Psychologists believe that up to 70% teenage girls are unhappy with the way they look. And most of them have tried restrictive diets and unhealthy methods in order to lose weight. In 1960s, only 30% of much older teenage girls or women in college fell in to the group of women who had a poor body image. But today, younger girls (and even boys) who are just 14 to 16 are already attempting diets and also inspiring their much younger 9 to 10 year old siblings to try the same.
Today, we live in a world where teenagers are questioning the concept of ‘eating healthy’. For them, a healthy diet is one that will help them lose weight. The plethora of fashion models and movie stars boasting of a ‘Size Zero’ doesn’t help their plight.
In such a case, there is no doubt that a restrictive diet will result in food and nutrient deficiencies, which will directly hamper the immune system and increase risk of diseases. Can you really take that kind of a risk with your teenaged child?
The Negative Body Image Crisis
“Mom, would you call me fat?” exclaims your 13 year old daughter. You think she is perfectly healthy, but the rail thin girls at her school have been calling her ‘plump’ and ‘chubby’. How are you going to deal with the situation?
It is rare for adolescent kids today to like the image they see in the mirror. But there is a lot you could do as parents to ensure your teenaged kid has a healthy body image.
Many kids, especially teenagers, think they are ‘fat’ and resort to unhealthy weight loss practices, which may actually do more harm than good. Eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa are directly linked to a negative body image, and even a very thin girl or boy may perceive themselves as overweight and continue to diet to the point of losing their health.
Body image is closely linked to self esteem. A positive body image translates into feeling good, more confidence, loving oneself and taking care of one’s health.
Identifying The 4 Main Culprits Contributing Towards Poor Body Image In Teens
It may be a tough job to pinpoint why exactly your child doesn’t have a healthy body image, but here are a few influencing factors that could be playing a role in their life. Knowing where your kid gets the picture of ‘being fat’ can help you remove the risks for developing eating disorders out of their lives. At least to some extent, that is.
– Media – You find that 98% of the women on TV are certified underweight. And those are the women whom your daughters find attractive as well as stylish. An average woman on TV is at least 25% thinner than an average woman, if not more.
– Parents – Do you often fret about your weight and go on diets to lose a few kilos? The way you feel about your own body influences the way your children feel about theirs. So if you are always dissatisfied with what you see in the mirror and keep on complaining, you might be unknowingly influencing your own child.
– Other adults around – From the moment your child was born, everyone around feels free to pass comments on how fast they grow up, whether they are fat or not and how cute they look etc. You may not notice the comments made by these ‘well wishers’ who could be family and friends because you think they want the best for you and your family. But every time a neighbor comments on your daughter’s weight, they could be sending out wrong signals. Comments like “Oh my god! You have such a chubby daughter!” must be snubbed in the bud.
– Friends at school – If your teenage daughter’s friends are already checking out detox diets on the Internet and are trying to emulate Mary-Kate Olson’s figure and dressing style, there is where your problem lies.
The Risks Of A Negative Body Image
Today, as many as one third of school going girls believe they are overweight, when they actually are not. Fact is; these girls are so inspired by TV actresses and models, that they don’t want to follow the height-weight charts that your doctor advices for them.
Instead, they want to be lean and fit like movie stars so that they can carry off similar looking fashion styles. But the truth is that teenage girls undergo hormonal changes and have a developing body, which only means that their bodies will be fuller than that of a fashion model. This is why these girls have an unhealthy body image.
Sadly, an unhealthy body image can make impressionable teenagers resort to crash dieting and even result in eating disorders. Both anorexia and Bulimia have severe damaging health consequences.
Anorexia: Sometimes deadly, this disease causes even thin girls to see themselves as fat. They restrict the food they eat and will exercise compulsively to lose more weight. If you notice that your daughter is losing too much weight and yet insists she is fat, you should consider visiting a doctor.
Bulimia: This eating disorder involves binge eating, followed by purging. Girls suffering from bulimia will eat a good diet and then use laxatives or other ways to vomit it all out. This disease can have several adverse effects like a ruptured esophagus, eroded teeth, damage in the rectum and dehydration.
4 Tips To Promote A Healthy Body Image To Your Teenaged Child
Now that you know what is at risk, let us see how you can promote and encourage a healthy body image in your teenage daughter.
1. Be a good role model –
To begin with, be a good role model. Encourage a balanced diet and regular exercise. And if your daughter feels she is fat, don’t disregard her point of view. Instead, make a pact with her that you will help her out and cook healthier meals and go on long brisk walks with her. This way, she will believe that you are a friend she can depend on and will learn healthier alternatives to losing weight.
2. Talk about media messages –
If you feel your daughter is easily impressed by certain movie actresses and models and wishes to look like them, have a talk with her. Explain to her how these models and actresses have to be underweight because their jobs demand so. And how, regular people like your daughter and you, can look just as good as them by taking fashion tips from these women without resorting to unhealthy means to lose weight. A good fashion style is all about choosing clothes that suit your body; not about altering your body to suit latest fashion trends.
3. Discuss the risks of eating disorder and their implications in life –
If you are scared your child may resort to unhealthy means to lose weight, have a talk with her. Explain to her how a developing needs a certain amount of nutrition, and failing to provide that to your body can have serious repercussions.
4. Get help –
If all else fails and you are concerned about the amount of weight she is losing, take her to an expert. Together a pediatrician and a child psychologist can make a difference.
Encouraging a healthy body image in your teenage daughter is something you must take seriously. Be an active part of your daughter’s life so that you can instill healthy eating habits and a good body image in her.
Read this article on Stop With The Negative Body Image. In fact, get your teenage kid to read it too.