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How to talk to your daughter about her weight

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“My mum has spent her life believing that she’s fat and hating herself for it. Her dearest wish was to spare me that fate. With the very best intentions she closely monitored my developing body, talked constantly about the perils of weight gain and policed my appetite in a way that she never did with my brothers. She didn’t realize that she was helping to instill in me the very thing she was trying so hard to avoid: body hatred.” So begins Kasey Edwards insightful article, “How to talk to your daughter about weight”, in which she offers several strategies for parents on how to help their daughters feel good about their bodies, asserting, “Body hatred isn’t about how you look, it’s about how you feel about how you look.”

As Edwards points out, “When you’re taught that your body weight is central to your worth and happiness, and that snacking on anything other than celery sticks is shameful, developing body insecurity is almost inevitable — regardless of your BMI… I have interviewed women with supermodel physiques who loathe their bodies and are obsessed with losing the ‘last five kilograms’. And I know of women with bigger bodies than me who haven’t a shred of body hatred.” So how can you make sure that your daughters, no matter what their size, feel good about their bodies?

Edwards recommends avoiding talking about weight — your, theirs, or anyone else’s — in front of your girls; she writes, “I want them to understand that a person’s weight is as unrelated to self-worth as their height.” Instead, she explains, “Focus on how bodies work rather than how they look. We celebrate all the amazing things Violet can do with her body — such as running, jumping, skipping, rolling. She has come to value her body in terms of what it can do rather than how it looks.”

When it comes to food, she says, “Never talk about food in terms of calories or what’s fattening. When we talk about food we talk about its nutritional value.” As a consequence, there are no banned foods in their house: “Violet understands that… [i]f she ate too much cake, then she wouldn’t be able to fit in all the other foods that her body needs.” She also encourages teaching girls to listen to their own bodies: “I tell Violet that her body knows when it’s hungry and when it’s full, so all she needs to do is listen to it… Feeling in control of her own appetite and trusting her body’s signals is more important than how much she eats.”

Edwards is also “acutely aware that mothers don’t hold the only keys to their daughters’ body images. The diet, beauty and cosmetic surgery industries are masterful in cultivating insecurity in girls and women. But I’m not going to surrender to them without a fight.” In the end, she says, “My job is to help my girls love their bodies, not hate them. And by doing so I hope they will make healthy choices, because we are more likely to look after the things we love.”

To read all of Edwards’ tips on talking to your daughter about weight, visit http://bit.ly/1BYqPHa

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For books to help instill a healthy body image and the importance of loving yourself in your Mighty Girl — regardless of the opinions of others — we’ve shared 25 empowering titles for children and teens in our blog post, “25 Body Image Positive Books for Mighty Girls,” at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=10912

In particular, we recommend “I Like Myself” for ages 3 to 8 (http://www.amightygirl.com/i-like-myself) and “A Smart Girl’s Guide to Liking Herself, Even on the Bad Days” for ages 9 to 12 (http://www.amightygirl.com/a-smart-girl-s-guide-to-liking-h…)

For an excellent guide focused on body image issues for teens 13 and up, check out “The Body Image Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help Girls Develop a Healthy Body Image in an Image-Obsessed World” for ages 13 and up at http://www.amightygirl.com/body-image-workbook

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