In a world that relies so much upon appearance, childhood obesity can negatively effect the future of young girls and the outcome can be frightening.
Obesity in children has become a global concern and the effect it can have on young girls will form their body image for life. By kindergarten age most children already feel that being fat is shameful and kids that age rarely consider past the visual. In this regard the detriment of childhood obesity becomes appalling and especially for young girls.
How Young Girls Develop Their Self Esteem
When was the last time you saw a pleasantly plump Disney princess, the answer that comes to mind is never. So, young girls begin to form their body image by age 2 or 3 and then socially they are learning that being fat is unacceptable and moreover undesirable.
Famously, the Barbie doll has always had an exemplary figure that defines the smallest percentile of our population, but has such a huge influence on the minds of young girls. Also, they learn from their classmates, who absorb from movies, books and their parents that being fat equates to laziness, greed, stupidity, lethargy and indifference.
Detriments of Childhood Obesity
The Federal Government Source for Woman’s Health Information states, “A poor body image can lead to emotional distress, low self-esteem, unhealthy dieting habits, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Developing a positive body image and a healthy mental attitude is crucial to a woman’s happiness and wellness.”
Developing a positive body image is “crucial”. So it is not so much about whether a young girl is overweight, big boned, horizontally challenged or any of the many trite terms used to describe obesity, it is more about teaching young girls to develop a pride in how they look irregardless.
How to Create a Positive Body Image
To overcome the outrageous expectations being inflicted on young girls, the infusion of influential and positive self esteem should begin early. Start by putting more emphasis on bodily function and health than how it looks to others or how it can be advantageously improved upon. Praise accomplishments for healthy eating improvements, exercise implementations and strides in self esteem building. It is also important to be sure that the entire family is on board.
Many parents find encouraging young girls into volunteerism to be an extremely effective self esteem builder. Volunteering brings greater purpose and personal perspective, reducing body obsession and societal influence. Strong empathy also promotes personal awareness.
Setting simple goals help young girls develop a sense of accomplishment and while healthy competitions are usually good for children, for obese young girls it is a set-up for failure. Emphasizing esteem building achievements are more beneficial. It is better to create games that inspire a higher capacity for giving, a stronger sense of individuality, in essence competitions that emphasize the many other positive personality based traits.
How Young Girls Overcome the Fat Stigma
No amount of positive affirmations or nurturing parental influence will change the way the world perceives obesity. From a very early age young girls learn that while talent, intelligence and personal effort are all important qualities, nothing matches the outward influence on how she appears to others.
The rules are different for the beautiful people and young girls are confronted with this fact at every turn.
Over emphasizing a young girls looks is an obvious detriment, but at the same time we want to encourage them to merit a place for themselves that is comfortable among their peers. It is a parental quandary and one that historically teeters on a thin line.
Catherine Steiner-Adair, director of eating disorders prevention and education at the Klarman Eating Disorders Center advises parents, ” ‘You’re beautiful’ is not something you want to say over and over to your daughter, because it is not something you want her to think is so important.” It is very important to “connect beauty to love”, says Steiner-Adair and you can achieve this by telling her things like, ‘I love you so much. Everything about you is beautiful to me.’
And while we cannot expect to change the rest of the world when it comes to dealing with childhood obesity and a young girls self esteem, we can make great strides with in our own homes.