A number of studies in recent years have analyzed at the attitudes of parents towards their weight and looks, and how those attitudes influence their children. A new study of 4-year olds in Australia found that many have already picked up the message from their parents that fat is "bad" and muscle is "good". You might think that a preschooler is too young to be influenced by their parent's struggles with weight or their latest fad diet. But think again.
As they hear parents talk about foods that are "good" and "bad", many children become concerned about becoming fat. Another study found 6 and 7 year olds checking the nutritional labels on the food their parents pack for them. And a report from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services claims that 80% of girls in grades 3 - 6 have bad feelings about their bodies, an issue diverting attention from schoolwork and friendships.
Consider how the media can influence an adult's perception about what is "healthy". Healthy means thin, right? One of Stepfanie's recent blogs discusses celebrity weight gain and our expectations of what people in the spotlight should look like. If adults are easily influenced by what they see on T.V., in the movies, etc., imagine what kind of effect that has on young kids.
I wouldn't be surprised if these statistics were about teenagers, because that's a time of life when preoccupation with weight and appearance is common. But I am a little surprised at how young these body image issues start. It's important to be careful about how you discuss these issues with and around your kids. If you're telling them that it's what's on the inside that matters most, but then you're making comments about being unhappy because you're "fat", what kind of message are you really sending?
Do studies like this surprise you? What kinds of things are you doing to instill positive and healthy habits in your children? How do you try to teach your children to be accepting instead of critical of who they are and what they look like?