HELP! MY YOUNG DAUGHTER THINKS SHE HAS TO DIET

DEAR DALI MAMA:

My daughter is eight years old but she already tells me she wants to go on a diet or that she’s fat but really she’s just at fifty-second percentile for her age and height.  Totally average so she really doesn’t need to worry. What should I do?

–Worried Mom (Canada)

DEAR MOM:

Start by having a conversation with her about why she thinks she is fat and needs to go on a diet. Kudos for being alert to these energies to keep an eye on her before these patterns can develop even further into a more serious disease.

Although modern-day kids are deluged by unrealistic expectations and pressures to look a certain way, you can counteract unhealthy influences. To support an optimal healthy body image in your daughter, try the following:

  • Be very aware how you (and anybody else in the household) speak about or judge your own or other people’s bodies, even when you don’t think she’s listening or paying attention.
  • Use loving, positive language about your body; e.g., “I love how strong my arms are” or “I love that my legs help me run these marathons” or “I love that my legs are so strong that I can be on my feet all day at work” or “I love my beautiful curvy hips that helped me give birth to you.”
  • Pay attention to what kind of television shows, movies, or other media she is exposed to. Try to choose shows that portray healthy body expectations and values.
  • Validate her health and her body’s health and emphasize health rather than looks.
  • Consider signing her up for a sport she is interested in so she can gain confidence in what her body can do in sports and the enjoyment of activities rather than just seeing her body as something that is supposed to look a certain way.

Also, notice her behavior and words and her eating patterns. If things continue without improvement or get worse, please seek out a health-care professional in the near future for assistance so this doesn’t become a life-threatening issue. Thank you for paying attention to this important issue at an early stage.

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