Hot Topics     Home and Family    

Helping your child maintain a positive body image



Activist and book author Virgie Tovar offers advice to parents

kids, teens, positive body image, parents, weight

With the pandemics decrease in socializing, your teen may be spending extra time viewing the selfies of stick-thin friends on Instagram and Tik-tok, followed by unfavorable comparisons with her own body shape. Or perhaps eating has become a way of dealing with anxiety about the uncertain future. COVID-19 seems to be escalating teens angst over body image issues, says body-positive activist Virgie Tovar. In an interview with Kristen Chase on coolmompicks.com, Tovar, author of the recently published The Self-Love Revolution: Radical Body Positivity for Girls of Color, discusses how society contributes to girls self-image issues and how parents can offer corrective views.

Tovar attacks the medical systems “scapegoating of higher-weight people. Its considered a co-morbidity factor. If youre a higher-weight patient, as two-thirds of women are, youre seen as a non-compliant patient. Unless youre trying to lose weight, the attitude is, you dont deserve the same level of care as people who are.” According to Tovar, the American Medical Association declared obesity a disease, against the suggestion of the committee that was assigned the issue, although the committee determined that being overweight does not meet the criteria of a disease.

“Everyone is valuable,” says Tovar. “All food is good food. Everyone deserves equality, regardless of body size.”

As a parent, you have the chance to convey to your daughter that her weight does not determine her worth. Nevertheless, kids bear messages delivered by the media and by schoolmates, and you will have to point out the fallacies of those messages. Even if you have to say the same words over and over, observed Tovar, its okay. Thats what girls need to hear, until the words are embedded in their thought, available at a moments notice as they develop the skills to handle situations where their self-esteem is being challenged.

READ MORE: Parents' Say Has Less Weight with Heavy Teens

Parents also have to address their own issues, which is not easy. “Moms face enormous expectations and pressures,” says Tovar. “Were likelier to be the ones prepping meals and dressing our kids, which are triggering moments for us.” While dieting and working out at the gym help us cope, we have to remember that we have our own unrecognized wounds, our own tendencies to believe were not worthy, which gives us the urge to restrict and diet in order to recover a sense of control.

There is no evidence that dieting leads to better health practices or better mental health, says Tovar. “The diet culture actually creates these problems. Eating is good. Your children dont have to be afraid of wanting to eat, and neither do you. Let a sense of joy anchor your activities. Attempting to control a childs eating is highly unlikely to lead to anything but body dysmorphia.”

Sure, its healthy to eat vegetables and to exercise, but dont make a connection between veggies and losing weight or exercise and losing weight. Letting children eat until theyre full affirms natural hunger/fullness signals. In dieting, people lose access to that awareness, creating problems that contribute to eating disorders.

Its fine to advocate for kids at school and at the doctors office, Tovar says. One mother placed notices in her childs medical records, requesting that medical professionals not express concern about the childs body mass index but rather ask how her family promotes mental and physical health. 

You can ask your child questions:

1. When she criticizes her own body, ask, “Why do you think that way? Where did you get that idea? How else could we look at that thought?”

2. When looking at images of size 0 women in the media, ask, “Who does this picture benefit? You and the people you love?”

3. When she compares herself to thinner girls, ask “What makes your body special?” For instance, her body is more muscular from carrying more weight. Point out that the world needs all kinds of people. Different kinds of people bring different perspectives, provide different solutions, make us aware of different kinds of beauty. We create the world together, with all our different skills and strengths.




Other articles by HVP News Reporters


  • 5 tips to help you land a new job

    A solid interview can help you close the deal

    With so many job openings these days, you may think you’ll have an easy time sliding into a new role. Not so fast. Because of the huge number of options available and plenty of workers contemplating changes, you’re likely to encounter some competition to land the job you want. read more »
  • Healthy habits for your home

    5 tips to help you out

    If you’re like most Americans, health is an important aspect of your resolutions when each new year rolls around. While factors like diet and exercise are keys to healthy living, so are the ways you care for your home and belongings. read more »
  • 5 heart health tips for the holidays

    Keep your family safe during this festive season

    Food, drinks, gifts and time with family make the holidays a merry occasion for people across the country. However, all that celebrating can sometimes become a distraction from maintaining heart health. read more »
  • 10 health resolutions doctors encourage you to make today

    These actions you can take are some of the most important

    The New Year represents a fresh start and is the perfect time to invest in your health. However, you may be unsure what resolutions will have the biggest impact. Doctors say that the easy, tangible actions you take are some of the most important. read more »
  • 4 reasons to consider adopting a pet

    Pets can be a key source of comfort and joy

    More than 23 million American households added a four-legged family member over the last three years, according to data from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Through these trying times, pets have been a key source of comfort and joy – even improving pet parents’ overall wellbeing. read more »
  • Make a difference for children globally this holiday season

    Your gift can make a real impact for a child

    The most meaningful gifts are rarely the ones that can be wrapped and found under a tree. This holiday season, gifts can go beyond just thoughtful presents for family, friends and loved ones and can make real impact for children globally. read more »
  • Must-have tools for entertaining with ease this holiday season

    Having the right tools will set you up for success

    ‘Tis the season for gatherings galore. Whether you’re an all-star entertainer or a first-time host, having the right tools will set you up for success—meaning you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with loved ones. read more »
  • 5 tips to help families manage holiday stress

    The holiday season can make everyone feel a little overwhelmed

    ’Tis the season for holiday parties, travel, hosting and more. While it is a joyous time of year, the never-ending to-do lists and school being out of session can make everyone feel a little overwhelmed, children included. read more »
  • A foil packet meal for sweet fall simplicity

    Delicious and easy dinner with sweet potatoes

    Fall provides almost endless opportunities to gather friends and family around great food. From tailgates and family events to those precious last outdoor meals before winter sets in, the scenery of autumn is a perfect backdrop for sharing meals together. read more »
  • 5 steps for better meal prep

    Eat healthier and save time

    Eating healthier and saving time around the house are common goals for many families, and there’s one solution that can help attain both: meal-prepping. By planning and preparing meals in advance of each week, you can practice better portion control while creating free time for normally hectic mornings, afternoons and evenings. read more »