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Helping Girls Have a More Positive Body Image

Female bodies are beautiful. Signs of positive body image.

A staggering 80 percent of 10-year-old girls in America have been on a diet, as per the Keep it Real Campaign. Not only that but most girls ages 11-17 have the main wish in life to be thinner. Shocking, right? There’s a real problem with body image in the U.S. There are many reasons for this issue, including the unrealistic standards set by celebrities on Instagram and in glossy magazines. With girls seriously stressing out about their bodies, it has to stop. But how can we help girls have a more positive body image?

Be a Good Example of Positive Body Image

As women and mothers, recognize that you have a big influence on girls’ lives – just as much as celebrities. If you speak smack about your own body, then girls will hear it and think that it’s normal to hate their bodies. From there they might internalize the belief that it’s natural to want to be thin and perfect. So, start loving your body now.

Be Aware of Body-Based Media Messages

Raising a young girl? Then it’s a good idea to use websites like Media Smarts to stay on top of the topic. Stay up to date on the new ways that the media is making females feel bad about their bodies, no matter the age. Once you are aware of the issues, then you can help remove them from your child’s life.

Talk to Them about Positive Body Image

Taking the time as a strong woman in your own right to talk to the girls in your life about body image, such as tackling the subject of braces for teenagers and why they’re nothing to worry about, is more important than ever. Another great topic to share with girls is that it’s essential to build a healthy body rather than a skinny one.

When your teen sees how well you’re doing with an average body and when they can ask you questions about what they see in the media, they’ll get a new perspective. Then they’re more likely to question the media line on the female body.

Introduce Them to Healthy Role Models

There are lots of smart, successful, and yes even famous women who have average body types. They’re happy, healthy and living their dreams. The key is positive body image.

If you can, introduce your girl to some of these healthy-minded women. Then they will start to see that being a size 2 with perfect hair isn’t as important as the media says. You’re also supporting other women, which is awesome in its own right. It’ll raise us all up to be our best selves. 

Don’t Focus on Looks

Instead of telling your girl that she is pretty, compliment her achievements. Praise her for getting an A on an important test or creating a beautiful piece of art. What you’re doing here is letting girls know that no matter how they look, they have value.

And that’s key to building a positive body image for them to then grow up to be empowered women. I mean, appearances are nowhere near as important as achievements or being a kind person, are they? The more we do to bring down the perfect body myth, the better society will be for everyone.

35 thoughts on “Helping Girls Have a More Positive Body Image”

  1. This is a great post Christy. My daughter suffered through Anorexia between the ages of 14 – 18 but in the last year sees her natural weight as attractive and loves the freedom of being able to eat and still look great. She is still very “looks” conscious but has improved immensely.

  2. I really enjoy this blog post, thank you so much for sharing it.
    My mother is an incredible woman, and there is so much that she did well, but I do still remember those moments when she talked negatively about her own body. I remember her exercising constantly when I was a young girl because, according to her, she was “getting fat.” She would complain about how my father would make her “fat jiggle” when he put her hand on her leg. I always thought she was beautiful, but it put the negative seed in my mind. She never meant any harm by it, but now I see similar thoughts pop up in my own mind. I want to change the pattern if I ever have a daughter.

  3. This is great! Especially the last point!
    I do think that beauty is nice to celebrate (you can’t help but appreciate someone or something that is beautiful), but it’s important to not limit opinions on what “beauty” truly is, or to decide that because something isn’t “beautiful” it has to be “ugly” by default–a lesson especially important for young girls when their minds are so malleable. There are other characteristics besides external ones, like being charming, charismatic, striking, confident, witty, funny. All of these are attractive. It’s really about the aura, who the person is overall. I really do love the last point the most, about emphasizing achievements that the girls actually have control over.
    This calls back to mind the disparity between Patty Jenkins’s portrayal of Wonder Woman in her standalone film and Zack Snyder’s portrayal of Wonder Woman in Justice League. She focused on her compassion and courage (as well as her flaws), whereas he focused on her level of attraction and sex appeal… We can all focus more on what women do than how they look :)

  4. A very important topic. All the girls that work with me worry about their weight all the time and this has become the new norm. It is good to be healthy but being to thin and unhealthy diets are not at all the way to go.

  5. Such a great post Christy. Body image is so often perceived by how others perceive us. Glamor magazines with too thin models provoke ideas of obsession with body image in many young girls.<3

  6. When I’m in a long meeting and people moan about missing lunch and the atmosphere is getting testy, I always crack the same joke, ‘I was young in the 90s. I can go days without eating.’ They think I’m kidding.
    Last year, for the first time in more than 20 years, I bought clothes in the size that really fit. Not the smallest size I could squeeze myself into just so I could brag about having got into a Size 2. I bought Medium. Even now, I have trouble saying it because it still makes me think I’m too fat. Ridiculous, I know.

  7. Hi Christy…
    So great to read this refreshing advice in comparison to what the world and others love to pin labels on them. Social pressure to be what is expected take a high toll of the youth of today. We are called to love all people not just those who meet the standards that society sets.
    You know me I try and love all people as best I can. For me I try and look beyond the body and or face. I far prefer to look at the heart, it is there you see the best of people…

    Hugs from Alberta

  8. This made me think. I am learning how to be a step-mom and we don’t comment on our daughter’s body, and want her to have a positive image, but I have heard myself making derogatory comments about my OWN body in front of her. I need to work on that. Thanks!

  9. God I love this piece!! This is literally what me and my friends talk about all the time, it makes me sad that the focus of conversations towards and about little girls is all about their physical appearance. The more we try break these norms and teach girls that who they are is more important than what they look like, the more we can hope they will listen!

  10. This is brilliant! I think there’s more being done now than there was when I was younger for sure, but it’s still not enough. Every step that can be made towards positive body image, assertiveness, self-compassion etc will be so worthwhile.x

  11. Christy, this is a terrific post and tackles such an important topic in today’s world. I was horrified when speaking with a group of young women how they never wanted to have children as they couldn’t imagine becoming so grossly huge during pregnancy. I adored being pregnant… it was the most amazing miraculous feeling and I milked the luxury of relaxing on the sofa after work whilst my husband cooked dinner, made hot chocolate etc. I knew busy days were ahead…

  12. Good advice, Christy. It is definitely something that has to change. I don’t know when it will though. We need to focus on a healthy body, rather than a body of a particular shape.

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