Home / All / Helping your kids keep a healthy body image


how you talk about your body in front of your kids, is how they will learn to feel about themselves

Have a think about that. What image do you project to your kids? Do you talk about your healthy body, how you are working to become stronger, making food choices around what will fuel your body? Or do you talk about how big your butt is, how lazy you are, eat takeaways then talk about how fat/skinny you are getting?
Imagine now that you heard your sweet little angel came home and said their bum is too fat or looked in the mirror and said they are ugly. How would you feel? Did they get that from you? They will always pick stuff up at school, but how is their self image approached at home? What they hear their family say, good or bad, about them or other people, will stay with them. (From personal experience, it will stay for a VERY long time.)
It’s the same as that abusive spouse or the one that runs down other people in front of their kids. If they see parents fighting, hurting each other or talking about that ugly bitch/fat pig, whatever, that is how they think they should be treating other people. Same as if you are talking about yourself negatively. Do you want them feeling about themselves like you do about yourself? 
How you feel about yourself is a story for another day. For now, just remember that they do what you do, whether that is good or bad is up to you.
I asked around for some stories on this. I wasn’t overly surprised that all the stories I got back were negative. I got the ok to share some of them with you. Names omitted for obvious reasons.
  • She came home from school and asked to shave her forearms because they are too hairy and that’s why no one plays with her, maybe if she shaved them more kids will play with her.
  • My eating disorder came from the fact that when shopping for clothes as a preteen/teen, Mum would tell me things didn’t suit by saying things like ‘no that makes you look fat’ and whenever I went to eat a treat I’d get ‘do you really need that as well’ when my brother was basically given free license to eat what he fancied.
    I ended up with an eating disorder, he ended up without one.
  • ​My Nanna used to teach me dancing, and was forever telling me I was too fat, don’t get fatter or you won’t fit your skirt, telling other people around us that I was getting fat etc. I was 8-10 years old at the time, over 25 years later and it is still with me.
  • ​My 22 month old niece, got stuck in a tiny gap the other day, and loudly proclaimed “TOO FAT!!! POOR ME”
  • I have heard parents in supermarkets being asked if they can have a lolly/chocolate bar/fizzy, and being told “no you can’t, you’ll get fat”. How about rewording it to a nicer, less destroying way?
  • ​My daughter was bullied at Intermediate for her hairstyle. It led to severe body image issues, depression, anxiety, and self harm. She is now under adolescent mental health and is making progress, but it is horrific to think that little kids have destroyed her self esteem when she was always so confident and so sure of herself.
  • ​My daughter came home from pre-school the other day and jumped on my cross trainer and said “I have to exercise every day, mummy, or I will get big” (Her teacher had told her that. Nothing about health, being fitter etc, just exercise so you don’t get big)
Some of these stories make me so sad. And this was only over a very small group of people. I imagine some of you have even sadder stories you could share.
So how do we fix it? Or at least instill better values in our kids so they don’t see life as being all about what they look like on the outside. ​
  • Don’t focus on good/bad foods. Eat to feel good and give yourself lots of energy to get out and play.
  • Don’t exercise to be skinny/not get fat. Exercise to be strong, to run faster, to be able to have fun for longer.
  • Wear clothes/hairstyle that makes you feel good about yourself. It doesn’t matter what other kids think of you, so long as you like it.
  • You are beautiful/handsome but it’s more important to be beautiful on the inside than out. Be a kind person. 

​It needs to be age appropriate. Obviously, if you have an older child, you can go more in depth than the above comments, but for younger kids (mine are 4 and 7), basic, short and sweet is the way to go. The more you dwell on it, the bigger deal it becomes.

So where to from here? What else can we do now, to ensure our kids don’t grow up to be all messed up about their bodies and self worth? Would a good start maybe be with ourselves and making sure we always love ourselves?


I am the owner of MisFIT NZ ltd. A love of food and long standing laziness got me to the point of what I thought was no return – overweight, tired, grumpy, sad and never any energy. It took a good long look at the mirror and some serious self talk to get me back on track, and on a long journey back to health and happiness.