“You’ve got such a pretty face. If only you could lose a few pounds, you’d be a knockout.”
“Getting a little round, aren’t we?” “Are you really sure that you need that second serving?”
Have you ever used lines like these on loved ones or those close to you in the hope of helping them watch their weight? While they may seem to be somewhat gentle reminders about weight management, talk like this can be extremely harmful.
A study in the journal Pediatrics brings home just how damaging apparently innocent and well-meaning comments can be to children’s body image and self-esteem as they grow up. And the effects can certainly be long- lasting.
The study was carried out on 455 college women who were extremely concerned about their weight and body shape and who were participating in an eating disorder prevention program. The researchers found that more than 80% said their parents or siblings had made negative comments about their bodies during childhood.
In some cases, the remarks were few and far between yet they influenced self-esteem years later. Reports on the skyrocketing rates of obesity of today’s youngsters and the potential cost to health appear in the media on a regular basis.
Talk about weight is so prevalent in today’s society that it’s having an incredibly profound effect on children. According to Marci Warhaft-Nadler, who has been conducting her workshops “Fit vs. Fiction” at schools , studies show:
• 81 % of 10-year-olds are afraid of getting fat
• 51 % of 9- and 10-year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet.
• At least 46 % of 9-year-olds restrict eating
• Hospitalizations for eating disorders in children under 12 years of age increased by 119% between 1999 and 2000.
So what’s a parent to do?
Take heart: there are plenty of steps you can take to counter the messages kids are getting and to help build up your children’s self-esteem and body image.
One simple action is to not take part in the trash talk about weight- either about yourself or others. Disparaging yourself or others about their weight does not go unnoticed by youngsters- even if they’re not included in the conversation.
But to really tackle the issues, Marci Warhaft-Nadler has written an invaluable resource. In her book, The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents: Helping Toddlers, Tweens and Teens Thrive, she shares her knowledge and provides concrete information. She not only includes hands-on tips and activities, real questions and answers and a wealth of resources, she also helps parents with providing warning signs of dangerous behavior.
Marci paid quite the price for her wisdom – she struggled with her own body image issues for most of her life – years of unhealthy starvation diets and exercise. She states that her amazing recovery and ability to turn trauma into triumph has been her catalyst for reaching out to others who are facing the same obstacles.
To get a taste of Marci’s insightful advice, check out the tips she offers on some of her blog posts such as How can I help my overweight child without damaging her self-esteem?
The book costs $14.99 excl. shipping and tax – a very wise investment, indeed, in your kids’ emotional health.
Are your kids concerned about weight issues? How are you handling their concerns? Please share in the comment section below.