Let’s chat about body positivity, shall we?
A movement that has gained prominence over the past few years, body positivity is the belief that all bodies are good bodies. It’s the removal of shame, embracing differences, and ultimately honoring your own uniqueness.
There are lots of different versions of this movement, from Health at Every Size, to dismantling Photoshop beauty ideals, and trying to make media more inclusive.
Not only is it a movement, it’s an important tool in building confidence in your teen.
As your teen grows and matures, their appetite is going to increase. Since puberty means maturation and growth that rivals infancy, an increased need for energy comes with the package. Like we discussed last week, it’s inadvisable to encourage weight loss in your teens. Rather, we want to encourage healthy habits and emphasize the importance of respecting your body.
Your teen is also beginning to recognize media and comparing themselves to the bodies they see in the media. Since there’s a pressure from mainstream society to look a certain way, body positivity is one of those healthy traits that’s worth discussing with your teen.
Their friends, as they grow and mature, are going to look a lot different from them. It’s important to start encouraging inclusivity not just for the sake of your teen’s friends, but because that sends the message to your teen that it’s okay if they don’t look like the actors they see on TV. You’re giving them the tools to deal with a society that wants them to conform to a different size, to try and change who they are- you’re building their confidence before they leave for college or the working world.
If you’ve been following the Weight Watchers controversy, you can follow the research about teens and dieting. By introducing the idea that food is only for fuel, can be shameful if you have too much, you’re introducing a mental pattern that can be hard to break.
Instead of dieting, encourage your teen to listen to their body by:
- Learning their hunger cues
- Respecting their appetite
- Not pushing themselves too hard with exercise
The best way to encourage this is to lead by example. By not dieting, expressing distaste for your body, or talking about good/bad foods, you’re helping teach your teen that food isn’t a moral issue. While your teen might feel like they’re pushing away, they still need you for guidance and mentoring.
By being proud of who you are, doing what you can to be healthy, and being proud of your body, you’re helping your teen develop these patterns as well.
Robyn Nohling, who writes a lot about Intuitive Eating, is a great resource on the benefits of intuitive eating.
Rebecca Stritchfield is also a resource I enjoy.
How do I talk to my teen about body image?
Raising Children has a great article on where to begin with body image. Here you can read more about what contributes to body image, and I encourage you to start with this factor:
Tell them all about media, how body image can be influence by that, and talk about the effects of an unhealthy body image. Let them know about your struggles- let them realize they’re not alone.
In Sandra Susan Friedman’s When Girls Feel Fat she discusses the fact that saying you feel “Fat” often is a cover for a stronger underlying emotion. Our society (unfortunately) codes feeling ‘fat’ as negative, and because we feel like we can’t express ourselves, we turn these feelings inward and express it as ‘fat’.
What do we do with this knowledge?
- Dissect the feelings with your teen
- Ask them:
- What’s going on in their personal life?
- Is there something big coming up that’s causing anxiety?
- Encourage journaling with your teen
- Art journaling has an emotional benefit
- It offers your teen a zone free of judgement to express their feelings
- Gives you a chance to bond with your teen- both of you are creating!
- Need ideas? Here’s my pinterest board for art journaling!
- Ask them:
What are some resources I can show my teen?