This week I write with an urgent purpose, hoping to reach parents and guardians. More and more research is highlighting the body dissatisfaction in young children. A study in 2016 found that girls as young as 5 years old were internalising the thin-ideal (the concept that thinner is better). The study also found that the girls would talk negatively about their own body if their mothers showed this behaviour too. I want to give you 8 ways to stop children engaging in diet culture.
We all need to celebrate our bodies more. If we show children the true value of our bodies – their ability to keep us alive – we can eventually filter out the issues of social comparison . We can filter out this need to conform to media ideals. Children will grow up without body image concerns and consumerism for diet culture will die. And if they don’t have a consumer, the products will go away. The teatox diets will vanish from our shelves. Meal replacement shakes will be replaced with actual meals. Maybe, (and this is a hope for my ideal world) the prevalence of eating disorders will reduce.
Children are taught the importance of giving kindness and compassion to others, but not themselves. Here are some things we can all do to reduce the internalisation of diet culture in children.
8 ways to stop children engaging in diet culture
- Avoid weighing yourself in front of your children.
- Avoid weighing your children unless needed medically.
- Talk positively about yourself when looking in the mirror.
- Teach the importance of everything in moderation and avoid labeling foods as good or bad.
- If your child is chubby, don’t tell them they’re chubby.
- If your child is overweight due to inactivity, get them involved with exercise because you want to spend time together as a family. Do not emphasise their need to lose weight.
- Allow your child to read material which promotes inclusivity. Avoid material which promotes diet culture, or instead, use them as an example of how not to talk about your body.
- Eat and exercise intuitively. Put self-care first. Lead by example and omit diet culture from your lives.