Being Healthy vs Being Happy – Body Image Modeling

I would agree that it is best not to be negative about my body, and specifically my weight, when my son is listening.  However, I have been puzzling over another layer of body image role modeling.  I caught a segment on my local NPR station introducing listeners to National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  During the segment one of the guests suggested not only that parents should avoid speaking negatively about their own bodies but simply love their body full stop.  Something about this notion really intrigued me.  I have spent the last few days trying to compile a fully formed opinion with no success. This is could be a sensitive subject but I would like to throw it out for conversation.

Should parents and role models… 
A. Demonstrate an unconditional love for their own body?
B. Openly identify things they would like to change?

As far as weight is concerned, my gut favors B above A.  I hope to teach my son to have a strong sense of self worth.  I think it is important for him to learn to set a goal and see the benefit of working hard to achieve it.  I want him to appreciate that his body will work its best at a healthy weight and it is up to him to make choices to live a healthy life.  My mission is to model for him that we are worthy of living in a healthy body.

I want him to learn integrity and not be a victim of his decisions.  If he chooses to eat only cake at a birthday party but later feels sick, I hope he will be self aware enough to stop and identify it was by his own action that he feels ill.  Unless there is food poisoning involved – it is was his choice to eat too much cake, not the cake’s.

Boy clapping with cupcakes

Happy Birthday Cupcakes! Everyone had 1/2 a cake

I have to be the one that demonstrates these behaviors.  I can’t expect him to learn them on his own.  In addition to demonstrating how to make healthy choices, I need to be honest after making a poor choice.  If I say out loud that I feel sluggish from over eating the very next thing I say should be a positive action.  He needs to know that my solution is to take a walk, make a different choice the next time, and/or focus on eating light and fresh foods for the remainder of the day.

I would love to hear more thoughts on this subject.  There is a lot to unpack here and I might be completely off base.

How do you deal with issues of weight and body image in your home?


  1. Although it didn’t look like too much on my plate, tonight’s dinner made me feel really full. I said as much to my 11-year-old, followed by, “Let’s pull out the Dance Dance Revolution! The dishes can wait!” So I worked off my dinner in a fun way with my kid! I guess that means I pick Choice B!

  2. Love your body and treat it accordingly. Focus on the amazing things it does — your heart beats, your eyes see, your gut turns food into energy. Your womb, by God’s grace, grew a BABY, which your breasts nourished after that most amazing process called birth. What do bulges and wrinkles matter, compared to that??

  3. I think that your approach is right on. Food is what makes us run properly, but it is also a pleasurable thing and we need to find the balance. Obesity is rampant in this society, but so are eating disorders. I think treating food as the gateway to health and encouraging our children to listen to their bodies after they eat is the most sane approach to dealing with these issues. (FWIW, I come from an obese family on my mom’s side and have had issues with food in the past and desperately want to shield my children, particularly my daughter, from these issues)

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