Promoting a Healthy Body Image for Our Daughters

Over a year ago, I purchased items online from a well-known clothing retailer for my daughter. I then began to receive emails from this clothing retailer daily (and continue to receive them to this day). Do you know why I choose to receive them? Because they have realistic young women modeling their clothes, promoting a healthy body image. I can see myself and my daughters in these clothes.

These models are beautiful, and yes, the first thing you notice is their (normal) bodies with the stretch marks and squishy stomachs because that is how it should be! But it is those glowing beautiful faces that shine through the most. I was so happy to see these realistic-looking people that I emailed the company thanking them for their choice in models. Less than a few hours later I received a heartfelt message back from them thanking me for my feedback. 

The Truth: Average Body Type

Unfortunately, realistically-sized models are not the norm. This is very much on my mind as my girls will be going through the trying times of middle and high school, where the words fat and chubby could make their way on their “hidden” nametag. So, how do I set positive body image examples when there are fashion designers who will not dress celebrities because a size 8 is considered “too big?”

Hold on while I pick my jaw up from the ground. WHAT? A size 8 is too big?

And I was shocked to find out that a model at a size 8 is considered a plus-size model. Even though the average size of women in the United States is 12-14. Whether you are 00 or size 20, what are they trying to sell? Are they trying to promote what the model is wearing or simply the look of a thin body? Do the clothes only look good on those that are under a size 8? If so, I would think it would be a hard sell considering the average size for women is a 12-14. In this culture, it appears we need to work to re-establish what is considered to be normal and healthy for our daughters. 

Leading the Way

This is what we need them to know: that is more important to be healthy than to be thin. And in trying to promote healthy living, I have been consistent in expressing caution to my girls about empty calories, eating when you are bored, or emotional. I have encouraged them to make nutritional food choices.

I am honest about my own experiences. I have told them how I was not thin growing up and my eating habits were not good ones. I am thankful that I was able to participate in sports and stay healthy and active. And I never want to promote being thin as the only way to be happy in this world, nor do I want to be polar opposite by not providing any type of advice on healthy eating habits. 

Ways to Promote Positive Body Image

Here are some ways to encourage our girls to be healthy:

  1. Promote healthy eating habits by keeping nutritious foods in your fridge and cupboards. 
  2. Involve them in prepping and cooking food.
  3. Encourage moderate physical activity. Even better, do these activities as a family.
  4. Make sure to not make negative comments about your own body image or weight as well as anyone else’s.
  5. Remind them that the body they have was created just for them. Tell them to love who they are inside and out. 

More Than How We Look

There are girls who are not confident with their self-image not just because of their dress size, but because they have a larger nose or ears than normal, a gap between their teeth, or a face painted with freckles. These are also features that make us who we are, but instead of embracing these features, they can be a target for teasing by others. 

Let’s teach our daughters that there is more to life than “pretty” or being a size 2. Particularly by focusing on being healthy, staying active, and realizing that skinny does not mean happy.

Positive Examples

In a society full of skinny models, these top five ad campaigns are so empowering for girls as well as for us moms. Your daughters deserve to see these. Watch them together. They left this 42 year-old momma with tears of joy. 

There are also great books that can help teens understand and navigate their path to healthy living. So they can learn to nourish and take care of their bodies, and love themselves.

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Trudy lives with her husband, Derek, and their three children; Oakley (2006), Jayla (2008) and Tenlee (2012), along with their golden retriever, Jax. She was born and raised in North Dakota, where small-town fun involved kick the can and playing sports. Whether watching her kids and nephews playing sports or watching on it on TV, she accredits her love of sports to her childhood. Her professional career has been providing occupational therapy services to children in the school setting, psychiatric inpatient setting and in an outpatient clinic setting. She loved building relationships with the children and families, celebrating goals and milestones. Recently Trudy had a career change where she is now the Child & Youth Program Coordinator for the North Dakota National Guard soldiers. Being a military family, this career change was close to home. If you are looking for Trudy, you will find her at a sporting event, social get together, playing league volleyball, or at the lake with her family. You will not find her ice skating, rollerblading, spending hours in the kitchen or swimming in the ocean!

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