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Learning to Love Your Body

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 7 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Body Image Self-esteem Self-confidence

The teenage years are a time of rapid growth and change sometimes causing adolescents to feel awkward and uncertain. While most teens experience at least some level of insecurity about their bodies, some have considerable difficulty. It’s important for teenagers to develop a healthy acceptance and appreciation for their bodies, though, so parents should look for opportunities to help their teens to feel good about themselves.

Misleading Media

If you were to rely on modern media for ideas about the ideal (or even acceptable) body type, most everyone would soon feel inferior. Cinema stars, pop musicians, models, and even professional athletes are often portrayed as role models for kids and teens, but many of these celebrities do not offer realistic pictures of healthy bodies. Many are dreadfully thin or extremely muscular, giving fans an unrealistic and often unachievable standard from which they measure themselves. Lean, healthy bodies seem to be the exception when flipping through glossy magazines, which is unfortunately where many kids look for reassurance that they are attractive.

What kids often neglect to consider is that even the celebrities themselves may not look in real life the way that they do in their publicity photos. Computer touch-ups can slim tummies, give the illusion of muscle definition, remove flyaway hairs, and perfect skin tone, making a somewhat regular looking person seem flawless. Many adults struggle with body issues, but for teens who have yet learned to ignore public opinion, making comparisons to their idols is likely to leave them feeling deflated.

Strength and Confidence

Lack of confidence is common, especially amongst teens, but when parents encourage their kids to eat healthy foods and participate in sports or other active endeavors, they help their teens to develop a level of confidence that begins from within, making them less inclined to look for outside sources for reassurance. Kids who feel strong and healthy are empowered, knowing that they possess the ability to use their body’s many capabilities to take them through their lives comfortably. Kids and teens get many messages from media and peers, not all of which are accurate. It’s up to parents, coaches, and other adults to help teens gain a realistic view of what healthy and desirable is; strength, flexibility, and stamina are worthwhile goals.

Setting a Good Example

Sadly, it is not only kids and teens who fight an inner battle in terms of body image. Many adults are unable to accept and appreciate their bodies, and when these people are parents, their children are sure to pick up on subtle (or not so subtle) clues that Mum or Dad feel badly about themselves. When parents make negative comments about their own bodies or embark on an endless stream of weight-loss plans, they plant seeds of doubt in their children’s minds.

When they are young, children often see themselves as extensions of their parents, so when parents make disparaging remarks about themselves, their children feel it on a very personal level. As kids mature and begin to see themselves as separate beings from their parents, they are far less inclined to see their parents’ shortcomings as their own, but if they’ve been raised in a household where parents were critical of themselves, the kids may have the same tendency. Additionally, if healthy eating habits have not been established, kids are apt to eat poorly and then rely on even less healthy crash diets to keep their weights in check.

Active and Healthy Families

A number of factors contribute to body type. The first is genetics, which simply is what it is. Height and bone structure are predetermined, but lifestyle choices make up the rest of the picture. Choosing nutrient rich foods that provide fuel for growth and energy will help kids (and adults) to feel good. Also, making exercise and activity a part of daily life makes an enormous difference in the quality of life. Fit, active people are not only physically healthier than their more sedentary peers, but are often more confident, as well. Regular exercise helps decrease anxiety, boosts energy and self-esteem, and even wards off mild to moderate depression. Looking in the mirror and seeing a strong, healthy, and fit reflection is sure to offer teens a helping hand in loving and appreciating their bodies.

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