It's no secret that much of our culture has become body-obsessed and food fearing. Whether you're consumed with your physique, workout, stepometer, calorie counting app or the latest fad diet, you're not the only one affected by what you spend your time doing. What you think and talk about is what you believe, and assuming you have relationships, your influence may have more power than you realize.
From a young age, children begin to form their beliefs, often influenced by the people they're around most. Their minds are malleable, and so it's not surprising to hear your own food- and body-based comments coming from your kids as well.
Every time you talk down to yourself for your "fat thighs" or "bad day of food," you create new beliefs in your child. What you say about your body is what you believe, and what you believe is reflected in more than just your thoughts; it shows in your language and actions.
Over time, it's not inconceivable that your daughter may begin to believe food is a measurement for success or behavior ... every mother's nightmare, no?
When I work with clients, I'm asked the same question again and again: How do I keep my daughter from adopting these thoughts? How can I shield her from the body shaming media around every corner? Can I do anything at all?
While this is a valid concern, the solution begins with healing your own views before anything else. People want to talk the talk but not walk the walk, but it just doesn't work that way. You must put the oxygen mask on yourself first before trying to put it on others.
So how can you become the positive influence your daughter (or son) need in their lives? Here are three tips for raising confident, body-loving children:
1. Don't label yourself.
This won't be the easiest habits to form, but the quickest way to be a positive influence on your daughter is to not label yourself. Don't comment on how "good" you were the day you stuck to your diet. Don't call yourself "bad" when the scale increases. You are simply you, through and through. You can prevent your daughter from labeling herself down the road by first not allowing yourself to be labeled.
2. Compliment others on their energy, not appearance.
Though telling another woman she's beautiful is seen as a harmless compliment, it's often an inadvertent measure of worth as historically, beautiful people often receive more attention, admiration, affection and happiness because of their appearance. It's a surface-level compliment at best.
Start complimenting people based on how they make you feel or the kind of energy they put out. Let people know they're warming your soul. Let women know they're radiating or glowing. Inform your friends of their addicting positive energy. This kind of compliment will go so much further, as well as set a positive precedent to those watching.
3. Don't food or body shame.
Every time we food or body shame, we're creating a hierarchy for our body types and food choices. We're declaring that one type of body is better than another, inviting feelings of superiority and inferiority, respectively. If we actually want to create community, we have to stop judging based on the bodies we live in. If we want to raise confident, body-loving daughters, we have to show them that bodies are just bodies and it's what you do with it that really matters.
The same goes for food. If we want to teach our daughters to make peace with food instead of cultivating fears and list of "off limit" foods, we must teach them that foods are neither good nor bad. It's just food. Instead of judging yourself and others for food choices, teach your daughter the value of food and the purpose. Give her information, but don't teach her discrimination.