Being Body Critical is Harming Your Loved Ones

Cropped shot of a women has overweight. she shows excess fat of the waist. she wants lose weight

In today’s image-conscious society, the pressure to conform to beauty standards is overwhelming, affecting both adults and children. From the age of 3, children can mirror harmful beliefs such as believing larger bodies are ‘bad’, from the age of 5, young girls can feel that their bodies are too big. As an Eating Disorder Dietitian, I often witness the detrimental impact that body criticism can have on individuals and families. In this blog, we will delve into the repercussions of being body critical and how it can increase the risk of disordered eating and even clinical eating disorders.

Anti-fat bias is a pervasive issue that perpetuates the unrealistic importance placed on thinness. This bias not only affects the way we perceive ourselves but also influences how we view others. By creating an environment that values thinness, families unknowingly contribute to the normalisation of harmful beauty standards. It is important to recognise that thinness does not equal health and that our body size is mostly genetically determined. Very few bodies (about 5%) naturally fit into the type that is held up as the beauty standard, the ‘right’ kind of body. It is important to actively reject the beauty standard and recognise it as flawed and harmful.

Children raised in body critical environments are particularly vulnerable. The constant emphasis on appearance and thinness can lead to the development of unhealthy relationships with food. Research has found that children raised by parents who display anti-fat bias are more at risk of eating disorders than by those in households that hold weight-neutral views.

Parents play a crucial role in shaping their children’s perceptions of themselves and their bodies. The good news is that this is a modifiable risk factor for eating disorders. Meaning that parents can take steps to reduce the risk of their children developing eating disorders.

Reducing the risk of eating disorders in children:

Firstly, focus on fostering a positive relationship with food. Encourage your children to view food as nourishment for their bodies rather than a means to achieve a certain aesthetic. It is important to try and avoid using food as a means for reward and punishment. Encourage your children to listen to and respond to their hunger and avoid labelling foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

Be mindful of the language you use when discussing different bodies. Avoid negative comments about your own body or others, as children are perceptive and may internalise these messages. Avoid celebrating weight loss and commenting on weight gain or larger bodies. Make space for open communication with your children about body image and self-esteem. Create an environment where they feel comfortable discussing their feelings and concerns without fear of judgment.

In conclusion, being body critical can be harmful to your children and loved ones. As an Eating Disorder Dietitian, I feel that we all have a responsibility to foster healthy environments and dialogues, and not contribute to harmful messaging. By being mindful in this way, you can contribute to a healthier, happier environment for your loved ones, where self-acceptance, well-being and confidence take precedence over societal expectations and appearance.

Take the First Step

If you or your child is struggling with a disordered relationship with food or struggling with body image, know that support is available.

As an eating disorder dietitian, I provide personalised guidance and support to help individuals like you establish a healthy relationship with food.

You can book a free call with me below or get in touch with me here.

Sophie x

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