Why a positive body image is so important

May 21, 2018 Elizabeth Meade, MD

Pressure to diet in your teens can lead to a cycle of dieting in adulthood.

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that people who were encouraged by their parents to diet during their teen years were actually more likely in adulthood to be overweight or obese, engage in dieting behaviors, binge eating and other unhealthy behaviors, and have lower body satisfaction. The really interesting thing is that they also tended to pass these messages on to their own children, carrying forward the cycle of unhealthy behaviors into future generations.

How we talk about our children’s bodies (and our own) in front of them is key to setting up a healthy relationship with food and eating behaviors for the rest of their lives. Negative body image is so common, especially in young women – but also in young men. It's crucial to encourage healthy behaviors in kids, but not in a way that makes them feel ashamed or negative about their bodies. Focus on positive things - getting physical activity and outdoor time together as a family, talking about the health benefits of foods like fresh produce, helping kids learn to cook and prepare their own nutritious food rather than relying on pre-packaged products.

Similarly, avoid discussing weight specifically, making derogatory or negative comments about anyone’s body, or referring to less nutritious foods as “bad.” Even young children pick up on negative self-talk – so while that small comment about your diet, your jeans size, or your dissatisfaction with your weight might seem harmless, your child might be listening and wondering if his or her own body is something to be ashamed of.

Setting up healthy habits and positive relationships with food, encouraging physical play, and pointing out all the amazing things you and your children’s bodies are capable of focuses on health and happiness rather than shame or discomfort.

Previous Article
Time is brain so BEFAST to recognize stroke
Time is brain so BEFAST to recognize stroke

Nirav H. Shah, MD, Medical Director of Stroke at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, explains how strokes a...

Next Article
Anaphylaxis can be a matter of life or death
Anaphylaxis can be a matter of life or death

Anaphylaxis can be a life-threatening allergic reaction. Unlike a minor allergic reaction specific to one a...