Be Careful How You Describe Your Appearance In Front of Kids. It Matters.

Strong body image starts in childhood

From the incredibly damaging thinspo trend taking over Pinterest, to the ads filling New York's subway system asking women if they're "beach body ready" yet, to society's general need to comment on every aspect of a woman's appearance — it can be pretty hard to maintain any sort of confidence in how you look.

The devastating language society uses to judge how women look can make even the most confident among us throw up her arms in despair.

So it's especially difficult if you were on a doctor-recommended diet during your childhood and have struggled to have a healthy relationship with food for most of your teenage and adult life.

Up to 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. It's become such a pervasive issue that 40 to 60 percent of elementary school girls worry about becoming too fat, according to Parents Magazine, which cites the National Eating Disorders Association.

So much of that struggle starts with what they hear from the adults around them, whether it's damaging language about body image or worries about the fat content of certain foods.

And as someone who has been in the thick of it, it most certainly is a struggle.

I was always a chubby child. But at some point I went from cutely pudgy to too big for my own good, and my doctor and parents were noticing.

And while everyone had my best interests at heart, the language they used and the implication that being anything other than thin was something negative is a stigma I still struggle to shake, 20-something years later.

From the time I was a child, my life has been a battle with my weight. It's only been in the past two years or so that I've finally said enough is enough. Constantly fighting for some unattainable ideal, always comparing my appearance to everyone I see and berating myself for my muscular legs when all they mean is that I'm strong is just... exhausting.

I'm nowhere near completely loving myself. But I'm certainly much closer than I've ever been. I'm able to recognize when I'm reaching "too-thin" territory and losing my grip on what's healthy for me. And I'm better able to appreciate my body for what it is: strong and capable of carrying me through life.

So, in honor of Body Positivity Week, keep in mind that the language you use in front of little girls to describe both their appearance and yours can have lasting effects. Words matter — far more than you may realize — so choose the best ones.

Cover image via BiblioArchives.

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