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Like Mother, Like Daughter

By Kaitlyn Oberg--From a young age, children idolize their parents. As a child grows older, he or she starts to realize that parents are just adults trying their best; however, parents make a huge impact upon children's body image, perhaps more than we realize. For me, this was profoundly related in regards to how my mother viewed her body and talked about it in my presence.

My mom never outwardly taught me to dislike my own body; instead she attempted to teach me quite the opposite. However, hearing her lament her hips, her thighs, her stretch marks, and her tummy all taught me that these areas and their related characteristics were shameful. By hearing her talk, I internalized the notion that anything less than what she expected of herself and her body was no good for me, either.

Anecdotally, this is not uncommon amongst mothers and their daughters, but it extends to all genders of parents and children. So what can be done to prevent this?

The best way to help stop an eating disorder before it begins is to promote a healthful, positive body image. Some ways this can be accomplished is:

  • Avoid making food the enemy (e.g. “This cake is going to go straight to my butt!” or “Do you know how many calories are in that?!”)

  • Avoid using negative slang to refer to body parts (love handles, bubble butt, muffin top, etc.)

  • Don’t place worth only on your child’s physical attributes, instead, complement and praise your child’s academic and social achievements as well.

  • Talk to your child about what’s realistic and attainable versus what is unhealthy and misleading in regards to what’s portrayed in the media and modeling industry

  • Avoid promoting or praising disordered behaviors (e.g. complimenting a child for not eating much at dinner or praising their “will power”)

Creating a body positive environment is the most important preventative measure in stopping an eating disorder from developing. Also, remember that passing on positivity body image to your children starts with you. Take some time to build up your own self-worth and self-acceptance and it could have incredible effects on the young people who look up to you.

About the author: Kaitlyn is a freshman nursing major attending Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, with hopes to one day be a Public Health or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. In her free time, you can find her wandering through Center City, watching Bob's Burgers, or with her nose in a John Green novel. 

Also by Kaitlyn:

Starting from Scratch: Temple University Activism

What Not to Say: Your Child in Recovery

For more on parents and eating disorders:

I'm Thankful My Mother Encouraged Healthy Body Image, Not Dieting

Recovery Dad and Recovery Girl

Parents and Eating Disorder Recovery

Real Experience, Real Advice: A Dad Shares His Tips for Parents

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

Proud2Bme was first launched in the Netherlands by Riverduinen, a mental health organization that has licensed the concept to the National Eating Disorders Association. Unless otherwise noted, all original content on this site is copyright The National Eating Disorders Association. The Proud2Bme brand, logos, and trademarks are property of Rivierduinen.