by Kristina Ambler
Most of you know I am a Wellness Coach specialising in the Psychology of Eating. The drive behind my work is from my own messed up relationship with food and my body. I now feel grateful for this experience as it has given me the wisdom and tools to educate and empower people to not fall into this tiresome trap.
I recently had the chance to share my story and some tips at this amazing school which invited me talk to their students about self esteem and body image.
Most of us have been led to believe if we look a certain way then we will finally be happy and feel good about ourselves. We exert a lot of energy into diets and exercise in the hope that this will be the miraculous answer. And yes, it helps for the short term but it doesn’t always last. Lasting change happens from the inside out and I feel optimistic that a shift can happen if we bring awareness to this now.
I really believe if we can empower our kids to have better self-esteem and a healthier body image, it will prevent them from entering a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and, even worse, developing an eating disorder. Statistics show that eating disorders are on the rise and I really believe a new approach is needed. So if we want different results, then we need to do something that hasn’t been done before. I know we can’t hate ourselves better, but I am 100 percent sure we can love ourselves better.
I really believe empowering kids at schools is where the change needs to happen. I do a lot of work with adults who are still acting out from their own experiences at school. Giving kids the tools early could prevent these emotional wounds from occurring in the first place.
So here are some quick tips to help parents feel empowered to help their children with their body image.
Try to take the angle that this is not something that needs to be fixed. Luckily for you, your child isn’t broken. The bigger problem is society’s pressures around this topic. When kids can feel that they are normal as they are, it helps their self esteem and fuels a better body image. This enables them to want to become a healthier version of themselves. When we feel better about ourselves, we make better choices in all aspects of our lives.
Be mindful how you talk about your own and other bodies in front of your children. EveryBODY is different and that is normal, especially children’s bodies as they are still going through a lot of changes. When you exercise, try to take the approach of it being something you like to do as it helps you feel great and not something you have to do. Try to let this carry on in the way you talk about food. For example, instead of labelling food good or bad or fattening, try changing your language to describe food as nourishing, giving you energy, helping your brain concentrate, or making you feel happier for longer. This helps kids understand why it is vital for them to have healthy foods in their body. Help them feel responsible in their choices.
When you are eating your food really do just that. Slow down and take the time to eat it. Look at your food, in fact use all of your senses to appreciate the food. Celebrate the ritual of eating together as a family. Eating food is as essential as breathing. We truly are meant to enjoy it. When we are present with our food, we break the habit of over eating and craving foods that are not good for our overall health. These little techniques can prevent kids from carrying around the shame and guilt that sometimes clouds our relationship with food.
Help kids focus on what they like about themselves. Try limiting the physical attributes and bring more awareness to their other achievements. For example, how much effort they put into their sports or school work or how kindly they treat the people around them. Help them differentiate the friends that help them feel good about themselves and the ones that don’t – chat about being around those people with the same vibe as them. (This is a great one for us adults too.)
Lastly, give yourself a break. We are not always going to get it right and we are all still learning as well. I don’t know about you but I find this parenting gig the hardest and most rewarding job in the world.
Image credit: www.naturalwealthjournal.com
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