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Sep/Oct 2011
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
Make sure your
daughter knows that
she can always come to
you with questions or
concerns about her body
or self-image.
Other strategies
In addition to talking to your daughter,
consider other strategies to promote a
healthy body image:
Team up with your family doctor.
Your family doctor can help your
daughter set realistic goals for body
mass index and weight based on her
personal weight history and overall
health. The doctor can also help
identify early indicators of an eating
disorder by asking questions about
your daughter’s eating habits and
satisfaction with her appearance
during routine medical appointments.
Help establish healthy-eating habits.
Offer healthy meals and snacks, but
be careful to let your daughter make
choices about the food she eats.
Counter negative media messages.
You may not be able to shield your
daughter from media images that
promote an idealized image of
women’s bodies. You can, however,
show her books, articles and movies
about women who are famous for
their achievements — not their
appearance. For example, consider
giving your daughter a subscription to
a news magazine instead of a fashion
Encourage a positive school
environment. Support school policies
that aim to stop size and sexual
discrimination, harassment, teasing
and name-calling.
Praise achievements. Help your
daughter value what she does, rather
than what she looks like. Look for
opportunities to praise her efforts,
skills and achievements.
Encourage physical activity.
Participating in sports and other
physical activities can help promote
good self-esteem and a positive
body image. Consider encouraging
activities that don’t emphasize
the importance of weight or value
Set a good example. Explain to your
daughter that you eat a healthy diet
and exercise for your health — not
just to look a certain way. Also, think
about what you read and watch as
well as the products you buy and the
lessons your choices send.
When to see a
Developing and
maintaining a healthy
body image isn’t an
easy task for girls. If your
daughter is struggling
with a negative body
image, consider
professional counseling.
Additional support may
give your daughter the
tools she needs to counter
social pressure and feel
good about her body.