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Do It for the Children
Do It for the Children
If sometimes you feel bad about your body and you make negative comments
about your body in public then you are having an effect on the people
around you ? some of those people are children. If self-acceptance and
healthy living are very difficult problems for you, you may find motivation
from this awareness. Think about the children in your life. Are you
a mom, dad, aunt, uncle, teacher, coach, nurse, doctor, or friend to
a child? Are you a public figure who children can see or hear in the
media? Then the way you think, what you say, how you live, affects the
children in your life too. Perhaps you can find some motivation to take
better care of yourself because it will help them.
For many people who have battled their weight all their lives, the
fear that a child who they care about may suffer from an eating disorder
is very real. When a child gets an eating disorder, it is not the "fault"
of the adults in his/her life. Eating disorders are complex, and your
role as and adult who effects the child is just one of many factors.
Yet the question remains: "What can I do, as a parent, an aunt, a teacher,
a coach, a nurse or doctor, to decrease the likelihood that I will contribute
to the problem?" You can do plenty.
You can either contribute to the problem or the solution. The choice
is yours. I will mention some common sense steps you can take. These
steps are not simple to implement, but your efforts will be worth it
for you and the children who you effect. There are volumes
written on the subject of eating disorders and body dissatisfaction.
Here are some thoughts and suggestions I can offer:
- Pay attention to your own behaviors, attitudes,
and feelings about food and body image. Clean up your own act. Kids
learn from what you DO more than what you say. Begin eating for health,
NOT to change your body size. Enjoy regular exercise because it is
fun and feels good, NOT to shape your body.
- STOP making negative comments about your own
body or other people's bodies. Learn self-acceptance and body size-acceptance.
This is a difficult process, but it is worth your effort for yourself
and your children. As you go through the process of healthy living
at any size, the children in your life will learn that process from
- Don't let fat jokes go unchallenged (you would
not let racial or religious slurs go unchallenged). Speak up to the
kids in your life. Speak up in front of the kids in your life. Write
letters together to TV shows and advertisers who make fun of fat people.
The media exalts thinness and portrays fatness as horrible, funny,
and disgusting. Children who succumb to eating disorders and body
loathing have come to believe these narrow stereotypical portrayals
and will do harm to themselves in order to attain the ideal body size
and avoid fatness. Teach the kids in your life that people of all
sizes deserve respect. You will be teaching them to respect themselves,
whatever body size is natural for them.
- Teach children to appreciate the beauty in
diversity. We can be part of redefining beauty for children, appreciating
all sizes, all ages, and all ethnicities. This leaves room for children
to appreciate him/herself, whatever size, age, or ethnicity he/she
- Take a look at your own heritage. Work at
preserving the healthy eating and self-acceptance that has been passed
down to you. Children of different ethnic backgrounds have different
views toward food, eating, and body image. Be active in promoting
the positive attitudes toward people of all sizes that are present
in your ethnic group. Notice the hurtful behaviors and fat-phobic
attitudes that you have inherited also. Be active in letting go of
these negative attitudes about fatness.
- Now, take a look at other ethnicities. What
self-accepting and self-esteem boosting attitudes and norms would
be good to adopt? When you and the children in your life embrace the
diversity of other people and customs in the world, you teach children
an expanded worldview. They will learn to appreciate the differences
in people and the value of uniqueness. They will be less likely to
fall victim to the tyranny of thinness or any one ideal of beauty.
Just as there are different attitudes toward body size, there are different
foods and attitudes toward eating in different ethnic groups. Which
foods are more nutritious? Which attitudes are more self-accepting?
Explore and enjoy the helpful attitudes and foods with the children
in your life. Talking is good. Learning is better. Go to the library
and attend fun cultural events. Doing is even better. You and the children
in your life can plan and cook foods that other people enjoy. Experiencing
diversity teaches acceptance of the uniqueness in other people. When
uniqueness is valued, children have more room to value what is special
and unique about themselves, even their body size.
This is a three pronged approach
to helping kids feel better about themselves:
- Clean up your own act. Change your mind about
body size and beauty. Kids can tell what you really think.
- Live healthy and take actions to end body
loathing in your life and in the world. Kids learn from what you DO
more than from what you say.
- Expand your view of beauty to include all
sizes, ages, and ethnicities. Kids learn their aesthetics from their
Appreciating diversity lets children have room to appreciate themselves
as unique individuals. Help children experience eating and attitudes
outside of your normal pattern. Expand children's choices for healthy
foods and new attitudes about body image. These are just some ideas
to the prevention of eating disorders. There are many ways to approach
this important topic. None of this is simple. Some of it is fun. All
of these processes are worth your time and effort. The pay off is not
only a healthier you, but children in your life who are less likely
to develop an eating disorder and like themselves better.
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