thin if they work hard enough.”
Teach your kids that every person has their own unique body type, and that complete control over body type and weight is not possible. Teach them that body shape is a lot like height—there’s not much they can do to change it.
Help them recognize and appreciate the wide variety of body shapes and sizes. Looking at the different body types of athletes make good examples—jockeys, swimmers, runners, wrestlers and baseball players all have different strengths thanks to their body shapes.
Help then understand that it is normal to experience an increase in body fat during puberty and throughout life. Teach them that this increase has a biological purpose.
Model respect for diversity by showing appreciation of your own body type. Don’t let your kids overhear you complain about your thighs or lament about how much you overate.
Myth #3: “Dieting is effective.”
Help them understand that severe caloric restriction is ineffective and unhealthy in the long term.
Focus on eating more healthy foods rather than eating fewer foods.
Myth #4: “Eating healthy and exercising is too hard, and no fun!”
Teach the importance of a balanced diet, and the pitfalls of relying on meals that provide little nourishment. The best way to teach this is by example.
Teach the importance of an active lifestyle, and how it can be fun as well as health promoting. Get active with your kids.
Even when kids eat healthy foods and get plenty of exercise, there will still be a variety of body types, shapes and sizes. By teaching your children to accept and appreciate this diversity, they will become more accepting of themselves.
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.
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