The statistics on eating disorders are staggering. Anorexia is the third-most common chronic illness in young adults. What is imperative for our children to understand is that there are healthy ways to treat your body, but there are also very unhealthy ways to treat your body. Propagated by the media is a strict standard of beauty, and the job of parents is now combating that negative standard by teaching children what it means to be healthy. Yes, that includes weight, but it includes so much more than that. The numbers on the scale show only one part of who you are; what they don't show is how kind you are, how much you love cooking with farmer's market veggies, or your passion for yoga. When the time comes to talk to your kids about weight, don't mention the numbers. Talk about the healthy, growing child that you love.
>> Read more: 5 Reasons Why You Should Throw Away Your Scale Today
Talk about lifestyle. You may have heard one of the many weight loss success stories that focus on a lifestyle change instead of counting calories. When your children are young, start implementing healthy practices that they can carry forward as they grow. Have them help you in the kitchen, where you can teach them about vegetables and healthy cooking techniques (like using coconut oil instead of vegetable oils). Change their attitude about exercise at a young age, where "exercise" means playing Capture the Flag outside instead of playing video games. Teach health from the inside out. Teach your kids that feeding the body also means feeding the brain (you'd be surprised at how empowering this is to kids)! This lifestyle revolves around a balance of things.
Talk about balance. Living a balanced life means sustaining your body with nutritious foods and keeping your body moving. Moderation is also key in a balanced lifestyle, because completely denying yourself of chocolate (or whatever your food vice may be) could negatively impact your emotional health. Have your children constantly evaluate how they feel after eating a certain food: Are they sluggish and less energized, or do they feel balanced and ready to play a game of basketball? Challenge your children to try new things, whether it is a food or playing tennis. Create an environment where it isn't hard for your children to really lead and understand a balanced life.
Be a role model. Esther Boykin, a well-known relationship and family therapist in Washington, DC, said that it is "crucial to be a role model in your own behavior. If you want to raise kids who eat healthy and have a confident sense of self, you must model that behavior. If you've gained weight talk about your efforts to lose weight as a goal for your health rather than to fit some ideal body type." You should always show kindness to your body, in the way you eat, speak and move. Be vocal about how you feel; say how energized you feel after a hearty breakfast, and how ready you are to tackle the day. Have a junk food-free house. Sometimes it is hard not to focus on the numbers or the little extra tummy, but in order to raise confident, self-assured children, you should focus on how your body feels. In turn, they will grow up with an understanding of what body positivity is really all about.
Avoid the scale. Health, especially for a growing person, is not about a number on a scale. Excessive weigh-ins should be avoided at all costs, even if your child is heavier. Not only could it damage them emotionally, but it will skew their ideas of what a "healthy body" is or should be. Listen to your children: Is their language positive or negative of their body? If it is a negative view, talk to them about simple changes they can make to flip that view, such as eating more vegetables at the dinner table or playing volleyball for 30 minutes each day. Remind your child that love has nothing to do with size, and self worth has nothing to do with size. Be a role model in that regard: Love yourself and be confident in yourself.
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Lastly, your whole family should make the effort to live healthy lives. Work as a team and empower each other every day. Compliment your daughter on the delicious snacks she made, and encourage your son on the football field. Weight should never be a stressor for young children. By implementing wholesome techniques and positive language at a young age, your kids will develop a deeper and more honest relationship with themselves and their health.