With insecurity and mental illness rife among women and school going children, the last thing we should be doing is making someone, anyone, feel inadequate or self-conscious. Where are girls getting this body shame from, though? Despite the fact that you’d never, ever directly shame your daughter in any way, a lot of behaviors she sees in the grownups in her life can indirectly make your girl second-guess herself or see herself in a not-so-flattering light.
An epidemic of body shaming is taking it's toll on men's mental health as well. This isn’t something just affecting the young, it’s extensively reported across a range of age groups.
Mellor, David & Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, Matthew & McCabe, Marita & Ricciardelli, Lina. (2010). Body Image and Self-Esteem Across Age and Gender: A Short-Term Longitudinal Study. Sex Roles. 63. 672-681. 10.1007/s11199-010-9813-3.
Punishing gym routines, overly strict dieting, and repetitive anxious thoughts—all of which can add up to have a severe impact on daily functioning.
Whether you call it fat shaming or body shaming, one thing is clear: nobody should feel shame over their weight, clothing size, or body shape. And while you’d never intentionally say or do anything to make anyone feel too fat, too big, too anything—the sad truth is that more than half of society believes that to be deemed beautiful or handsome you must be of a certain weight.
5 Ways to Combat Body Shaming In The Home
1. Recognize the Cycle of Body Drama
Despite the growing body-positivity movement, weight stigma is still in effect. Only about one in ten adult women actually feels good about her body.
Society as a whole has taught us to favor thin over thick. Think about this for a second: the average American woman wears size 16 clothing, yet almost every model in magazines and advertisements—and most female celebrities and influencers—are somewhere between a size 00. Every person of every size and shape should be valued—but when people who are thin or skinny are raised up as the ideal and other people aren’t, the message is pretty clear, and pretty messed up. Add to the mix a bunch of unfair stereotypes. Overweight people are commonly labeled as lazy, stupid, or both. It’s not right, and it’s cruel, but it’s shaped the way generations of girls and women and guys, too! think of their bodies.
In so many ways, girls have the deck stacked against them when it comes to body image and body acceptance. Parents and families in general can play such an important role in balancing the negative with positive, healthy examples.
2. Curb “Diet” and “Skinny” Talk
Making healthy choices is an awesome form of self-love and a great way of life to model for your son or daughter. What isn’t great is teaching your children about a culture of deprivation and thinspiration. So if you’re looking to make some lifestyle changes, do your best to talk about them with them in terms of the strength and energy you’ll be giving your body by eating more balanced foods and getting active. Setting health and fitness goals for yourself—like “I want to run my first 5K” or, even better, “I want our family to run our first 5K”—isn’t just a better message for your son or daughter, it’s also more meaningful and possibly more attainable than a specific weight target or the idea of looking a certain way.
3. Help Them Tell “Fit” from Fiction
Talk to your children about society’s body standards as well as what he or she thinks makes someone beautiful or handsome. Do they match up? When you see ads together, look at what body types are represented and talk with them about any photo alterations or deceptive camera angles that may have been used to make the people in the ad appear thinner. Discuss the movies and TV shows you watch together as well. Remember that the average American woman wears a size 16 and the average male is about 5'6-5'10 and is neither skinny nor heavy set. What size did most of the women or men featured in the show probably wear? Helping them see that what’s shown to us in the media isn’t
actually the norm (and that sometimes it’s not even real!) can help them feel better about their own body and realize that they are not too big, too small, too anything. They are wonderful just the way they are.
4. See Yourself Through Your Children's Eyes
We get it. If you have issues with your own body, you can’t just snap your fingers and suddenly love everything about it. Think back to a time (maybe it’s now!) when your son or daughter wanted to wear matching outfits. That’s proof that your they think you’re perfect just as you are—treat yourself the way they treat you! Follow the age-old advice of faking it ‘til you make it. In other words, pushing yourself to put on that bathing suit or swimming trunks for a splash at the local pool, making sure family pics include your fabulous self, and adopting the air of confidence you want your them to have about their body, even if it doesn’t come naturally to you. Over time, some of this pretend positivity might just become the real deal—helping you heal yourself and lift up them at the same time.
5. Go Ahead, Give your compliments
No doubt you’ve heard advice from people who say You’re supposed to tell your children they are brave, strong, curious, funny, bold, or smart—basically anything but handsome, pretty or beautiful. But you know what? With so much body shaming going on in the world and so much pressure to meet unrealistic and often unattainable body standards, it’s actually important for your children to hear she’s beautiful or for him to hear he's handsome once in a while. Of course don’t make that the only thing you focus on—there is so much more than the way they look, so mix in some praise for their hard work at school, kindness, and can-do attitude—but telling them they look awesome isn’t going to hurt anything, and it might be just the thing they need to hear.
(Sponsee- I am a Masterpiece Project-Coming 2020)
Photo credit: @colbaltstudiospdx & Twolees Photography
Model: Kelsy Consor
Attire: Fashionable And Thick ™