How to Instill a Healthy Body Image in Your Daughter

How to Instill a Healthy Body Image in Your Daughter

Publish Date April 4, 2022
Author By Cathleen McKnight, DNP, APRN

As a mother of two little girls, I’m committed to fighting against today’s airbrushed culture. The images plastered all over magazines and billboards are leading young females to dissect their bodies for imperfections, perpetuating low self-esteem. As a healthcare practitioner, I observe this troubling phenomenon of negative self-scrutiny and constant comparison resulting in bright young women struggling with disordered eating, depression, anxiety and other conditions that can carry implications throughout their lifetime.

How can we instill a healthy body image in our daughters? Here are a few places to start:

  • Build your relationship. During teenage years, body image tends to dip. Studies show that teens who experience better relationships with their parents appear less susceptible to body dissatisfaction and have a more stable sense of self. Cook and eat dinner together, play a sport or have regularly scheduled family game nights to create structured timeslots for quality, positive interactions outside the day-to-day hustle and bustle of work and school.
  • Address social media head on. “Fitspiration” is a social media buzzword combining fitness and inspiration focused at highlighting healthy living. Beware of this social media buzz and its possible negative effects on body image. Initiate discussions early and often, pointing out unrealistic portrayals of health, wellness and beauty. For example, call out the fitspiration model promoting an airbrushed lifestyle that accounts for only 5 percent of females with that body type, neglecting to recognize the 95 percent of women with other body types. To help your child craft a positive self-image, encourage her to explore the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s BAM! Body and Mind website where she can check out their Ad Decoder exercise to learn about real versus ideal media messages.
  • Embrace failure. In order to grow and maintain confidence, a building block to a healthy self-image and in turn body satisfaction, our daughters need to learn to persevere. Let them fail and then support it! Failure means taking risks, exploring new hobbies, sports and maybe coming in last. Recognize the courage and support her journey as she discovers her passions, her dreams and who she is. Decrease emphasis on appearance and focus on your daughter’s skills, traits and abilities. Be present. Be proud. Let her learn to fail gracefully and embrace it as an opportunity to learn, grow and persevere to the next life experiment with confidence.
  • Role model. Review your own relationship with food, exercise, mind and body. Role model a healthy relationship with food and exercise and talk about your body positively. Have a complicated past with respect to health, wellness or nutrition? Learn more about healthy living and strive to be the woman you want your daughter to be.
  • Support other women. Instead of competing and comparing, celebrate and support other women on their life journey, wherever that may be. Whether starting to train for Couch to 5k®, exploring healthier eating, graduating college, earning a promotion or finding the cure for cancer, strong women support other women. Show your daughter examples of healthy interpersonal relationships that are integral to the overall health and wellness balance.

Explore more healthy living advice from our team of experts.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.