Does anybody really care about body diversity? Looking around, one would prove that the subject is way farther from anybody’s mind. Media, specifically the fashion and health types, would often publish articles on how men and women should look like. They would want people in the caliber of Victoria Secret models. Presently, it’s not going to happen to everyone. The all-too-perfect bodies for both males and females can only exist in the pages of magazines like Vogue, Men’s Health, Cosmopolitan, and more. It’s true that media does embrace individual differences, but their efforts haven’t really made a dent as people are quite indifferent.
We come in all shapes and sizes and many would go the extra mile to become super healthy and fit. Many of these often miss the point. Is it more important to look fit than be fit? Media would emphasize that looking a certain way would give a person more character, more value. Following this concept, both men and women have resorted to distorting their body images to comply with the thought that if they do not project “perfect” images, then they are not considered desirable.
People should never underestimate their own body. Having a negative perception of the physique is destructive, unhealthy, and can lower self-esteem. Don’t pay any heed to people and tabloids that discriminate against body sizes, not to their liking. The body is sacred, the soul, a temple. Accept it and love it. The “perfect” bodies out there comprise no more than a very small percentage. Most people belong to a huge majority. People should accept their own kind, accept diversity. Remember that health doesn’t belong to a few but to everybody of all sizes. Health doesn’t refer to the physical alone but also to emotions and the mind.
The “Perfect” Body
People have been used to the thought of having a “perfect” body to guarantee approval and admiration and, furthermore, will be an asset in attracting a perfect partner or a perfect job. A perfect body, undoubtedly, will also mean health, success, self-confidence, and popularity. It has been inculcated in our minds that a perfect body would lead to a good life.
How would one define a perfect body? With women, it could either be that slim, supermodel-look or the impossibly curvy figure. With men, it would usually involve bulging muscles or even bodies with no fat. Most of us would give an approval that perfect bodies are such and if you have, then you have just criticized yourself and admitted that you are one of those who may either too thin or too fat and not belonging to that standard.
Research has indicated that women are far more preoccupied with dealing with their body shape, weight, and size. There seem to be some standards on how women would look like. They should be thin, delicate, and curvaceous. Such standards are fine but have anybody really asked who set these standards which have never been questioned?
Dealing with Body Diversity
People often ask themselves the question about what size they are. The answer could be a little bit more complicated because it’s based on several factors and these could include genetics, the environment where they grew up, their diet, cultural norms, their lifestyles, and more. Based on these, a ‘perfect body could be defined in more than one way. It could be slim, fat, muscular, basically anything! When you think, therefore, about standards on body sizes, then diversity is the new normal.
Don’t always believe what media has to say about body size. Their interpretation of perfection is based on paid advertisements. There’s nothing wrong with a person’s body. Therefore, people should think for themselves and not get fooled by ads. Not everyone could be of the same height, weight or shape. Again, think diversity.
If we must follow the logic of all the tabloid formulas and self-help books on how to achieve that perfect body, then we should adhere to their diets too. But do they really work? They really don’t. Salads and milkshakes aren’t that effective if one aspires to get herself in those pair of tight-fitting denim jeans. Those suggested crash diets will not really result in weight loss that’s permanent. On the contrary, they will ultimately lead to weight gain. Also, diets can often lead to serious health issues.
What then, should one do to achieve body perfection? Flexibility is important here. Pay attention to what the body needs. When it says, “I’m hungry,” then feed it and do so until it feels satiated. Never overeat. No need to condemn some foods. Occasionally, indulge in some cravings. Be sure that the meals are balanced, where the required nutrients are always part of those meals. And more importantly, enjoy and savor the food. Keep in mind that the food intake serves as fuel for the body to get it going. When a person responds to the needs of his body, it will find for him the appropriate weight, shape, and size. Health is perfection, not a subjective dress size, and it should be the overall objective.
The hype on exercise has also been overestimated. Don’t exercise to look a certain way. The expectations of getting that perfect body through exercise could often be frustrating and discouraging. Don’t get it wrong, exercise is good. But exercise not for looks but for fitness, health, relaxation, and to simply make one feel good. Walking for thirty minutes each day, three times a week is reasonable enough. One can also climb the stairs rather than use the elevator. Exercise for looks can be some form of self-punishment and this needs some re-evaluation in life.
Fitness and health should enhance a person’s overall feeling of energy as well as the enjoyment and vigor of life. They should help the person go through life’s trials and, at the same time, enjoy its highs, whether they be emotional or physical. Health and fitness are available to everybody, whatever body size or shape they have. However, it may not be so for people who starve or malnourish themselves because of some fad diets.
A person must never ever let himself feel down or inferior when he sees someone walk down the street with a good body. Always bear in mind that body size diversity is normal. Body size should not be a gauge of health or a person’s worth. Keep in mind that crash diets don’t really work. Nor is exercise if one must punish himself. People will also need to be critical of advertisements on what the perfect body is. If a person eats right and exercises for fun, there is nothing wrong with him. It’s important for a person to accept himself for what he is and do the same with others.
How Do You Talk to Children About Body Diversity?
A lot of times, children can unwillingly make inappropriate remarks regarding people’s bodies. Most probably, they could only have developed such attitudes through people around them or from their environment. How then, can we avoid such predicaments where children could make such inappropriate remarks without suggesting that bodies should not be spoken about that way?
Teach Children That Bodies Come in Different Sizes and Shapes and They’re All Good
Early on, children should be reminded that their bodies and everybody else’s are good. Discuss with them the body’s functionality and this usually will draw their attention. Describe this as an educational process where we learn about the interesting processes that go on in our bodies which makes existence possible. Instill in them that the human body is an amazing organism and that there is no shame in discussing it.
Search for Diversity
By nature, children are curious and would like to learn more about things that seem strange to them. It would be nice to inject diversity in life, teaching them that not all people are the same, that bodies can come in varied sizes, shapes, abilities, and colors. Explain to them that although people may be diverse in appearance, they are still like how they feel, that appearance is not the most remarkable facet of human beings.
Many communities aren’t as diverse as others for certain reasons, but media now offers such communities the chance to interact with people who have all sorts of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences in life. Our children and ourselves included, can learn a lot by communicating with distinct types of people. This, of course, doesn’t mean that we should shove such new ideas to our children. We need to be subtler by presenting to them inclusive images of these people through books, movies, toys, and more.
Never Assume and Always Have a Sense of Humor
Despite all the best intentions, at one time or another, children can come up with some cringe-worthy comments about some people’s bodies. Parents will still have the power to respond to such predicaments, whether to make the child understand the topic of bodies is a shameless topic or that they can still be permitted to learn and talk about their bodies in a safe and open-minded environment.
We need to understand that children will be children and their curiosities have no bounds. What they say usually doesn’t carry any malicious intent. That is, perhaps, one of the most important beauties of childhood. They perceive the world in a different way as adults and when kids make insensitive comments, that would be the perfect time to teach them. Ask them the question on how they would feel if somebody would have made the same comment about how they look. Work with children in reframing in terms of how they would feel if they were in the other person’s shoes.
Don’t invoke pity when teaching children about other people’s physical appearance. Rather, make them realize that those who have reduced appearances is just a part of who we are. Nobody’s perfect and in one way or another, it applies to all of us. Let them learn through empathy rather than embarrassing them for speaking their mind. This will give them the tools they need to guide them positively through life.
Keep in Mind that Children are Always Listening
Be aware that children not only learn things that we purposely teach them because they can learn also by simply watching our behavior. They are intense listeners to all the words we say. Take advantage of this because it’s a great chance to take a more serious look at how to talk about matters concerning our bodies and make sure it supports our values. Little kids can imitate our words, and this can also apply to our older kids. In the case of the latter, media can have an influence on them. For instance, we can present messages to our older kids about acceptance of body diversity this moment only to be revoked later by some TV show that tears apart some celebrity’s appearance.
Never Criticize Your Body or the Bodies of Other People
We will always relate to some of our issues with the body and how the adults in our childhood talked and behaved with regards to their bodies. Discussing body issues negatively will usually be transmitted to the next generation. They may not be of bad intentions but will still carry deplorable consequences.
Children may not be part of a family conversation but that does not mean they don’t listen and what they hear will sink deep. Unconsciously maybe, but inevitably. It’s time to change tactics in discussing bodies, not only for our children’s sake but also for ourselves by making improvements in our relationship with our own bodies. If we can do this, we will be molding healthier thoughts and behaviors for the children.
Don’t Praise Children Just Because of Their Appearance
For some reason, we tend to compliment our children for their physical qualities. For little girls, we would praise them for their looks, for boys, on how strong they are. But have we really thought about how such praises impact our children?
We will always mean well for our children but these remarks, small-minded as they are, could prove damaging. Praising the superficial aspects will make kids perceive the world as well as themselves through a very limited lens. Also, such remarks will only support subjective gender stereotypes that are not of use to anyone.
When talking to children about things that matter, steer the conversation to a different level. Go beyond appearances. It’s quite surprising to find out that kids are more intelligent and gifted than people usually assume them to be. Beyond appearances, we will find compassion, attentiveness, creativity, humor, resilience, loyalty, curiosity, thoughtfulness, and more.
Compassion is Important
Always bear in mind that children always try to do their best to navigate the world around them. So are we. They will always have questions and we need to know how to answer such questions. Sometimes, we may even find ourselves having to deal with cringe-worthy situations when we realize we made comments that are harmful, comments that have been made without thinking about them twice.
These attitudes we may have inherited, and we don’t give them much attention. Or maybe such attitudes are just a reflection of our personal issues. They may be even a combination of both and our children will now be mirroring them. But we can stop such attitudes. Rather than blaming ourselves, our family or the environment, there’s an opportunity to try compassion. We may also try to do our best, but we can still strive to be more compassionate by becoming more aware.