In Pursuit of Perfection: What Parents Need to Know About Kids and Distorted Body Image

Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes. Left to their own devices, kids will grow into the shape they’re genetically supposed to. Unfortunately, our culture often emphasizes body image in unhealthy and unattainable ways, and children are affected by these messages. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends doctors don’t focus on body mass index (BMI), but instead on habits and behaviors that are more indicative of a child’s overall health.

Focusing on a child’s weight can be dangerous and increase dieting behaviors. Dieting is bad for a person’s BMI over time because it decreases their metabolism and increases fat storage. Dieting is also often a gateway to disordered eating. Try to incorporate a variety of nutritious foods in your child’s diet rather than forbidding certain foods. Make an effort to eat meals together as a family and incorporate physical activity regularly.

The media and social media can have a negative impact on kids’ and teens’ body image. When they see a body type that has been digitally altered, they might not know the image has been manipulated, and that image can make them feel bad about their bodies. Doctors are now seeing children as young as 7 with disordered eating.

Monitor your child’s social media use, and most importantly, talk to them about what they’re seeing on social media, what they’re worried about and who they’re talking to. Encourage your child to be their best self, and let them know they’re beautiful exactly the way they are. Emphasize overall wellness instead of appearances.

Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Education Services has an exceptional team of registered dietitians dedicated to educating families on nutrition.

Spokesperson Background:

Laura Watson, MS, RD, CSP, CDE, LDN, is a registered dietitian with Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Education Services in Greensboro. Watson received a Bachelor of Science in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2007 and earned a Master of Science in nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2009.

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