Body positivity goes hand in hand with raising healthy eaters, so we turned to one of our favorite experts to help talk through how to think about—and talk about—our bodies with our kids…and ourselves.
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Raising body positive kids is no easy feat in our current image-focused culture. But it’s more important than ever to be aware of the messages that our kids are seeing and hearing since it can all have such a huge impact on self-esteem, confidence, and even what kids decide to do with their lives.
Meet Lexie Kite
Lexie runs the nonprofit Beauty Redefined with her twin sister Lindsay. She joined us to talk about body positivity in kids and ourselves since their whole organization helps women advocate for their bodies as more than bodies.
Beauty Redefined, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to promoting positive body image online and in live speaking events, is run by identical twins Lexie Kite, Ph.D. and Lindsay Kite, Ph.D. Since establishing Beauty Redefined in 2009, Lexie and Lindsay have become leading experts in the work of body image resilience through research-backed online education available on their website, social media, and through speaking events to tens of thousands across the US.
Lexie explained that media is constructing a reality that causes our brains to compare ourselves to the unreal ideals shown on TV, online, and in print magazines. Many of us feel self conscious about our bodies and that can hold us back from doing what we really want to with our lives.
“When your idea is literally doubled. It usually starts before puberty. You start to picture yourself living, instead of just living. So as you’re playing soccer or walking down the street, you are picturing what you look like instead of just living. It halts our progress and happiness in every way. It literally gets in the way of our health and we start to prioritize how we look from a very young age.” —Lexie
So she and her sister have been working on showing a pathway out of self objectification through their work with Beauty Redefined.
The Importance of Gender Neutrality
As Lexie says: “My body is an instrument, not an ornament.” She recommends dressing for comfort and how the kids feel in their bodies from the youngest age possible so the kids are set up to enjoy playing and running. Plus, research has shown that boys clothes last longer since they are much more utilitarian and have things like reinforced knees since they are built for use—not for decoration.
Other things you can consider is being as minimal as possible as the parent with things like makeup since there will come a point when you need to explain why you’re wearing it—and that may send a message to the kids that you don’t think you’re okay just the way you are.
Considering Pronouns in Kid’s Media for Body Positivity
We can also try to avoid demonizing femininity for boys. and instead, help boys embrace what they’re drawn to, whether that be dolls or dress up or whatever the interest may be, let him. “Most children’s media, boys out number girls 3 to 1 and the lead is almost always a boy,” Lexie says. “Boys get to see a lot of boys in positions of power outside of looking for love or decorating themselves. Make sure in the shows you watch and the books you read, there are some little girls.” Lexie recommends the True and the Rainbow Kingdom show, which has a girl protagonist.
It can also be in an interesting exercise to change the pronouns to the opposite gender in popular kid’s books like Curious George.
Use Internal Indicators of Health
Whether for the kids or yourself, consider using internal markers of health such as blood sugar and cholesterol, rather than the scale, for a more accurate depiction of actual health. This can be useful if being weighed during pregnancy makes you feel badly about yourself—just ask not to be weighted—or when the kids metrics are compared on a growth chart.
Lexie likes to remind us that beauty is only one aspect about us. “You are more than your body. It’s important for people to see body diversity, but right now the internet is flooded with women’s bodies. You can see whatever size or shape of a woman’s body you want. And that is a good thing, but we need more. Our bodies are instruments, not ornaments.”
She shared that the first step is body positivity, then body neutrality, and then body image resilience. Moving from all bodies are beautiful to all bodies are good. The real goal is body image resilience. “They get you to a place where you can speak up and be a compassionate voice in a world that needs you,” she says. And to everyday remind yourself of your purpose.
PLUS: Additional Links from the Show
- Body Image Resilience Course
- Letter Template for the Pediatrician’s Office to decline BMI discussions
- Resources for Raising Body Positive Kids