Encouraging Children to Have a Positive Body Image

It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and I wanted to take a moment to talk about the importance of encouraging children to have a positive body image.  This can be a difficult challenge when trying to make healthy lifestyle changes as so often we struggle with talking about ourselves positively.  There is a strong distinction between “I want to change myself for the better” and “I want to change myself because there is something wrong with me,” and not only is such negative thinking counter productive in ourselves, it deeply effects those around us, especially impressionable children.

How to Encourage a Positive Body Image in Children | Simply Fit & Clean

Health Magazine recently posted these five tips for helping children build a positive body image:

  • Don’t criticize yourself or others about weight or shape in front of youngsters.

  • Don’t make negative comments about food, such as “I can’t eat potatoes because they’re carbs.” Instead, teach children the importance of good nutrition and exercise without mentioning weight.

  • Praise children on their talents and achievements.

  • Explain to youngsters that weight gain and changes in body shape are a natural part of the growing process.

  • Talk to children about what they see in the media and remind them of things such as that only 5 percent of American women have the so-called “ideal” body type portrayed in ads.


So how can you make healthy life choices while encouraging a positive body image?  Try incorporating healthy family activities that are fun, like a bike ride or a hike, and frame the activity in a positive way.  “We keep active because it’s fun and healthy,” not, “We are doing this so we don’t get fat.”  Try not to serve up healthy meals with a negative, “Mom wants to lose weight,” but with a more positive, “Good foods help our bodies work better.”   Such positive statements will help your children build a proper appreciation for fitness and nutrition without the need to feel like they are broken and require fixing.  Hopefully it will help you feel that way, too.

If you are looking for more resources for encouraging your kids (and yourself) to look at their bodies through a positive lens, many great books have been written on the topic.  Click HERE for an Amazon list.

Please, if you or anyone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, click HERE to visit the National Eating Disorder Association website to find help and resources.

How do you try to promote a healthy body image in others?  Share it in the comments. Be sure to subscribe to the blog, like the Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, and to use the social media buttons below this post to share with your friends who want help encouraging their children to have a positive body image.

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About Sarah McMullin

Mother of two, Bachelor's and JD, married to a crazy high school teacher.
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3 Responses to Encouraging Children to Have a Positive Body Image

  1. Ray says:

    Well said! Being a good role model for your kids is #1 and you can really screw them up with negative comments!!

  2. Rebecca says:

    Great post! As I’ve been on my own journey to better health I have tried hard to watch my language. Even though my kids at home are young I now they hear everything.

    I’m not trying to be skinny, I’m trying to be healthy. We eat well because it gives us energy and lets us to do what want to do like climb and run and jump. And just because others might not make the same choices doesn’t mean they are doing something bad.

    I also try to avoid using terms like good, bad and cheat instead there are foods that we have often or anytime because they help our bodies have fuel and some foods are less often or for special occasions because they just taste yummy:)

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