5 Body Love Rules I’m Teaching My Kids
Instilling confidence in kids and teaching them to love and respect their bodies when the world gives them so many reasons to do the opposite is tough. I’m an eating disorder survivor, so body image is an exceptionally tricky subject for me, but also something I’m extremely passionate about. I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from the wisdom of doctors and therapists who helped me get better, and even though I’ll never get it perfectly right, I feel at least somewhat prepared to tackle this topic with my own kids. Here are some things I’m teaching my kids to help them love their bodies:
‘Fat’ is not a bad word. I grew up thinking fat was the very worst thing you could call someone. If someone called me ‘fat’ it meant I was unworthy, unlovable, and a failure. It took me years to understand that my weight had nothing to do with my worth and that other people’s opinions about my body were inconsequential. My kids have never heard me utter the ‘F’ word about myself or anyone else, and though I can’t protect them from every damaging message in the outside world, I work hard to model for them that weight is not a measure of character, beauty, health, or ability.
There’s no such thing as ‘bad’ food. When you’re disordered in your eating, food is divided into ‘bad’ and ‘good’ categories. Bad foods are not just nutritionally inferior, but also have the power to devastate your self esteem. Food isn’t just food. It’s an indication of will power and how much control you can exert over yourself. Food has all the power. In my house, food is just food. Some foods are healthier than others and I teach my kids the value of wholesome, balanced meals, but there’s no phobia involved.
Moving your body is fun. Too often exercise gets treated like a punishment. I play and move with my kids, but I also let them see me doing activities I love. I run, even though I’m slow as molasses, because it makes me feel awesome and it helps me decompress. I lift weights in my living room because I like to use my muscles and I want to be stronger. We have dance parties because, well, do you really need a reason to have a dance party? When moving is a joy, exercise isn’t seen as a chore.
Wear whatever you want. Growing up I heard a lot of ‘rules’ for how people were allowed to dress. Black was slimming, horizontal stripes made you look wide, short hair gave you a fat face, white pants gave you a fat ass. Clothes weren’t about expressing myself, but about following rigid rules to hide my flaws. It wasn’t until a shopping trip with a bold friend in college that I changed my thinking. I kept picking things up and putting them down as I came up with reasons I wasn’t allowed to wear them. Finally, my friend said, “You can wear whatever you want. As long as it makes you feel good, it doesn’t matter what other people think.” Now, it’s a rule I live by.
Fit is a feeling. You might look great, but how do you feel? Our bodies can’t tell us everything, but they can tell us a lot, and if we’re too busy chasing numbers we stop listening to what’s being said. Feeling healthy and fit is a lot more important than any chart or percentage or number on a scale. Focus on feeling good and above all else, treat yourself kindly.