First, I get it. Diet culture and our medical system have done a number to promote the idea that a number on a scale equates to a person’s health. And seeing your kids struggle with self-esteem related to their body image would make any parent’s heart ache - no one wants to see their child suffer!
However, the problems with this way of thinking are numerous. To name a few:
- BMI is a bogus standard of measuring health
- Weight and health are the result of over 100 different factors
- Panicking over your child’s weight, putting them on diets, and moralizing food as either “good or bad” is recipe for a lifelong, shame-based battle with food and weight (if not an eating disorder)
- As difficult as it may be, ALL adolescents struggle with self-esteem and worth; teaching your child to change their outward appearance to feel better about themselves misses the point entirely. If you are concerned about a recent change in your child’s weight, consider this may be a symptom, not the problem
- Now more than ever it’s important to take this into consideration. This global pandemic is facilitating an explosion in rates of eating disorders, and EDs have the second highest mortality rate of any mental health condition.
- Though there is so much I appreciate about modern health, one area our medical system does us a disservice is by attributing our health concerns to our weight. This is a gross overgeneralization.
- If none of this has convinced you to shed the diet mentality, perhaps the fact that 95-97% of all diets fail in the long term (if not resulting in additional weight gain) will do the trick.
- Lastly, know your kids are watching you- the way you talk about food, or speak about your own body and appearance. They are drawing from your information which will inform their own relationships with food and their bodies.
Do yourselves and your children a favor: promote a sense of self-worth that comes from within. Take loosely (be critical, even) when your doctor prescribes weight loss- health can come in ANY size, and not developing an ED is 100% healthier than developing one.
Christian Makenna Clements is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #111159.