September 1, 2017
From NCC Co-Founder Sr. Barbara Kennedy, OSM, LPC
When I was a kid the only horror movie I saw was the Body Snatchers and it scared me into not wanting to see another one. Now a body snatching is happening to our young girls. No, this body war is not about drugs or sex trafficking even though both are critical issues. This is about how girls perceive their bodies. Advertisers and attitudes are hijacking the bodies of our daughters. Anxiety over body images keeps our girls from being their best selves, affecting their health, friendships, and even performance at school.
Consider a few frightening statistics:
- 75% of girls feel badly about their bodies and believe they need to lose weight.
- Girls as young as 3 are invested in maintaining an ideal weight.
- 34% of 5 year olds report some form of dieting.
These are just a few of the body image statistics that make me want to weep for our young daughters.
If this is a war, who or what are we fighting? First and foremost are the subtle parental messages that sound something like this:” Pull in your stomach. Do you really need that snack? That will go straight to your hips.”
There are also the subtler, innocent comments Moms make such as moaning when looking in the mirror. Fat talk is also problematic and it sounds like, “I feel fat in these jeans. I’ve put on a few pounds.” You may not realize it but your daughter is listening and storing your beliefs and thoughts.
And what about dads?
Avoid making comments (positive or negative) about the appearance of other women, be it your daughter, another family member or a celebrity. The importance of fathers in daughters’ lives means that your remarks will influence the way she feels about herself. For example, expressing how ‘gorgeous’ you think a woman is sends the message that looks are important to you, and may actually make your girl feel insecure about her own looks.
Make a point of expressing your admiration for female figures in areas such as politics, sport and film. And don’t forget to acknowledge the women in your family, who all have their own skills and talents.
If she asks you how she looks, don’t be afraid to say: “You look great!” But try to spend more time talking about what her body can do, instead of what it looks like.
For both Mom and Dad:
- Model healthy behaviors.
- Provide an environment that makes it easy for your children to make healthy choices.
- Focus less on weight and more on overall health.
An upcoming post will discuss the affects of media on our daughters’ body image.