Diet culture is one we ALL inhabit in the 21st century where being thin = healthy & happy.
Our value is often tied to our body size. This messaging is not always this direct, but it is there if you look for it on TV, in movies and on social media. The way people who are overweight are represented in the media is often very negative.
All this to say, children eventually learn that certain body sizes bring certain privileges. Diet culture can become a system of oppression that leads to terrible mental health and subsequent poor health outcomes.
The stress of not being a certain body size is a major contributor to poor health.
As a parent, even if you don’t talk negatively about your body in front of your children, the world that we live in sends these subtle messages to children and they start comparing themselves and feeling badly about their body and the way they look. Children don’t have the skills to recognize that what they see in the media is unrealistic until they are taught.
A good place to start is to find better representation of real bodies in your home through books, in the art on the wall, what you watch together on TV etc.
If all your child watches on TV are thin body ideals and one type of beauty standard, it can become problematic - they are shown that this narrow beauty standard is what will bring them love and acceptance.
Your job as a parent is to educate them about diet culture and its impacts on everyone (including yourself) and teach them critical thinking and self-compassion. We all carry internalized weight stigma due to the messaging we too have been exposed to, so it’s important to be aware of how you too have been impacted and continue to be.
Sometimes it feels easier to try to adapt your child’s body through their diet and movement vs. try to change the culture but I would encourage you to use this as an opportunity for you to highlight differences in society and explain that our world isn’t always fair and that’s important to talk about.
I recommend a couple of books that can really help...
Your Body is Awesome - Body Respect for Children. "By learning about all the wonderful things bodies can do, and how each body is different and unique, children will be inspired to take good care of their bodies throughout their lives. Promoting respect for body diversity among children will also encourage kindness and help prevent bullying."
Health at Every Size. "Fat isn't the problem. Dieting is the problem. A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn't match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates "thin" with "healthy" is the problem. The solution? Health at Every Size."
We can’t pretend that everyone is treated the same. Our society has done a lot of damage, but we can be part of the solution for future generations.
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