October 20, 2009
Julie Holland, MHS, CEDS, is recognized in the industry as both a clinician and public speaker. A certified eating disorders specialist, she has directed marketing and customer relationship management programs at several leading eating disorder treatment programs across the country. Ms. Holland has specialized in the treatment of self-esteem, eating and body image issues for adults and adolescents for more than 23 years. She is a Certified Eating Disorders Specialist and Director of Certification for the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals, as well as an Approved IAEDP Supervisor.
- How does fat talk affect one’s self image?
Fat talk brings a sense of negativity toward how individuals think about themselves and their body. It can also affect how individuals relate to others.
- What are several things parents can do to improve their child’s body image?
- Be accepting of all body types rather than labeling one as the “best.” Encourage children to think about people they admire and love who are different body sizes and shapes.
- Be positive about what our bodies do for us rather than placing so much emphasis on how they look.
- One of the most important things a parent can do is be a positive role model - be positive about your own shape and size. Do not talk negatively about your own body or constantly complain about needing to change your body to fit a perceived ideal.
- Think about statements you make and make sure what you are saying is a positive influence. For example, girls who are tall are often told “you are so big!!!” when what individuals really mean are “wow, you are really tall for your age.” Follow it up with a positive statement like “I bet you love being tall!” Otherwise, it can be perceived as negative.
- At what age should you start talking to your kids about body image?
From birth on. I remember looking into my daughter’s eyes at a very young age - a few weeks, months - telling her how much I loved her and how much I wanted her in my life. All types of comments shape a child’s body image - not just messages about their bodies.
- Can you give an example of how to turn a negative thinking pattern into a positive one?
- Encourage individuals to focus on the wonderful things their bodies do for them. Think of your body as a powerful tool and make a list of all the wonderful things you can do with it. Again, think about those individuals you love and admire who are different shapes and sizes.
- Encourage children to be inquisitive, critical thinkers and not just accept things at face value. Rather than preventing children looking at magazines, encourage them to look at magazines and ask questions - “Why do they touch up the models’ photos?” “Why do they use young models to wear adult women’s clothing?” “Do I really like the way this model looks or is that what I’m being told I’m supposed to like?”
- Learn to question messages portrayed in the media - magazines, television.
- Each time you catch yourself or someone else saying something negative about yours or their body, replace it with three positive comments.
- Don’t limit what you can do in life by your body size. Let others see you doing things - moving your body - regardless of body size.
- Exercise and body movement are great ways to counteract negative body talk.
- Stop using the scale to determine your worth. Don’t emphasize certain numbers on a scale. Your weight doesn’t define who you are as a person.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Being unique is what makes our world a wonderful place!
- Compliment yourself frequently. Make a game of it: e.g. Every time I see a red car today I will say something positive about myself.
- The holidays are almost upon us, which means that talk of how to avoid gaining weight and New Year’s resolutions will be, too. How do you recommend we deal with all the advice?
- Stay away from “good food, bad food” talk. Remember it’s all about moderation.
- Encourage individuals to set resolutions that are non body-size-based. Instead, set goals that are “body movement” based. Make resolutions that are geared toward feeling good about your body now - not when you lose five pounds.
- Surround yourself with people who have healthy relationships with their bodies, food and weight.
- Anything I haven’t asked that you’d like our readers to know about having a healthy body image or fat talk free week?
Everything we do or say can impact another individual. Oftentimes, we think we are only our own worst enemy. However, at any given moment we are saying or doing something that can influence how another individual thinks about him- or herself. Pass good body talk and feelings along. Each of us makes a difference.