(NC)—Feeling good about your body is one of the best ways to increase self-esteem and face the world with confidence. But with so many pressures to look a certain way, younger girls can have an especially difficult time feeling happy with their body.
That's why specialists agree that it is so important for parents to have an open and honest conversation with their daughter to ensure she is comfortable with the way she looks. With approximately seven per cent of adult females and adolescent girls being affected by eating disorders, there's no better time to discuss the topic of body image and self-esteem than the first week of February, which marks Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 5 – 11).
Dr. Leslie Sim, clinical director of the Mayo Clinic Eating Disorder Program, suggests the following topics as starting off points to explore the various factors that play a role in how body image is formed:
• Explain the effects of puberty and genetics. Make sure your daughter understands that weight gain is a normal part of her development, especially during puberty. Explain that body shape also is largely influenced by genetic factors.
• Discuss media messages. TV, movies, music videos, magazines and even some children's toys may send your daughter the message that only a certain body type is acceptable. Check out what your daughter is reading or watching and discuss it with her. Encourage her to talk about and question what she's seen or heard.
• Discuss self-image. Talk to your daughter about her self-image and offer reassurance that healthy body shapes vary. Ask her what she likes about herself and explain what you like about her, too. Your acceptance and respect can help her build self-esteem and resilience.
• Use positive language. Rather than talking about "fat" and "thin", encourage your daughter to focus on maintaining a healthy weight by eating right and staying active. Encourage family and friends to refrain from using hurtful nicknames and joking about people who are overweight or have a large body frame.
As importantly, make sure your daughter knows that she can always come to you with questions or concerns about her body or self-image. More health-related information is available online at www.mayoclinic.org/canada.