Jul 31, 2014

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Positive Body Image vs. the Media: Why Parents Must Engage For Healthy Daughters

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Positive Body Image vs. the Media

Any time a person clicks on the television or flips through a magazine, chances are, many of the women portrayed are much thinner than the average American.  For impressionable young girls and teens, the constant bombardment of these images, which translate as the American ideal for happiness and beauty, can be especially tenuous, as it can create a certain sort of physical expectation – whether such a body figure is realistic or not.

With a greater acceptance by both men and women of black and Hispanic ethnicities of curvier, more voluptuous figures, historically, it was felt that eating disorders weren’t a great concern or anything more than a passing phase for Latina girls, teens and young adults.  After all, eating disorders and body image issues have consistently and statistically been most often attached to middle to upper class white women.  This is no longer the norm.   Today, 90% of US women experience body dissatisfaction, and even more devastating, is that new research has brought forward severe self-esteem issues and slight signs of anorexia in girls as young as 5.

Model Healthy Behavior

With such a widespread blanket of reach for self-esteem and body image issues, the key lies in the hands of parents.  Be a good role model.  If your daughter continually hears you mentioning the need to diet or complaining about errant flab around your middle, those images of dissatisfaction will resonate and stick with her.  Instead, insist on healthy eating and exercise habits for yourself.  By moving the focus to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as opposed to trying to attain a different size for vanity reasons, you are teaching a child that it is important to stay nourished and treat your body well.  The positive effects on physical appearance are simply an added bonus.

Fathers also play an important role in how a girl will perceive herself.  Any comments he makes about women – not just her, her sisters, or her mother – are going to be noted.  If she routinely sees her father’s Playboy stash or catcalling the cheerleaders at a halftime show, it will confirm the importance of image and her appearance for how men will value her (in her mind).

Tune In To Each Other

It is absolutely essential to increase quality time spent with children actively engaging.  According to Renee Hobbs, EdD, associate professor of communications at Temple University, teen girls on average are exposed to around 180 minutes of media daily but only experience about 10 minutes of parental interaction a day.  If that sounds crazy, it’s because it is.  Simply taking the time to prepare dinner together or take a walk around the block catching up on daily life and seemingly innocuous struggles is everything when it comes to building up a child’s self-worth.

As you are engaging your daughter, pay attention to them, especially as to how they perceive celebrities and people.   Listen in to the qualities that they focus on and discuss how print media is airbrushed and unrealistic.   Help them recognize that these images they are seeing aren’t realistic – even for the women they seem to be emulating.

Raise Her, Uplift Her

It begins at home with the focus of importance being on non-appearance qualities like intelligence and humor, as well as abilities and talents.   Preparing girls for puberty and the changes that come with it is absolutely critical.  Living under a rock isn’t plausible, but arming yourself properly is a great way to start.  By being more involved and tuned in to a child, parents can help them develop into savvy, self-assured young women.

For more health, wellness and fitness advice, follow @FitLatina on Twitter! 

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Alexandra Morbitzer

Alexandra Morbitzer

Alexandra Morbitzer is the founder of Fit Latina. She attended St. John’s University where she was a Division 1 Big East athlete on the varsity track and field team. As a lifelong athlete, she grew up in a family that put a high importance on wellness and being active. Passionate about creating healthy life styles that stick (and work), she founded Fit Latina in April 2012 after discovering a lack of available fitness, nutrition and wellness resources and community space that focused particularly on Latinas. Fit Latina is a social media platform aimed at opening and engaging dialogue among women about creating and developing a healthy lifestyle without totally losing cultural identity. On the page, women can find tips, recipes, inspiration, information, sample fitness plans and encouragement while connecting with others. Fit Latina is featured as a weekly column on Being Latino online magazine, a bimonthly column on New Latina and has also been seen in El Diario La Prensa. Alexandra is based in New York City. Connect with her on Twitter @AlliChasesBliss and on facebook and check out Fit Latina on Twitter @FitLatina and on facebook.com/FitLatina.

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