I have seen several headlines lately describing the public outrage about the promotion of unhealthy body image in marketing campaigns. Several fashion designers have banned size 0 models and banned models below a BMI of 16. Most of the focus is made on how this negatively impacts young women and girls, primarily I suppose, because they probably pay the most attention and because the industries using these models to entice the sale of merchandise are specifically targeting them.
Adolescence is a tumultuous time. Bodies are changing. Hormones are raging. It is a time for self identification and discovery. Girls definitely need to be educated on what the difference between healthy and realistic and what is digitally manipulated. What I’m not seeing as much is how this marketing campaign affects boys. Boys are subject to similar assaults to their physique. Everyone wants to be a cool kid in the cool club. I’m thinking though that for boys, the criticism comes externally; whereas for girls, it is introspective and self inflicted.
We cannot prevent bullies from teasing our children, and we cannot protect them from marketing campaigns, so what can we do? We can empower them with knowledge. We can give them unconditional love and acceptance. Talk to them about what is real and what is not. Teach them how strive to do the best they can, but also accept their imperfections because that is what makes them unique and special. Listen to them. Sometimes it isn’t what they say but what they do. Encourage your kids to make healthy eating choices and stay active.
Body image does not equal being healthy. You can be a little larger but healthy and strong. You can be skinny fat. Last but not least, lead by example. Demonstrate to your kids how to be happy with yourself and be healthy.