How to Instill a Healthy Body Image in Your Daughter

How to Instill a Healthy Body Image in Your Daughter



As a mother of two little girls, I am committed to fight against today’s airbrushed culture that is leading to young females dissecting their bodies for imperfections and perpetuating low self-esteem. As a healthcare practitioner, I observe this troubling phenomenon of negative self-scrutiny and constant comparison resulting in bright young women with disordered eating, depression, anxiety, and other conditions that carry implications through a lifetime. How can we instill a healthy body image in our daughters?

  • Build your relationship. During teenage years, a dip is seen in body image.  Studies show that teens who experience better relationships with their parents appear less susceptible to body dissatisfaction and stable sense of self, leading to independence from social validation and flawed comparisons. Cook and eat dinner together, play a sport or have a regularly scheduled family game night that creates a structured timeslot for quality, positive interactions outside the day to day hustle and bustle of work and school.
  • Address social media head on. “Fitspiration” is a social media buzzword combining fitness and inspiration focused at highlighting healthy living. Beware of this social media buzz and its possible negative effects on body image. Initiate discussions early and often pointing out unrealistic portrayals of health, wellness, and beauty. For example, call out the fitspiration model promoting an airbrushed lifestyle that accounts for only 5 percent of females with that body type, neglecting to recognize the 95 percent of women with other body types.  Have your child check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s BAM! Body and Mind website that provides an Ad Decoder exercise to learn about real versus ideal media messages to help her craft a positive self-image.
  • Embrace failure. In order to grow and maintain confidence, a building block to a healthy self-image and in turn body satisfaction, our daughters need to learn to persevere. Let them fail and then support it! Failure means taking risks, exploring new hobbies, sports, and maybe coming in last. Recognize the courage and support her journey as she discovers who she is, her passions, and dreams. Decrease emphasis on appearance and focus on your daughter’s skills, traits, and abilities. Be present. Be proud. Let her learn to fail gracefully and embrace it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and persevere to the next life experiment with confidence.
  • Role model. Review your own relationship with food, exercise, mind, and body. Role model a healthy relationship with food and exercise and talk about your body positively. Have a spotty past with health, wellness, or nutrition? Learn more about healthy living and strive to be the women we want our daughters to be.
  • Support other women. Instead of competing and comparing, celebrate and support other women on their life journey, wherever that may be. Whether starting to train for Couch to 5k®, exploring healthier eating, graduating college, earning a promotion, or finding the cure for cancer, strong women support other women. Show your daughter examples of healthy interpersonal relationships that are integral to the overall health and wellness balance.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


3 Responses

  1. Avatar

    This article is so important! Thank you for writing wisdom and guidance around this topic! Sharing with all of my mom friends!

  2. Avatar

    This is a wonderful article. Healthy eating and lifestyle choices are really important for us to instill in our grandchildren also. Thank you for your insight !

  3. Avatar

    A great reminder to be active with your kids, not just watch your kids do activities! We have to show our daughters the way. Thank you, Dr. McKnight.

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