Our kids are growing up in a very appearance focused culture. My friend Gayle calls it Kardashian Culture; the body image blogosphere calls it Diet Culture. And for those of us living with teenaged girls, you might think you are living in Selfie World. But whatever you want to call it, many of our kids -- especially our daughters -- feel it’s their job to create and manage an image they send out to the world. They need to be camera ready 24/7 for Instagram and Snapchat.
The pressure on them to create a perfect image of themselves is actually making our kids feel bad about themselves, especially about their bodies. They feel flawed in comparison to other people's selfies (that are filtered and edited!) on social media from models to friends.
Research shows that:
- 70% of adolescent girls and 45% of adolescent boys want to change their bodies’ size or shape
- When surveyed, adolescents list their body image as the #1 concern in their lives
This body dissatisfaction is negative body image. It is something we parents need to be concerned about because it is:
- The root of all eating disorders
- Directly linked to depression and feelings of isolation
- The base of a pervasive low self-esteem that impedes healthy identity development in adolescents
- And, in its most benign form, body dissatisfaction is time spent, worried, distracted from living and things that matter more: like who our kids want to be, what they want to do, and how they can contribute to the world
How would you know if you or someone you love has a negative body image? People with a negative body image:
- Obsess about their looks
- Worry excessively about how much they weigh
- Compare themselves to other people
- Believe all their problems would go away if they could change their looks
We would much rather our kids like the skin they live in and have a positive body image where they:
- Like their body
- Accept body ‘flaws’
- Don’t spend time focused on their weight or looks
- Value themselves for who they are, not just what they look like
Negative body image and eating disorder prevention
Negative body image and eating disorder prevention have been a topic for research for two decades. Researchers have found when you reduce the negative aspects and increase the positive aspects of body image, the number of eating disorders and incidence of depression goes down.
And, good news, they've found that parents can have a substantial impact in supporting positive body image in their children. As parents we can help them live happily, even as they're surrounded by a society that’s obsessed with bodies and appearance. That's why I am spending my time talking to parents about their kids' body image.
Together we can reverse these trends by taking the necessary steps toward that objective, hence the next 7 Steps You can take to Raise Kids with Positive Body Image.
With our help our kids can get on with their job of figuring out who they want to be, what they want to do, and how they can contribute to the world.
- Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor, Body Respect, 2014.
- Paul Campos, The Diet Myth, 2005.
- Carolyn Costin, Your Dieting Daughter, 2013 (2nd edition).
- Renee Engeln, Beauty Sick, 2017.
- Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel, Beyond a Shadow of a Diet, 2014 (2nd edition).
- Susie Orbach, Fat is a Feminist Issue, 2006 (2nd edition).
- Rachel Simmons, Enough As She Is, 2018.
- Julia V. Taylor, The Body Image Workbook for Teens, 2014.
- Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch,Intuitive Eating Workbook: 10 Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food, 2017.