Personal trainer and Crossfit Coach Carly Rowena stops by to share her advice on how to promote a positive body image to your children.
Children aren’t born worrying about their bodies. They proudly strut with their bellies facing forward and if your child is anything like mine – getting them to be anything other than naked is a task in itself. I wrote my book ‘My Beautiful Body’ because I worry for the day when someone comments on her body, and she realises that it is something to label, change or be unhappy with. Children follow by example. They soak up everything we teach, share and practice in front of them, and so naturally, if we want to raise children with acceptance and confidence within their bodies, it has to start with us.
Weighing a generation:
For years as a personal trainer, I felt saddened by the number of young clients who had problems with their body image. They all had one thing in common: their parents had taken them along to weight loss meetings, watched or been a part of public weighing, home weighing, and constant diet food had instilled in them that there was a defined number that related to happiness or loving yourself.
Where to start?
Do you talk about your weight, size or shape at home? Do you weigh yourself in front of your child, comment negatively about your appearance and perceived imperfections? Do you try new diets and detoxes and get the family involved or eat differently at mealtimes? Lead by example. Show love to yourself, and your child will follow with these simple steps:
Remove negativity: Start by challenging every negative thought about your body with a positive one. If you struggle to find a positive about your aesthetic, opt for things it can do instead. Every time you feel yourself about to say something negative, switch it into something positive and allow yourself to say it out loud, especially when around your child.
Step off the scales. Ideally, remove them from your home entirely. It’s a sad step for most of us, so unless you are an athlete or someone who needs to know their weight for work, then give it to charity and let’s focus on other ways to see improvement in composition. Weighing yourself in front of your child, unless you are happy when you step on and when you step off, encourage your child to do the same. If you don’t want them to value themselves by a number, skip it altogether.
Show your body. Represent actual body image by allowing your child to see you naked. Of course, this might not feel comfortable if they are older, but while young and when sharing baths, it’s a beautiful way to get your children to see the beauty of natural shapes, especially a body that has had children and experienced real life. If you don’t feel comfortable, opt for underwear instead, this is also very important during the summer months and holidays. Try not to cover up around your child, where possible, move with confidence in front of them and if you feel the need to pick yourself apart, try to do this when they are not with you.
Focus on strengths: An excellent way to not only connect with your child but enable them to see how incredible their body is, is to show them all the things it can do, yoga, gymnastics, running, play sports, climb, swim, balance and more. Your body does so many things for free, so if money is an issue, simply create a space and teach them ways to move. There are fantastic free yoga classes on YouTube, such as cosmic kids, which is a great way to get them to understand and appreciate the skin they’re in.
Honesty. Children and adults don’t always think before they speak, and not everyone will be lucky to have a parent or family that cares about how their children feel about their bodies. Hence, it is essential to talk openly about the kinds of things they might encounter or hear from others. Explain what certain words mean, fat, ugly, overweight explain how these words are not kind. They are purely a negative observation that is unkind and not necessary. If someone says these words to you, you can choose not to hear them, and there is no reason to use them and saying them to someone could cause upset. Would you want to upset someone?
Diversity: In a world of filters, editing and makeovers, aim to show your children a more diverse look at the world. Find books and toys that show race and religion and ability, disability, size, and shape. Look at your circle. Are you all carbon copies of each other does it represent the diversity of the world we live in? If it doesn’t – take a look at the local events, clubs and groups around you and aim to participate with different communities to give your family a chance of understanding a true world.
Inspire: think back to when you were younger, who did you aspire to be, who motivated you, who were your crushes? Now think about your family, who could you introduce them to, who could they learn from, read or watch? Enable your child to fall in love with different types of people, and this will expand their mind to realise that their potential is not driven only by their body or appearance.
Don’t give up: I was born in the 80s. Kate Moss was the female icon of the time; low-rise jeans with a concave stomach and zero ass were on every magazine. I struggled with body dysmorphia and always felt huge around friends. My body was not my friend, but I kept at it, and for the past ten years, I have had nothing but love for my body, my own tiny home. So if it feels like you’ll never feel this way, or perhaps you have a child struggling to love themselves, keep at it. These small steps can change the narrative. Once we understand all the incredible things our body does, we can start to see how the pressures put on beauty to look a certain way have nothing to do with health or happiness.
Be the change
Be part of a generational change, be brave by showing up for your children and being your own cheerleader. Even if you don’t feel confident in yourself, applying the eight steps above will not only change your Child’s future, it will dramatically change yours. Positive thinking, consistency and discovering/learning about a more diverse range of people will open your mind to see how beautiful and genuinely incredible your own body is.
Article by Carly Rowena
Carly Rowena is known and loved for her incredible honesty, confidence and ability to inspire those traits in others. She’s far more than just a Personal Trainer and Crossfit Coach. On top of being a businesswoman, creator, mum and wife, Carly likes to run retreats all over the world and has even taken her followers with her to conquer Kilimanjaro.
My Beautiful Body is a 39 page illustrated children’s book all about how your body is more than just your home, and it can be your best friend too. Inspire your little ones to fall in love with the skin they’re in and the things it can do. Available in Waterstones and Amazon for £6.99.