If you’ve ever wondered how to promote body positivity to your kids, this woman has all the answers you need.
Kara Waite is a community college professor and aunt to three young girls, so when a friend told her their eight-year-old was being bullied over her weight, she took it pretty hard. Like many of us, Waite has struggled with body image issues for most of her life. According to Buzzfeed, she’s even writing a memoir about her journey to body love called Weightless.
She felt so strongly about what was going on with her friend’s daughter, she decided to take to Facebook to pen a beautiful post about how we can teach our kids to develop a loving relationship with their bodies.
In it, she writes that her friend’s daughter has not only been ridiculed by peers, but also has teachers and doctors openly scrutinizing her. She acknowledges the health consequences of being overweight, but she also questions what this sort of critical discussion is doing to this child’s relationship with her body. She writes:
And what will any of this accomplish? I’ll tell you what might happen because I know: years of yo-yo dieting, disordered eating, body dysmorphia, and, very likely, a metabolism fucked beyond all recognition such that her body holds onto every calorie. A constant cycle of restricting and permitting. An obsession with food, thighs, cellulite, rolls, curves, lard, blah blah blah. Insecurity. Turmoil. A waste of time, money, energy, and happiness.
She goes on to give advice on how to promote a healthy lifestyle to kids while still teaching them appreciation for and acceptance of their bodies. Her list includes things like gardening, bike rides, playing outside, teaching kids about art and the bodies artists have celebrated throughout history, eating good food, and turning off the “fucking TV.”
She advises telling a child she’s beautiful “half as much as you say that she is kind and generous and hysterically funny and at the top of your list of favorite people.” She says to remind kids that critical people “have problems with their own bodies, or, worse, with their hearts and minds.” If a kid needs bigger clothes, Waite says buy them and “shut the hell up about it.” Most of all, she writes, love and like your child exactly as they are, and “let her know it.”
As someone who suffered from poor body image and an eating disorder for years, I can tell you that Waite’s advice is dead on. Shame and humiliation aren’t motivators; they’re destroyers. It wasn’t until I got help and learned how to appreciate my body that I truly started to feel motivated to care for it. I wish I’d learned how to do that sooner, and I’m definitely striving to give my own kids a better relationship with their bodies than the one I had.
It’s normal to be concerned about our kids’ health and weight, but humiliating them for the way they look — or teaching them to shame and humiliate others — isn’t the answer. The answer lies in teaching them that all bodies are good bodies, and that someone’s size is the least important thing about them. You don’t have to be negative to promote good habits. In fact, if we’re going to stop unhealthy habits and disorders, we’re going to have to do it with a whole lot of love.