By McKenzie Hall and Lisa Samuel of Nourish RDs

Healthy Body ImageDo you ever take a moment to watch your little one running around the house in nothing but a diaper, completely unapologetically? Perhaps with a blanket tied to his or her neck? Mini Superhero to the rescue!

When you first enter the world, your pudgy belly and jelly-roll thighs never cross your mind. Your belly exists to receive raspberries from Mom and Dad, and your little legs are built for running and climbing. You love your body and love being in your own skin.

Do you remember the moment in your life when all of that changed? When you became aware of your size and starting judging your body for what it looked like, rather than appreciating everything it could do for you?

Like most other things, children develop their body image from the example set before them. Just like your little one is more likely to try an apple if you’re eating one, they also learn how to view their own bodies based on the way you view yours. Learning to appreciate your body is the best way to encourage other healthy habits.

Unfortunately, the diet industry is still holding strong. Approximately 45 million Americans diet every year and we spend roughly 33 billion dollars on weight loss products annually. Even more startling? It has been estimated that 80 percent of children have been on a diet by the time they reach the 4th grade. Even with all of this constant “dieting” infused in our culture, unhealthy attitudes and disordered eating behaviors are big issues in our country. Perhaps all this dieting, this view of restriction, deprivation, of “good” and “bad” foods, or unrealistic ideals is not working.

Maybe it’s time we start appreciating our bodies and begin paving the way for our children to learn to appreciate theirs as well.

Just so we’re all the same page, let’s start with a basic definition.

What is body image?

Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror, how you feel about your body, and how you feel in your own skin. Unfortunately, most of us have dealt with a negative or distorted body image. You know the feeling… being awkward, uncomfortable, anxious, or self-conscious about your body. These negative feelings can ultimately lead to lower self-esteem, obsession with dieting or weight loss, and depression.

We’re determined to change this mindset. In our view (and we’re Registered Dietitians), life is way too important to spend an unreasonable amount of time obsessing and worrying about trying to attain the so-called ‘perfect’ body. We promote health.

Ask yourself, “At what size and shape am I able to live a healthy, active, happy, normal life? How can I live my life so I feel comfortable and good in my own skin?” We have tips to help you do just that.

So here we go, our Top Ten Tips for Loving your Body (so your child will love theirs too!).

#1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Let’s face it, our society has unrealistic ideals of beauty – so unrealistic in fact, that most of the advertisements we see have been so altered, no one in real life can actually look that way. Don’t believe us? Take a look at this video from the Dove Real Beauty Campaign.

#2. Fuel your body with balanced meals and a variety of nutritious foods.
Children have an incredible way of honoring and listening to their biological hunger cues. Honor yours too. Just as you want to provide your child with enough nourishment throughout the day, you need it too. Nourish your body every 3-5 hours. And when it comes to choosing the best foods for your family, choose “real” unprocessed, unrefined foods when you can.

#3. Enjoy regular, moderate activity.
Participate in activities with your family you can enjoy together. Try taking a family walk, playing backyard softball, jumping on the trampoline, dancing in the kitchen or engaging in a friendly game of laser-tag. Physical activity should be fun and something you look forward to doing each day!

#4. Rest when you are tired.
Sleep affects everything from your mood to quality of life. While it may be nearly impossible to feel fully rested when you’re raising a family, getting enough sleep should be on the top of your priority list. Even when you get a fifteen minute break, use it to sleep. The laundry can wait.

#5. Where comfortable clothes that make you feel fabulous.
We have so much to learn from our small children. Do you think the size of their pants dictates their mood for the day? Or do you think they would put up with wearing something completely uncomfortable in the sake of fashion? Ignore the numbers and brands on the labels, and wear clothes that make you feel good.

#6. Manage your stress and cope with your emotions in healthy ways.
Listen to music. Take a bubble bath after the kids have gone to bed. Play with your pet. Go on a walk. Pick fresh flowers. Write in a journal. Punch a pillow. Scream at the top of your lungs. Call a friend. Read a book. Rent a movie. Clean out your closet. Paint. Have a dance party in your room. Work on a jigsaw puzzle. Take a nap. Breathe.

#7. Surround yourself with positive people.
This one’s so important, we’ll say it again. Surround yourself with positive people. When you interact with people you love and respect—and who love and respect you—you are less-likely to base our self-esteem on how we look.

#8. Be realistic about your size.
Being healthy doesn’t necessarily look the same on everyone. Ask yourself, “Does my body let me engage in activities I love, those that make me happy?” The answer to that question is our gauge for health. Know that while you can adopt healthy habits to help you feel your best, you can’t change your genetic make-up.

#9. Decide how you wish to spend your energy.
Do you want to spend all of your time and energy pursuing society’s ideal of the perfect body? Or do you want to focus your time on enjoying your spouse or partner, your children, your friends, your extended family, and most importantly…life.

#10. Celebrate your body! Celebrate you!
You are unique, with unique talents to share with your children and with the world. Take these ten tips together to learn to celebrate your exceptional gifts, and your individuality. In return, your child will learn to celebrate theirs too.

NourishRDs is a nutrition communications and consulting company founded by registered dietitians McKenzie Hall and Lisa Samuel. NourishRDs’ (non)diet advice? Eat real food and share it with those you love! McKenzie and Lisa write, speak and present on nutrition, real foods cooking and body image. You can read their blog for a variety of real food recipes and practical nutrition info & tips. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram.