Fit vs. Fiction's Blog


The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents:Helping Toddlers, Tweens and Teens Thrive

Front20cover20no20spine   This is my book.
The book I wish my own mother had had when I was struggling and she felt so powerless. It states the problems but is full of solutions, games, projects, resources and cheat sheets for when your kids ask you sticky questions… and you need solid answers. The negative messages our kids will hear from the media and society will be loud. The positive messages we give them as their parents need to be even LOUDER!
As of today (Friday, March 15th) You can order your book from Amazon.com (or from my website www.fitvsfiction.com)
These are the tools you need to empower your kids to grow up with the self-confidence and self-esteem they deserve.
Self-worth shouldn’t be measured in pounds! xoxoSee More
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Body Image Pledges for Parents and Kids: A promise to be good to ourselves and eachother!

Body image pledge (for older kids):

I promise to believe in myself and to reject the unrealistic and unhealthy ideals that may be thrown at me by society, the media or marketers trying to profit off my bruised self-esteem. I will lead; not follow. I understand that nobody can make me feel bad about myself unless I let them. And I will not let them. I believe in myself and I am amazing just as I am.

Pledge for younger child:

I promise to always treat myself with love and respect. I promise to be proud of who I am and not let anybody make me feel like I’m not good enough. I won’t judge other people on how they look because it’s what’s on the inside that matters. I will believe in myself and follow my dreams. I don’t have to be perfect. I’m great just the way I am. I don’t need to be exactly like everybody else, because I am unique and special in my own way. I’m me and I’m magnificient!

SELF-WORTH SHOULDN’T BE MEASURED IN POUNDS!

* “The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents: Helping Toddlers, Tweens and Teens Thrive”

Available through Amazon.com and www.fitvsfiction.com

Why I had to write the Body Image Survival Guide for Parents:

Why did I write this book?

I always thought that if I ever wrote a book about my life, the title would be, “Who knew?”.

It seems fitting because whenever I look at old pictures of myself from when I was just a little kid, before the traumas came fast and hard, I look at the little girl in the pictures and think, “You have NO IDEA what life is about to throw at you. Get ready, it’s gonna get rough for awhile”.

Life has definitely sucker punched me in the gut on more than a few occasions and thrown a crapload of challenges my way that proved extremely hard to overcome. I’ve lived a lot, lost a lot and learned a lot. Along the way, there was one thing that was there for me through it all. My eating disorder.

Yup, when life got too hard and the pain too intense, I turned away from what was hurting me and turned to my disorder for help. At the time, it made sense. When I was 17 years old, my brother Billy died and a huge part of me died right along with him. The pain of his loss was too much to bear and my life seemed completely out of my control so I turned to the one thing I thought I could control. My body. I started starving myself in an effort to feel like I was in control of SOMETHING or else I was sure I’d go completely insane.

It was easier to deal with the pain of an empty stomach than the sadness I felt walking into his empty room.

My disorder was the diversion I thought I needed. I thought it was helping. I didn’t know it would end up robbing me of my friendships, my health and my dreams. It kept me from making new friends and made it hard to keep old ones. It encouraged me to drop out of school and give up my ambitions. It told me I was nothing without it and I believed it.

I know what it’s like to think that everything you are and everything you could ever be depends on what you LOOK like but to feel like you’ll never look good enough. I know what it’s like to feel like you could never be smart, or funny or interesting enough to matter so you sure as hell better be pretty enough, but to never feel that you are. I know what it’s like to hate who you are so much that being the “girl with the eating disorder” becomes your entire identity and even though it hurts so much, you don’t want to give it up for fear you’ll just disappear.

I know what it’s like to battle with body image. I know what it’s like to watch my mother see me in pain and feel completely powerless about how to help me. I know that this is an issue that is confusing and complicated and incredibly hard to understand.

I also know what it’s like to recover.

My body image issues may have taken me to hell and back, but the important part is that I came back.

I know that with the right tools and information, parents don’t have to feel powerless. There is so much we can do as parents to instil the right messages from the time our kids are babies that can help them grow up with the confidence they deserve. Kids younger and younger are feeling pressured to be who they THINK society expects them to be instead of appreciating who they already are. They need our help.

I wrote the book I wish my own mother had had when I was struggling. I want parents to feel EMPOWERED. I give practical, solid answers to sticky questions and suggest games and projects that build healthy body image and self-esteem. I’ve included positive internet resources and body image pledges and include tons of stories from real people sharing real experiences.

My goal is to teach people that the “Best” bodies are HEALTHY ones and that SELF-WORTH IS NOT MEASURED IN POUNDS!

xoxoxoxo

Does this backpack make me look Fat?

Body Image 4-8yrs

In 2009, a study done by the University of Central Florida revealed that nearly HALF of 3-6 year olds worry about being FAT.

3-6 year olds!

Truth be told, we all deal with a certain amount of worry regardless of how old or young we are, but there are certain concerns that just make more sense than others. Having to reassure your child that you’ll be home soon, the first time you leave her with a babysitter or spending a few minutes before bedtime clearing her closet of monsters is to be expected, but having to convince your stressed out 6 year old that her nightgown does NOT, in any way, make her look Fat, is not the kind of thing most of us are prepared for.

Research tells us that children have adopted society’s warped view on body shape and size by the time they’re FIVE YEARS OLD! One has to wonder HOW society is finding its way into their psyches SO SOON? Are the negative messages of self-judgement sneaking through some window we’re inadvertently leaving open or are they blatantly smashing through the front door? I think it’s both.

Some of the messages our kids are getting are loud and clear and therefore easy to spot, but others are way more subtle and even more dangerous because we don’t even see them coming.

New influences:

For the first few years of our children’s lives, we pretty much control their environment by deciding what they eat, watch and hear. But, once our kids start pre-school, they become exposed to all kinds of outside influences (classmates, teachers, other parents or caregivers) and it’s important that we feel comfortable with the examples they’re seeing and the lessons they’re being taught.

LISTEN and ASK

In our last article, we talked about what we can do as parents to promote healthy body image at home and today I think it’s important to point out the significant role that teachers play in our child’s esteem while they’re in school.  Recently, a lot of schools have decided to make their schools healthier by implementing rules around what foods kids can and cannot bring for lunch and snacks, they’ve also decided to tackle the issue of childhood obesity by teaching healthy eating. While intentions are good, often the execution is anything but. I truly believe that our schools want our kids to be healthy, but when it comes to FOOD and WEIGHT, we ALL come to the table with preconceived notions about what we should eat and how we should look and since it’s hard for kids to think of teachers as “regular” people, opinions can be mistaken for facts, which could prove dangerous.

Parent Tip:

a)      IF you sense a difference in the way your child is thinking about or acting around food, ASK questions.  If they suddenly decide to stop eating certain foods, find out why.

b)      TALK to their teacher. There’s nothing wrong with asking if there will be any weight or food topics discussed and how they’re planning on handling it. Again, this is an EMOTIONAL issue and it’s important to make sure your kids are getting the information that YOU feel comfortable with.

 

New Friends:

 

It can be exciting and a little scary for kids to make new friends and while we wish every new child they came into contact with was a great influence, we know that not all kids can get along or be friends. Sadly, peer pressure starts very young and it’s possible to feel like you just don’t fit in, before you even know what you’re trying to fit into!

 

Even at just 6 or 7 years old, kids can start comparing themselves to their peers. Recently, the mother of a 7 year old girl told me that her daughter came home from school saying that she didn’t want to be that fattest girl in her class anymore, and another mom told me that her 6 year old son begged her to keep him home from school because he was tired of being the smallest kid in his.

 

Kids have a very small frame of reference and need to be reminded that they’re not supposed to all look the same! Unfortunately, television doesn’t help, because most of the kids they see are carbon copies of each other.

 

Parent Tip:

Show your kids that people really do come in so many shapes and sizes. An easy thing to do is to take a trip to a mall on the weekend  when it’s pretty busy and just people watch for awhile. Point out all the different people that you see remembering to mention that it’s our differences that make us unique and special and that we are all different and unique in our own way.

 

New friends= New Toys

 

It’s easy to decide what we’re going to buy for our kids to play with and what we’d rather leave on the shelves at the toy store, but when the play dates start, some of that control is lost. To some people, toys are just toys, but many of us know how powerful they can actually be.

 

We all know that the Barbie Doll has been causing some controversy over the last few years, and with good reason. With all the “evolving” she’s supposed to have done over time, she still looks the exact same! Some of the newer Barbie’s have moved beyond supermodel and Beauty Queen to careers in business and medicine, yet they all still have size 0 waists and hips and live in impossibly high heels. Of course, Barbie is considered old school now, as there are tons of other dolls on the market perpetuating the “beauty is best” mentality. If you think this isn’t having an effect on our girls, think about the study that was done where a group of preschoolers were given a choice of 2 dolls to play with who were identical in every way except for their weight and 9 times out of 10, the girls chose the thinner dolls to play with. The really sad part about this is that this behaviour tends to continue in the playground when choosing friends to play with.

 

Barbie’s got a new boyfriend and he’s on Steroids:

 

Girls aren’t the only ones who play with dolls, except for boys, they’re called ACTION FIGURES.

I can remember being a little girl and watching my big brother play with his G.I. Joe doll and I can remember it looking very different than today’s version. The original G.I. Joe was created to look like a regular guy who was fit and strong, while today’s version looks better suited to be on stage at a bodybuilding competition instead of saving people from danger. Even our beloved Superman has been given a makeover. Apparently, someone decided that he didn’t look strong ENOUGH and gave him INSANELY big muscles and impossibly square jaw.

 

For a lot of little boys, these dolls, I mean..Action Figures, represent what a hero is supposed to look like. As a result, I have 9 year olds asking me why they don’t have 6 pack Abs or killer bicep muscles! We need to tell our sons that a truly strong man isn’t judged by the strength of his muscles but on the strength of his character.

 

Simply put, toys should encourage creativity and imagination, not feelings of inferiority and shame.

 

Parent Tip:

 

An interesting exercise you can do is start a conversation about the important people in your child’s life; feel free to pull out family photo albums for a visual prompt. Have them talk about the people who make them happy, make them laugh and help them feel good about themselves. Ask your daughters to name the women who they look up to and have her explain what is so special about them. Help her understand that these women are special because of WHO they are and not how they look and they would be just as amazing and loveable if they were taller, shorter, thinner or wider.

 

Same idea for the boys:  Who are the men that your son looks up to? Why does he admire them? Do they make him feel safe and protected? I’m willing to bet that not all, if any, of his male role models possess perfectly chiselled, well sculpted muscles and this will help him understand what true heroes look like. Discuss what kinds of people could be considered superheroes in his community; what types of people really do save lives? Why not take a trip to your local Fire or Police station where he can meet these heroes in person and see how different they look from each other, and as a bonus he’ll get to see some heroic women as well!

 

Now  Switch!

Do the same exercises in reverse. Have your son list the important women in his life and discuss how different they may look from each other and then take your daughter to see meet her local heroes too.

 

The great thing about kids at this age, is that they still think their parents are brilliant, sadly, that’s only going to last a few more years, so we need to take advantage while we still can.

Our voices matter, our actions matter and our children are listening; let’s make sure we’re proud of what we’re saying.

 

Self-worth should not be measured in pounds.

 

 

 

 

Think Body Image issues are just a Girl thing? Think again

The mother of a 13 year old boy approached me today to tell me that her son was almost suspended from school recently for calling a girl in his class FAT. The principal explained the rules against bullying and expressed how badly the boy’s comment had hurt the girl’s feelings. What he neglected to mention was WHY her son had chosen to act out the way he had and the reason was an important one.

Knowing her son the way she does, she was puzzled by his comment and asked him to explain. What he told her was that he only called her fat because she and her friends had been teasing him mercilessly for being too SKINNY! They bugged him about his skinny arms and scrawny legs, he fought back in a way he hoped would get them to stop and maybe even feel as badly as they had made him feel. Where was this principal’s concern for this little boy’s feelings?

What most people don’t understand is that it’s not just girls who feel pressure to look a certain way; these days, young boys are dealing with body image issues to a degree that they never have before.

The really interesting thing, is that their pressure is twofold. Either they feel like they’re too BIG and lazy or too small and wimpy. Teen based TV shows and magazines are covered with images of young men with perfectly chiseled six-pack Abs and biceps to kill for, in comparison, your average, healthy, tween or teen boy is going to feel like he doesn’t measure up. Not realizing of course, that many of these “teen” actors aren’t teens at all, but are closer to being in their 30s in some cases!

As part of the version of the Fit vs Fiction workshop I do specifically for boys, I show the students a picture of a male model from the 90s, who was very muscular and then I show them one from the 2000s and this model is extremely skinny and quite androgynous looking. In fact, in a recent interview I read with male models, they spoke about being told NOT to exercise or eat much because the designers like the look of their clothes on pre-pubescent looking boys. yuck.

The next time your in a toy store, take a look at the action figures; long gone are the days of healthy and fit looking GI Joe and Superman, today’s action figures look like they’ve been pumped with steroids! The message to little boys: To be a hero you need to be BIG and muscular.

What kind of impact is this having? A recent study reported that in the last 2 decades the amount of men who admitted to being unhappy with their bodies has TRIPLED and men are having more cosmetic surgery than ever before.

We need to protect our daughters from the negative messages they get from society and the media everyday concerning body image, but lets not forget about our sons. While many girls will talk about their feelings and what they’re struggling with, a lot of boys will choose instead to internalize it and suffer in silence. Just because they’re not talking about it, doesn’t mean they don’t need to.

Which is why I will keep fighting the good fight in hopes of changing the way we see others and most importantly, ourselves.

http://www.fitvsfiction.com