Self-esteem and Self Literacy go together like peanut butter and jelly! What isn’t such a great combination? Children and diet culture. Body-positive advocate Jes Baker, author of Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls (Seal Press) and internationally recognized blogger at The Militant Baker, wrote a piece for us on how to combat toxic messaging so children and teens grow up loving their amazing bodies.
1. Normalize diversity in your home:
This is something that can be done from the get go.
It’s incredible to me how easily the human brain can be conditioned to believe that a “certain look” is the only desirable look. This can happen without a word being spoken; the simple elimination of everything except for our “beauty standard” in media is enough to instill belief that until we look like the people in movies or on magazines… we do not deserve to be seen. To counter this, we simply need to fill our line of vision (and our children’s) with as many diverse bodies as possible. Bring all sizes, shapes, ages, sexes, genders, abilities, races into your home and normalize the incredible diversity in our world. Search out posters for your walls that includes all races. Buy movies that include all abilities. Purchase books that talk about all genders. Give your child a world in which they belong and deserve to be seen!
Because we at Know Yourself make a conscious effort to include diverse characters in our workbooks, comics, and Anatomy Adventure Series, we’re stoked to see that normalizing diversity is Jes’s #1 tip.
2. Make exercise be a fun thing! (Not a punishment)
When I was 11, I rose early in the morning (5:30 am!) to do go participate in a step aerobics class with adults before school. Yes, it was literally me… and all of my friend’s mothers. No other kids showed up because 1.) What kid WANTS to be up at 5:30 at that age? and 2.) I was the “chubby” one of my friend group and therefore needed the extra help.
While I was not excited about the early class time, I was even less excited about my body size; I had always been the fat kid and felt like I needed to “fix” this problem before I could have permission to feel good about myself. While my decision was supported with rides to and from, no one “made” me do this necessarily… but they didn’t have to. I grew up thinking that my large body was inherently bad (thanks Society!) and that exercise, while punishment, was also the solution.
I’m sad to say that I still continue to have mental barriers around exercise classes as an adult and it’s all because they were used as self-punishment while young. Even though I have spent years redefining my worth and the joy that can be felt from moving my body… this initial intro has stayed with me and continues to hinder my relationship with exercise.
So with this in mind I encourage you to help your children see moving their bodies as a wonderful, beautiful, and fun thing COMPLETELY SEPARATE from needing to “fix” anything.
Jes’s second piece of advice is so important. All of the physical activities in our books and Anatomy Adventure Series are designed to be both fun and educational. From jogging in place and observing the way your pulse reacts, to practicing flexion and extension before lifting heavy objects, we believe understanding how the body moves is informative and entertaining. We seek to equip people of all ages with knowledge that will allow them to have better-informed conversations with health professionals (something especially important when coming up against the belief that size equals health.)
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