The importance of modelling a positive body image

The importance of modelling a positive body image

This time last year, in an effort to promote the importance of positive body image, I took my daughter to a screening of the movie Embrace — a documentary that explores how poor body image has become a worldwide epidemic.

If you’re a woman, I’m sure this comes as no surprise. Research suggests that 91% of us are dissatisfied with our bodies, so chances are this topic resonates with you as much as it does with me. When are we going to get that true beauty emanates from self-love; not skin and bones?

The screening took place in the safe and sacred space that is my local yoga studio. I planned this date thinking it would be good for Anna. The morning of, I realized this film wasn’t just for her. It was for me.

I am not someone who most would consider overweight. I’m neither waif-like nor chubby. I’m somewhere in between. Somewhere that is good enough for others but not for me.

I have bounced from diet to diet in pursuit of a positive body image.

Over the last five years, I have lost 20 lbs through four separate endeavours. Four because I gained the 20 lbs right back following each endeavour. First, I followed the Primal Blueprint. Next, the Isagenix program. Next, the Isagenix program (again). And then, Weight Watchers.

Will there be a next? As of writing this, my hope is no. I’ve realized (not a moment too soon) how unhealthy my relationship with food is; not the food I eat but the labels I attribute to myself when I’m eating it.

If I’m eating a salad, I’m being good. If I’m eating cake, I’m being bad. For years now, I’ve been all or nothing when it comes to what I eat, which has left zero room for moderation. That’s what I’m all about now. Moderation. Getting back on track though …

While I believe I model a healthy lifestyle for my daughter in many ways (I do yoga regularly, walk frequently, and prepare health-conscious meals 95% of the time), I also model the very obsession this film is based on. Sure, I try telling Anna (and myself) that I’m counting calories because I want to be healthy, but the truth is, I don’t want to be fat. Or rather, I want to be thin.

When the screening was over, our host shared a reading with us.

How to talk to your daughter about her body.

The number one step, according to this article by Sarah Koppelkam, is “don’t talk to your daughter about her body.” As our host read this, I felt as if she were speaking directly to me. For years, I commended Anna on her shapely posterior as if that were some attribute she should be proud of. What was I thinking?

Our host continued reading. “Don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter.”  Too late for that. She’s seen me do it time and time again, always trying to talk a healthy talk while clearly walking a body-obsessed walk. And don’t say, “I’m not eating carbs right now.” I’ve blown that too, trying to justify why there’s pasta or rice on her plate but zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice on mine.

body image quote

It’s essential that we model a positive body image to our children – now

A 2015 study called Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image, undertaken by Common Sense Media, revealed these disturbing findings:

  • By age 6, children are aware of dieting and may have tried it;
  • 26 percent of 5-year-olds recommend dieting as a solution for a person who has gained weight;
  • by the time kids reach age 7, one in four has engaged in some kind of dieting behavior; and,
  • between 1999 and 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders among children below the age of 12 spiked 112 percent.

EmbraceSarah Koppelkam’s article and Common Sense Media’s research are all great food for thought. Here are five additional resources in and around the same subject that you may wish to explore:

  1. Promoting a Positive Body Image – Health Canada provides tips to help you do right by your child.
  2. A body image workshop kit for teachers of children 9 through 13 – Consider sharing this with a decision-maker at your child’s school as inspiration for a similar program.
  3. What is low body confidence? – As always, Dove addresses the issue head on with its self-esteem project.
  4. 10 Ways to Overcome Negative Body Image – The Underground Health Reporter shares tips on how to dial your body image obsession down.
  5. Join The Body Image Movement Help body image activist and Embrace storyteller create global change.

Here’s hoping for healthier, happier, perfectly imperfect generations ahead!

Viv for today xo

(Originally published in June, 2017)

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By |2018-10-20T17:52:46+00:00October 20th, 2018|35 Comments


  1. Liz June 19, 2017 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    Having daughters, this is an important topic for me. I am always very careful what I say and we focus on being healthy. I don’t want them to have issues with their bodies, ever.

  2. Brittney Kubicki June 19, 2017 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    Yes! I couldn’t agree with you more, portraying a positive body image is sooo important! My daughter is 5 and I hope she always sees me as comfortable in my own skin and pray she always is as well!

  3. Maranda July 25, 2017 at 2:52 am - Reply

    Such a great post. Body image is such a touchy subject and I am going through this with my daughter who is 8. It is hard to try to make a positive out of all the negatives in society about body image!

  4. Nicole Kamai July 26, 2017 at 1:32 am - Reply

    I believe everything about these stats. While I don’t have the perfect body image of myself especially after baby, I am working towards it by just treating my body right. I do however notice my 9 year old niece say some things that I want to cry about. Her mom says things like she is one stomach flu away from the perfect weight and while it can be quite humorous to some, I hate when my sis-in-law says it.

  5. Hayley November 15, 2018 at 8:43 am - Reply

    This is such an important topic, especially given the pressures on young people these days with social media etc. Promoting a positive body image should be done more by everyone!

    • Viv November 15, 2018 at 10:49 am - Reply

      I agree. Happy to see so many have shared this post. It all helps, Hayley!

  6. soonjoo November 15, 2018 at 10:53 am - Reply

    That’s crazy that by age 7, one out of four child has engaged in diet. Wow!

    • Viv November 15, 2018 at 4:14 pm - Reply

      Yep! Sure is.

  7. Keshia Richmond November 15, 2018 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Body Image is so important and this article goes a long way in showing that.

    • Viv November 15, 2018 at 4:14 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Keshia!

  8. Joanna November 15, 2018 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Those statistics at the end are shocking! Why would a 6 year old need to go through a diet? We should teach children to love their bodies and not to aspire towards something that the society says it’s a standard.

    • Viv November 15, 2018 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      I couldn’t agree more. I’m currently interviewing a woman (article to follow) who told me her mother had her on a diet at the age of 9. It really is disturbing.

  9. Latte Lindsay November 15, 2018 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Promoting positive body image is so important for girls. This is a great post to highlight it.

    • Viv November 15, 2018 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Lindsay.

  10. Joan November 15, 2018 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    I read this at the right time. I had actually planned to start my diet next week.

    • Viv December 19, 2018 at 1:08 pm - Reply

      It’s all about the timing!

  11. Amber Myers November 15, 2018 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    I so agree. I try to always have a positive body image, especially around my daughter. I know she’s watching.

    • Viv November 15, 2018 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      Oh, she’s watching alright, Amber. Good for you!

  12. Runcanvas November 15, 2018 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    I love this, as a mother and fitness blogger I totllay agree with Promoting a healthier self image to our young ladies. Keep it up

    • Viv December 19, 2018 at 1:07 pm - Reply

      Yep. So important. And to a slightly lesser degree, important to our young men, too.

  13. Lori November 15, 2018 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    It is truly sad that we are all born into such a weight-conscious society. I myself have a blog post about maintaining your weight…it’s all around us, it’s part of our culture. I would say I don’t care as much as I use to, but my appearance and how I look is always in the back of my mind. I’m just glad I have boys instead of girls!

    • Viv November 15, 2018 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      I imagine having boys is easier, but I think we need to model for them, too. Show them, through how we treat ourselves, that women don’t have to look like Barbie dolls in order to be worthy.

  14. kumamonjeng November 15, 2018 at 9:30 pm - Reply

    Great topic and I like the section on how to talk to your daughter about her body is not to mention it. I agree it is up to us the parent to be a good role model, eat clean and exercise frequently.

  15. What Corinne Did November 16, 2018 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    I think portraying a positive body image is so important as it shows society is inclusive and all body types are accepted, which lowers pressure on women to conform to one body type

    • Viv November 16, 2018 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      I wholeheartedly agree!

  16. Terri November 16, 2018 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    I dont have daughters, but have 2 sons. I think this is an important topic overall. Even boys are picking up on this today in comparison to when I was growing up.

    • Viv November 17, 2018 at 7:37 am - Reply

      Absolutely. While to a lesser degree, I think boys can certainly be subject to similar pressures. And on a separate note, as moms, we need to show them that we respect ourselves regardless of our shape and size so that they, in turn, will learn to respect women who aren’t flawless.

  17. Waren Jean November 16, 2018 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    Body positivity is difficult to achieve ever since Victoria Secret angels become the goddesses of lingerie. That when people think of good body, it should be size 0 and 2. It’s ironic that we are living in this type of era so I commend you for teaching your daughter about body positivity.

    • Viv November 17, 2018 at 7:34 am - Reply

      I hear you. I am personally trying to overcome my own obsession with diet. Trying to get back in touch with where my body wants to be, vs. where I want it to be thanks to the media.

  18. Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen November 17, 2018 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    I also believe that portraying a positive body image is important because we are role models for our daughters but I believe I also made the same mistake with dieting in front of her.

    • Viv November 20, 2018 at 3:19 pm - Reply

      As have I. But I’ve recently shared the way of my errors with her and hope she’ll take note of the fact I finally came to my senses and traded in “dieting” for “intuitive eating.”

  19. Swathi November 18, 2018 at 12:29 am - Reply

    Yes. Having daughter, this is very important topic.

    • Viv November 20, 2018 at 3:17 pm - Reply

      Yes. Important for both boys and girls but I agree, especially important for our daughters.

  20. Suman Doogar November 19, 2018 at 7:13 am - Reply

    There is a growing need to talk about positive body image. As a teacher, I try to include such topics inside my classroom.

    • Viv November 20, 2018 at 3:16 pm - Reply

      That’s great to hear, Suman.

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