Before you were even aware of the media telling you what is and is not beautiful, there were important people who shaped your view of yourself.

Half of elementary school girls are concerned about their weight.

By age 6 they start to express concerns about their own weight or shape.

By 10 they are on a diet.

They didn’t come up with this body shame on their own.

The messages we receive about body image as children impact us throughout adulthood, unless we do something to change these largely uninformed thought patterns.

Most people’s relationship with food has everything to do with a lifetime of societal pressure, misinformation, and unintentional (or intentional) messages from the people who shaped them.

A 2015 study in Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics titled Weight status and body image perceptions in adolescents: current perspectives reports the following:

Cultural ideals and beliefs are reinforced by significant others in adolescents’ immediate environments, including family, peers, and romantic partners. Relative to family, research has shown that weight-based teasing from parents and siblings is associated with body dissatisfaction among girls. 

Encouragement from parents to control weight was also linked to heightened weight concerns among high school girls and boys.

Negative weight talk and dieting among family members, especially from mothers who serve as role models for body image, has been shown to be related to body image concerns and disordered eating behaviors in adolescent girls.

Fat talk, defined as negative body- and weight-related comments or conversations, is associated with body dissatisfaction among adolescents.

The weight-shaming, negative weight talk, and pro-diet mentality isn’t malicious. Adults do this to children because it’s what was done to them. They do it because their own sense of worth is wrapped up in their weight, and they anticipate that this will also be the case for the children in their lives. In an attempt to set these children up for “success,” they are missing the mark.

What we learn about food and body over the course of our lives ends up creating a false and unattainable measure of worthiness.

In her audio course, Men, Women, and Worthiness, Dr. Brene Brown refers to Jim Maholic’s research about women and what norms women have to conform to in order to be considered feminine. Maholic concluded that, according to society, what makes women feminine is being “thin, nice modest, and using all your available resources in pursuit of your appearance. Brown goes on to say her translation of that is to, “stay small and very very quiet.”

What society never stops to think about is that a woman’s measurements have no bearing on what she can accomplish, who she can impact, and who she will be in this world.

When we pursue a number, rather than the things that qualities that actually have value— love, connection, compassion, truth, purpose— we have the potential to end up in a very dark place. But, when we can identify what we really want for our lives and, in turn, our bodies, we get to pursue health from the grounded place of knowing what really matters. This reduces stress, it puts our decisions into a greater perspective that provides stronger motivation for making choices that are best for both our bodies and our psyches.

Want to separate food from the things that really matter?

I’m offering free emotions and eating assessments this summer. We’ll uncover some of the messages that shaped you and what you can do to change the way they are affecting you today. Click here to book yours.