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Teaching your daughter about body image
Health Body Image
Help her find a form of exercise that she loves to do. Dont let exercise become torture. Show her how to make it a fun part of an enjoyable life. Stay active doing things you love to do. - photo by istockphoto.com

Question:

My daughter is 12, she is such a fun and bright girl, but she is starting to more and more put her physical body under the microscope. She thinks her nose is too big, her tummy isn’t flat ... things like that. My daughter also has some super skinny classmates at school and a neighbor friend whose mother has told her that she is fat and I try to tell my beautiful daughter that she is just perfect as she is right now, and if she just eats healthy, exercises a couple of times a week(such as riding her bike or jumping on the trampoline) to develop healthy habits, she will be set for life. But do you have any recommendations that would help her feel good about herself? How can I help a teen with body image issues?

Answer:

There are some things you can do to help your daughter develop a healthy mindset concerning their body shape, food and exercise, but first take a minute and think about what her problems really are. Weight issues can be caused by many factors including physical, genetic or emotional issues. If your daughter is struggling with body image, make sure to consult a doctor and/or psychologist to check for these kinds of issues first.

A big part of the problem (for all of us when it comes to weight) is that the world (through the media) teaches a very distorted idea about how our value as a human being is determined. We subconsciously learn as children that our value is based on our performance, appearance and what others think of us (and we have bought this idea hook, line and sinker). Since we were small we have determined our own value this way.

We must stop comparing ourselves with other people and worrying ourselves sick over getting their approval. For girls today this subconscious system is even more damaging because they are comparing themselves with the unrealistic, photo-shopped standard of perfection they see in magazines. As long as they are striving to meet this standard they will never, ever feel good about who they are.

Here are some things you can do to give your daughter a healthy mindset about body image:

1 -- Teach your daughter (and remind yourself) that your value as a human being comes from your love, your character and your goodness, not your appearance or performance. Help her to claim the power to determine her own value. Show her that she can stop comparing with others and base her value on her intrinsic worth, not her waist size.

All of us need to take control of our thinking instead of letting our subconscious programs determine how we think and feel. We must claim the power to love and value ourselves exactly as we are now. We must replace limiting beliefs with principles that serve us more. This is the principle I read often -- Your waist size doesn’t have anything to do with who you are, and it definitely doesn’t determine your value. Who you are is your character, your values, your goodness, your individuality, your spirit and your love.

You are much more than your weight!

Your value comes from the fact that you are an irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind, incomparable human soul. Your value is therefore infinite and absolute and not on the line. You are the same amazing, unique you, no matter what you do or how you look, or what others think of you.

You can adopt these universal truths and make them your beliefs by reading and repeating them often.

2 -- Model a good example of self-esteem. Make sure you don’t make negative comments about your appearance, criticize yourself or worry about what others think of you. You may need to get some professional help to work on your self-image if necessary. (Do it for your daughter because she is watching you.)

3 -- Never make negative comments about ANYONE’s appearance, or you are reinforcing the idea that appearance equals value.

4 -- Model good eating and exercise habits. This is critical because children learn more from example than anything else. Teach them to make healthy food choices and to understand why some foods aren’t good for them. Work on eating right as a family.

5 -- Help your daughter learn healthy ways to deal with stress besides comfort eating. We all need to learn to self-soothe without food.

6 -- Help them to appreciate good food and take time eating it. One weight loss expert I talked to recommends teaching teens to eat slower, chew and savor each bite as long as possible. He said eating too fast means you don’t have time to feel full and satisfied, and you don’t appreciate the wonderful taste of food.

7 -- Encourage your daughter to keep a journal and when she is feeling inferior because of her weight, have her write down the belief behind the negative thoughts. Beliefs like “thin people are better than fat people” or “no one will love me if I’m overweight” are just limiting beliefs, they are not truth. Debunking these beliefs on paper makes the rational truth seem more real and takes the power away from the fear.

8 -- Teach her to focus on being healthy, not thin. A focus on taking care of yourself, eating healthy food and exercising is behavior based in caring for yourself, while dieting and working to be thinner is based in dislike for yourself. Focus on self-love instead.

9 -- Help her find a form of exercise that she loves to do. Don’t let exercise become torture. Show her how to make it a fun part of an enjoyable life. Stay active doing things you love to do.

10 -- Teach her how to buy and wear clothes that flatter her figure. Often teens want to follow the trends and end up buying things that only work on certain body types. Do your homework and teach her how to dress her body type instead.

11 -- Teach her to focus more on how she treats people and the love she brings to the world. In the end, this is what matters most and wins friends. People care more about how you treat them than how you look. People are attracted to your personality, kindness, character, humor and love -- all of the things that are (really) who you are. Be someone who makes others feel loved and valued everywhere you go and your self-esteem will improve fast.

Stop trying to win them with your appearance -- and go win them with your love.

12 -- Smile. According to a study done at Search Your Love, 67 percent of single men and 78 percent of single women find someone who smiles a bigger turn-on than someone who is thin.

13 -- Watch for signs of an eating disorder and get professional help sooner than later if you see them. Look for signs like refusal to eat, excessive exercise, fear of eating in public, preoccupation with food, or intense fear of gaining weight.

14 -- Limit time spent watching TV, movies or reading magazines. According to Dr. David Walsh’s “Say Yes to No Parent Workbook,” teens are exposed to 5,000 marketing messages each day, and most of these include Photoshopped images that aren’t realistic. Instead, encourage active activities, reading, talking to people and spending time outside.

Victoria Moran, author of “Younger by the Day” said, “Growing into your future with health and grace and beauty doesn’t have to take all your time. It rather requires a dedication to caring for yourself as if you were rare and precious, which you are, and regarding all life around you as equally so, which it is.”

You can do this.

(Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book “Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness” and a popular coach and speaker.)