Creating Confidence and Body Positivity In Youth

Lack of confidence and poor body image can start very young. Kids are bombarded by social media images on what a perfect body looks like and where that outer beauty can get you in life. If our young impressionable minds are flooded with these “perfect” images, how else are they supposed to feel other than not good enough and unworthy? As part of this culture, we as the adults/parents/caregivers must present different ideas of what beauty is and convince our little ones that they are perfect just the way they are.

How does one go about doing this? Here are a few suggestions I hope will help you navigate this minefield of sensitive thoughts and feelings:

  • Encourage kids to really get to know who they are and to be comfortable in their skin. Help them to focus on their likes, dislikes, what they’re good at, their interests, what they enjoy doing, what they enjoy wearing, what they like to talk about, what makes them happy, sad or angry. If they grow up with the habit of getting to know themselves internally, they will grow up more secure and confident.
  • Challenge kids to see themselves not just as a body but as a whole person with thoughts, ideas, goals, dreams, opinions, feelings, likes and dislikes. Continually reinforce the notion that they are complex, unique and one of a kind and that’s a good thing.
  • Help them to build a strong moral and value code so they can make positive decisions and stay true to who they really are. Talk about what it feels like when they do something they know is wrong. If they stay true to themselves they will be less likely to wander astray and choose friends who feel and act as they do. They will be confident to say no when tempted to do something they don’t feel right about.
  • Guide kids to realize they are responsible for their own happiness. When they know they are in charge they will less likely become a victim to someone else’s actions or behaviours.
  • Reinforce the notion that no one can know anyone’s thoughts. When kids start to worry about what other people are thinking of them, help them to examine where that worry is coming from. Most likely, it is a question in their own mind, something they are not comfortable with or are unsure of. It’s coming from within themselves not other people. Help them to know they can not control other people’s thoughts so they need to focus their energy on making their own thoughts of themselves positive and kind.
  • It’s important for kids to have time in their own company with no expectations to do anything productive other than doing something soothing and enjoyable. Encourage them to do activities that they enjoy; journaling, listening to music, taking a nap, painting fingernails, watching a movie or TV show, doing a puzzle, drawing. It’s important that kids have time to relax without the stress of chores, homework, social commitments or extracurricular activities.
  • Forgive them when they do something wrong or forget to do something you asked of them or didn’t do so well on their report card. Communicate your feelings, listen to their reasons, forgive them, encourage them to forgive themselves, talk about how to do things different and move on. Kids need to know they are human and will make mistakes. It doesn’t mean they are a bad person or a loss cause. They need to know you love them unconditionally.
  • Get kids to think about how they speak to themselves and about themselves. Help them to redirect negative speak and replace it with positive sweet talk. Ask them, “Would you talk to your friends this way?”
  • Teach them the importance of receiving love from others with no strings attached. Receive a compliment or a gift with no expectation of reciprocating. A simple thank you is all that is required because they are worthy of and deserving of love simply because of who they are not what they have to offer.
  • Teach them kindness, patience, self-love, self-care, gratefulness, forgiveness, boundary setting, appreciation, faith and asking for help by your own example. Do what you want them to do. Be who you want them to be. Follow all of your own advice so they can see you living your truth and that what you are saying for them to do is no more than what you ask of yourself.
  • Give out lots of compliments about their achievements not their looks. Help them realize that what they do is far more important then how they look.
  • Say, “I love you.” constantly so your kids grow up knowing they are cherished and valued. They need to know they are important and the world is so much better because they are in it.
  • Never deny them help when they ask for it. It takes a lot of courage to show vulnerability and pain so react when they need reassurance and if it’s not a problem that can be solved within the home, seek out professional help. Teenage years are complicated and messy so it may be a time in life that you are not everything your child needs. Some problems are too big for Mom or Dad to deal with alone and there is no shame in sharing the burdens. Looking for outside assistance also teaches your offspring that they don’t need to feel embarrassed or overwhelmed by their problems and concerns. They are not alone and help is available in lots of different ways.
  • Provide a secure and stable home life. Kids can’t possibly grow up loving themselves if their environment is unpredictable, frightening or sad.
My suggestions are based on this book, a great resource for parents and their teens to teach confidence and self-love!

These are a select few suggestions that will hopefully help you and your young people navigate the body positive journey early enough in a child’s life that they can grow up feeling Pretty, Plus and Proud rather than still dealing with self-doubt and negativity when they’re old like me, lol!

Thank You 2020

You’re probably asking yourself, why on earth would I be thankful for 2020? No I haven’t lost my mind. There’s no doubt 2020 has been a very challenging year on many levels. There is so much we are or have been unable to do; travel, family gatherings, shopping without waiting in lines, entertaining friends, book clubs, going to the gym, enjoying live music or theatre, visiting the elderly in care facilities, volunteer work, in person education and the list could go on if that’s how you want to remember this year. However, I want to challenge you to see the positive things that have come out of 2020.

Here’s my personal list of things I will remember long after the new year begins:

  • I will never take for granted again the privilege of seeing my doctor live when I’m unwell. Online visits just don’t have the same level of quality heath care.
  • I will be more grateful for people who risk their lives and the lives of their families every day they’re on the job; doctors, nurses, caretakers, firemen, policemen, grocery store clerks, anyone working in the food industry, delivery people, teachers, mail delivery personnel, repair people, anyone working in long term care facilities/group homes/hospitals. You are all real life heroes.
  • Time with family and friends is precious and I will take every opportunity to let my loved ones know how much I love them and miss them when I can’t see them in person.
  • I will appreciate every opportunity I get to eat out, savouring a meal prepared by someone other than me and served by someone with a smile.
  • I am thankful for the time this year has brought me to rediscover my love of reading.
  • While I haven’t been able to attend church, I am grateful I live in a country where worship is not discouraged and we are free to praise God wherever and whenever we feel the need or desire. My relationship with God has strengthened through personal prayer, in asking for help and in being thankful for the health and safety of all those I love.
  • I enjoyed the quality time spent with family and friends, visiting, playing games, watching movies, enjoying outdoor activities with those not within my bubble and truly talking and listening without distraction.
  • No matter how messy my daughter and her partner are (lol), I will be overjoyed to have them under our roof again.

If you had to pick some positive outcomes out of this unusual year, what would they be?

Remember to stay Pretty, Plus and Proud even in the most stressful of times for they are not permanent and there is always joy, no matter how small, in the most difficult of days. Remember this year, the good and the bad, and be thankful for the lessons of gratitude and humbleness.

These are just a few small moments of joy that can be found on any day, no matter what 2020 wants to throw at us!

Show A Little Grace

People say and do things that are sometimes hard to understand or even hurtful. Usually when someone does something that upsets us, our first reaction is anger or retaliation. We want them to feel as bad as we do in that moment.

What we fail to remember is that we don’t know or can’t see what is happening inside that person’s head or even within their day to day life. We do not know their daily struggles. Do they have a job that pays enough to put a roof over their head, clothes on their back and food on the table or do they have difficulty meeting those needs for themselves or their families? Are they in happy relationships or do they suffer at the hands of an abuser, mentally, emotionally or physically? Do they have loving family and friend support, people who accept them, encourage them and hold them up in times of trouble or are they left to deal with life’s hardships on their own, making their way through life alone? Do they have internal struggles with mental health or do they have chronic and/or debilitating physical illnesses or diseases? We do not know their journey nor have we walked in their footsteps. We can not possibly know what is going on in their head or their life that makes them act the way they do or say the things they say.

So what do you do when someone has hit a nerve? Act with a little grace. Give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they really didn’t mean to be hurtful or make you angry. Take the high road, turn the other cheek and shake it off. Unless their behaviour is habitual, everyone deserves a little slack. We all have our bad days and need a soft touch when our mouths and actions get us into trouble.

Be Pretty, Plus and Proud and remember you too need a little grace from time to time, so be generous, kind, patient and understanding in the face of unintended harm. Realize their behaviour has more to do with them then it does with you.

From This To That

Seasons, like life, are always changing. One season brings cooler temperatures, beautiful leaves, enticing aromas and so many colours. The next season has a different beauty. There’s not a lot of colour but its world of white is beautiful in its simplicity.

This weekend we went from this:

To that:

And this (photo taken while on a Sunday drive):

Life too can be full of colour one moment and then may seem bare the next moment. It can be exciting or rather dull. It can be full of movement or seem to stand still. It can be full of constant change or life can run like clockwork, the same every day.

Personally I love the colours but I also love the blank slate of winter. Winter makes me feel cozy and secure as if in a cocoon. After all the changes and upheaval of the past few months, I’m ready for a smooth, uncomplicated season. While my mind longs for the mental stimulation of being surrounded by people, I also don’t really mind being alone. I am comfortable in my own company and while I don’t wish for a Coronavirus lockdown, I think in many ways it’s beneficial and even necessary for some. It forces the workaholics to slow down. It allows families to spend quality time together. It requires us to be imaginative with how we spend our time.

So as we transition into the winter months, how will you make sure you are healthy and safe? I know isolation can be extremely difficult for those living alone or for the elderly in care facilities. If possible, include social distancing visits with family and friends in your weekly routine. Enjoy some outdoor winter fun; snowman making, tubing, sledding, walks in the snow, festive outdoor decorating, drives around the city to enjoy the Christmas lights with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. If it’s safe to do so, check in on neighbours or volunteer at nursing homes. Accept and embrace quiet time alone too. Get lost in the pages of a good book, enjoy some old fashioned paper and pen puzzle books, stretch the limbs with an online yoga class, cook something new, enjoy a favourite movie or do some journaling.

Be Pretty, Plus and Proud as the seasons roll from one to another and enjoy every fleeting moment. Life really does fly by quickly so try not to wallow in sadness or anger. Find a spark of joy in very day and welcome with open arms the change or simplicity of the season.

First Acceptance Then Possibly Love – Part 3

This is my final instalment on my eating disorder series. I hope you read yesterday’s recovery story from a very brave and inspirational young lady. While she’s not at the point of loving her body yet, she has learned to accept it and that is a big step in her body positive journey. Even now at 50+ I have moments in which I find it hard to accept my body’s limitations which in turn make it difficult to feel love for my body. There are good days and bad but for someone who has been travelling the body positive road for a while, I can happily say there are more good days then bad. I have no doubt Betty will experience happier feelings about her body if she continues to work hard on her recovery and mental health. I have nothing but pride for her and anyone else who can pull themselves out of such a dark place.

Eating disorders are one byproduct of a society that is too focused on outer appearances. Also we are a selfish society that focuses too much on ourselves and not enough on supporting our young people when in crisis. We must be open and willing to really listen to their cries for help. We must be willing to accept them and love them unconditionally. They have to know that people care about their well being and are ready to do what it takes to ensure their health and happiness are not in jeopardy from our lack of attention and society’s laser focus on what beauty is. There are too many negative outside influences that we must be vigilant on limiting our young’s exposure to. Also, sadly eating disorders are not limited to the young or any particular group of people. Anyone can fall into the trap of thinking that they can regain control over their lives by severely limiting their diet.

The last couple of posts focused on anorexia nervosa. Listed below are several other eating disorders, their most common behaviours and consequences:

I hope that anyone suffering from any of the illnesses listed above or any mental health issues that affect your relationship with your body, find hope and healing so they can look in the mirror and feel Pretty, Plus and Proud. You are all worthy of a happy and healthy life!

First Acceptance Then Possibly Love – Part 2

*POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING. THIS POST IS ABOUT AN EATING DISORDER AND A PERSONAL RECOVERY STORY. IF ANY OF THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION I AM ABOUT TO SHARE TRIGGERS YOUR OWN MENTAL HEALTH THEN I SUGGEST YOU HAVE A TRUSTED LOVED ONE READ FIRST TO DETERMNE WHETHER THIS IS APPROPRIATE OR HELPFUL INFORMATION FOR YOU, PERHAPS EVEN READING TOGETHER WOULD FEEL MORE SAFE FOR YOU. ALSO I STRESS I AM NOT A MENTAL HEALTH SPECIALIST, DOCTOR OR NUTRITIONIST AND THE INFORMATION I AM SHARING COMES FROM PERSONAL RESEARCH AND FROM TALKING WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED THIS ILLNESS AND IS NOW IN RECOVERY. IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE IS AT RISK OR EXHIBITS ANY OF THE BEHAVIOURS LISTED IN YESTERDAY’S POST, I STRONGLY URGE YOU TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE AND ATTENTION.*

From what I have read, eating disorders are often triggered by a need for control and/or a desire for the body to be more socially acceptable. We continue, as a society, to put value on bodies that are slim rather than look at the whole picture. Slim does not equal healthy nor does fat equal unhealthy. Often in the lives of those who are suffering from an ED, their surroundings, living conditions and people are toxic and unpredictable so to regain a sense of order and control over their lives, they resort to extreme eating restrictions or measures to control their weight, much to the ultimate detriment of their health. Today’s recovery story gives hope to others who are ill and I hope it encourages anyone who is sick to seek proper medical attention before it is too late as sadly this is a disease that can kill.

To protect the privacy of the star of the recovery story I will refer to her as Betty. Betty began her eating disorder around the age of thirteen and suffered for two years prior to being hospitalized at the age of 15. At that time (November) doctors told Betty she would not make it to Christmas if she did not seek treatment immediately. This was a very sombre wake up call but Betty thankfully rose to the challenge and has at the age of nineteen found peace in her recovery. She says, “Recovery was difficult but also liberating as I was finally able to eat all the food I loved and had missed.”

For Betty, her eating disorder was not triggered by a desire to lose weight or be skinny but about wanting to be in control over something in a life that felt very out of control. Biological factors, environment, society and seeking coping mechanisms for other mental health disorders all played a role in the onset of her anorexia. She suffered from restrictive anorexia which involves not eating. Purging was not a part of her ED.

Betty’s words:

“I am learning to accept my new body. I’m not at the loving stage yet but acceptance and indifference is better than hate. It’s ok if you’re not at a body positive point yet. Recovery comes with a lot of changes body wise. Don’t be afraid to outgrow your clothes. You can always buy more and your new body will probably look much better in your new wardrobe.

It’s ok to go above the weight that you are minimally allowed when you are working on restoring your weight. The important thing in recovery is to gain weight and maintain your new habits.

My recovery was rooted in therapy and medication. I didn’t receive a lot of outside support which would have made recovery easier but I did it inspite of the lack of a cheering team. I found comfort in music and keeping an eye on a future where everything would be ok.

Anorexics in general aren’t afraid of food but rather of the weight gain and implication that they are once again losing control. I learned how to eat intuitively, eating what I wanted, when I wanted with no restrictions. Today I am eating so many new foods that before I didn’t like or was afraid to eat. I don’t restrict my eating ever! I don’t exercise fanatically but enjoy moving my body simply for fun like going for a walk with my partner in our local park and enjoying the sun on my face and the hand of my love in mine.

I continue to struggle with other mental health issues but I also continue to seek help when I need it. There is no shame in therapy or medication if that is what you need to be better. I see a happy future for myself and from that I gather the strength to continue my healing.”

I am personally very proud of this young lady. She’s had a lot of things happen in her life that would make giving up very easy but she has persevered and while life continues to throw curve balls, she is learning to handle her problems one at a time with optimism and strength. She is an advocate for herself and a great inspiration to anyone in similar circumstances. Her willingness to share her story is brave and I’m sure very helpful to anyone who is suffering from an ED or mental health disorders.

While Betty may not feel Pretty, Plus and Proud yet and is only at the very beginning of her body positive journey, I have no doubt she will some day not just accept herself but truly come to a point of loving the body that has fought hard to stay alive and propel her into the happy future she envisioned for herself.

*Final instalment of this eating disorder series will be tomorrow so don’t forget to check it out.*

If you or anyone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, call a helpline, talk to someone who is trustworthy or see a medical professional!