As a mom, and as a body-positive-warrior, it’s incredibly important to me to focus not only on learning to love myself, but teaching my daughters to love themselves from the beginning. There is so much out there that will hurt them. There are diet ads, and billboards for liposuction, and mean kids at school… I can’t make all of those go away. But I can arm them with the best tools and support I have available.
Teaching kids to be body positive is one of the most radical things we can do to further the Body Acceptance cause. By raising a generation to be critical of diet culture, body policing, and body discrimination; by raising them to love their bodies as the amazing tools they are, and to spread that love and acceptance wherever they go, we have the ability to change our culture, one beautiful child at a time.
Even if you aren’t a parent, these tips can be incredibly useful in all your dealings with young people in your life. Here are my top three tips on how to teach kids to be body-positive…
1. Don’t talk negatively about your body, or anyone else’s
This is hard one for a lot of people. Even though you would never tell a child they are fat, or their skin is too dark or not dark enough, or their body is not capable, you may often say it about yourself. Without even thinking, you may sigh about how you used to be smaller, complain about the size of your arms in a picture, or discuss changing your natural hair, all within earshot of your little ones. Hearing adults talk negatively about their bodies means that’s how you should talk about your body. They are tiny little mimics. And the way you talk becomes the voice in their head.
2. Make “fat” a neutral word
Did you know that the average 10-year-old girl is more afraid of getting fat, than getting cancer? In a world that demonizes fat, it’s often seen as the worst thing a person can be. Fat is equated with stupidity, laziness, and even evil. Fat characters on TV shows kids watch are often portrayed as dumb or bad.
The word fat is simply a descriptor word. When discussing a body it’s talking about adipose tissue. You can use it to describe someone who has a lot of adipose. When talking about food, it’s simply one of many nutrients that your body needs. A nutrient that young minds especially need, as fats are what help build their brain tissue.
When discussing the word fat, use it neutrally. Talk about how fat in food can make them smart. Foods like salmon, eggs, and olive oil are all very fatty, and nutritious for their growing bodies.
This applies to other terms in the body positivity realm as well, such as age, gender, race, and ability. All of those descriptors can be neutralized and used to empower.
3. Don’t moralize food
In our modern, media driven world, it’s hard not to have issues with food. Food is both championed and demonized. There is always some new Super Food that is supposed to melt belly fat or some new Bad Food that it turns out is awful for you. Kale good, gluten bad. A few years ago, Fat was the demon, and a whole gaggle of fat-free foods came out. Turns out they had twice as much sugar. Then sugar became the demon and it was sugar-free, stevia, and agave.
Listen to me: Food has no moral value. Food is simply a fuel we need to intake to survive.
Framing food as fuel, neutralizes it. Food is a necessity to live, and helping to prevent your child from having issues with that fuel is incredibly important.