Published Sept 4 • 36:46
Nancy shares what it's really like to be an entrepreneur; how to raise kids with positive body image and why she loves to kickstart a September 'life spring clean'.
Follow Nancy on Instagram: @ladieswhocrunch
When you catch a look at yourself in the mirror, how do you react? As you’re leaving to take your kids to school, do you sometimes make a throwaway negative remark about how you look?
How about when you take your little ones to the beach? Do you ever undermine your appearance? Complain about your weight or point out perceived flaws in your own body? How about saying to them that you’re having a ‘fat day’ today and you’re being ‘naughty’ eating sweets (or similar)?
Diet culture is so pervasive, from adverts to colloquialisms, it’s easy to let it permeate into your own household without realising. It might seem fairly innocuous, particularly when you consider how much appearance-related content children are exposed to on social media.
Earlier this year, some pretty sobering research came out. The UK’s Mental Health Foundation found that 37% of young girls feel that comments from family caused them to worry about their body image.
Unfortunately, it’s not news that children and young adults are struggling with their appearance. We know from a separate study that 8 in 10 young people, aged 12 to 21, say they dislike their bodies and are embarrassed by the way they look.
What struck me about the Mental Health Foundation’s study is the specific role that parents play in shaping their own child’s body image. Clearly, if a parent makes specific comments or criticisms about a child’s weight or appearance, that is going to have an impact. But it’s really important to also consider the way that your own relationship with your body will be observed and absorbed by your family. Whether your child is two or twelve, this research suggests that children are acutely affected.
One of the reasons I founded Ladies Who Crunch was to empower women, particularly pre and postpartum, to focus on becoming stronger, rather than smaller. Most of my clients grew up being bombarded with promotion of Special K and Atkins diets. Let’s not forget how many sketches in Friends revolve around shaming young Monica’s body size, either. It’s hardly surprising that most adults’ fitness goals revolve around some kind of ‘body transformation’.
The power of language - try to remove negative language around ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food groups, or showing signs of guilt for certain nutritional choices in front of your children. Instead, focus on creating a positive association of food as fuel and encouraging macronutrient balance.
Movement as medicine - for so many people, their historic experience of exercise is as a way to punish their bodies. Demonstrate to your children that exercise has a multitude of benefits beyond aesthetics, particularly for mental health. Explain how yoga helps you unwind from work, or cycling helps you build strong legs, for example.
Cleanse your social media feed - recent research found that 87% of women and 65% of men compare their bodies to images they consume on social and traditional media. Proactively ‘unfollowing’ accounts that make you feel unhappy in your own skin sets a really powerful example to your children, as they come to navigate social media.
WRITTEN BY: Nancy Best is a women’s health expert and the founder of Ladies Who Crunch, a female training community.