To many people, weight loss before and after pictures might seem harmless or even inspirational. Suggesting they can be harmful can appear nitpicky or even a bit ridiculous, particularly in circles that don’t realize intentional weight loss comes with some serious potential side effects. If you’ve lived on this planet for more than a minute in the last 5o years you’d be forgiven for thinking that intentional weight loss has no downsides. The way weight loss is usually portrayed can make one believe it’s health and wellbeing benefits are up there with a mother’s love. But that’s where we’ve all gone very wrong.
Unfortunately, weight loss is not the all-up-side pursuit it’s been sold as. And the ramifications on your kids for pursuing it could be serious.
With more than 70 years of data to call on, we know intentional weight-loss is the leading risk factor in eating disorders (that have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses), gaining weight over and above set-point (being bigger than your genetics dictate), yo-yo dieting (which has been linked to diabetes and heart disease), depression and self-loathing.
Sadly, the type of weight loss protocol doesn’t matter. From traditional calorie-counting programs to ‘I’m changing my lifestyle’ pursuits, if the idea is about making yourself (or your child) smaller the risks are the same.
It’s one of the reasons why Paediatricians suggests we should never put a child on diet.
One small way we can help keep our children away from pursuing weight-loss (please don’t mistake that for helping them pursue health) is to declutter our homes and socials from weight-loss before and after pictures.
In my book Raising Body Confident Kids, I share a three-tiered approach to creating an environment that kids’ body image will flourish in.
- Language and culture – using language that suggests all bodies are good bodies rather than elevating some body-types and demonizing others.
- Marketing and media – helping your child put distance between what they see and who they are, so if they see something that makes them not like themselves, they think something is wrong with the message, not something that is wrong with them.
- Food and exercise – raising kids to have a peaceful relationship with food and exercise and listen to their body to be able to take good care of it.
If you would like to raise happy, healthy kids, you can check the workbook out here.
How to promote health without focusing on weight-loss
This is a question that is too long for a simple blog post, however, the very first place to start is to understand that health can be pursued in an entirely weight-neutral manner. That means that health behaviours can be measured for success in ways other than size or weight. It’s possible to measure health in terms of blood pressure, heart rate, strength, sleep quality, social connection, sense of community, sense of contribution, happiness, contentedness, etc. All of which can be pursued and improved without weight change.
In order to dig deeper into these ideas, here’s what I suggest:
- Join 100s of other grateful parents and grab this free 10 Principles of Raising Body Confident Kids printable.
- Read Intuitive Eating, Body Respect and Raising Body Confident Kids: A practical workbook for parents.
PS If you suspect your child has an eating disorder (signs to look for here), it’s important to seek professional care from someone who treats eating disorders in people of all sizes, shapes, ages and ethnicities from a weight-neutral perspective. Email me here if you’d like a list of professionals to contact near you.
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