Many books and articles have been written about how to have a healthy body image for women. The majority of these documents discuss how media images, thin models in magazines ads, and the glamorization of celebrities whose body shapes and sizes do not represent the average woman in society. Some studies indicate that how mothers feel about their own bodies is more detrimental to the body image of young girls than images projected in the mainstream media.
Mothers teach their daughters how to feel about their own bodies by the indirect comments that the make about their own bodies. For example when a mother complains in the presence of her daughter about how much she dislikes her thighs, nose, buttocks, or breasts – the daughter develops a psychological schema of how she is supposed to feel about her own body as being shaped by her mother.
Here are five tips to help mothers promote healthy body images for their daughters.
1. Never call yourself denigrating names such as fat, pig, and cow; or say any demeaning things about your body in front of your children, especially your daughters or young girls. You are directly teaching them the appropriate vocabulary on how to hate their own body.
2. Try to develop healthy eating habits in front of your daughters. Swallowing a pill or drinking a shake for breakfast or lunch is teaching teenage girls to develop a complex relationship with food and how to nourish their bodies properly. Plan healthy well-balanced meals in advance.
3. Don’t criticize exercise. Participate in some type of physical activity with your daughter such as taking a yoga, aerobic, or dance class together. You could also go bike riding or for walks in the in the park. The physical activity does not have to cost a lot of money or time. Just do something together that gets your body moving.
4. Decorate your home with pictures of women of various body shaped and sizes. Try to expose your daughters to images, literature, and movies of women who are strong and intelligent characters who do not possess mainstream physical characteristics of beauty. Your daughter’s concept of femininity displayed in your home gives credibility to your perception of beauty as opposed to lip service that all women are beautiful. Seeing is believing.
5. Be mindful of the dolls and doll clothes that you purchase for young girls. Ask yourself whether or not you feel that the image of the doll represents the values and morals that you hold sacred about femininity, beauty and womanhood.
A little girl’s first role model of beauty and a healthy body image is shaped by her mother. Try not to give this important responsibility to the mainstream media. Become conscientious of how you feel about your own body and how your attitude about your own body may have a positive or negative affect on how your daughter will feel about her own body.