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Ask Common Sense: Weighing Mixed Messages

Q: Tyra Banks was slammed for gaining weight, but the modeling industry recently acknowledged "too-skinny" models as a serious issue. How do I begin to explain this to my daughter?

A. There’s no denying that our culture is obsessed with the lifestyles of celebrities — especially when it comes to their appearance. Celebrity news programs and online gossip sites are all about grabbing the latest headline — regardless of the mixed messages they may be sending.

As anyone who has tried knows, this fascination with celebrity culture makes talking to kids about their weight one of the toughest things a parent can do. But there are ways to support your kids with a positive body image. Here are 10 steps from the National Eating Disorders Association for you to discuss with your kids.

1. Appreciate all that your body can do. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you — running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.

2. Keep a top 10 list of things you like about yourself — things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about you.

3. Remind yourself that "true beauty" isn’t simply skin deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you physically look like a super model. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.

4. Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you — as a whole person.

5. Surround yourself with positive people. It’s easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you’re around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.

6. Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body isn’t "right" or that you’re a "bad" person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.

7. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.

8. Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, and attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Understand that that celebrities and models are paid to look this way, and this is done with a cadre of beauticians, trainers, and Photoshoppers. Protest these messages: Write a letter to the advertiser, or talk back to the image or message.

9. Do something nice for yourself — something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, find a peaceful place outside to relax.

10. Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to do something to help others. Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in the world.

Source: National Eating Disorders Association, 2005


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