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How Our Body Image Affects our Kids

Have you ever thought about how our body image affects our kids? As a new mom, I learned faster than ever that kids absorb EVERYTHING. When my daughter was barely 1, she could imitate us exercising, including our loud, intentional exhales when we moved weight. She would try handstands while I practiced my fitness skills, and had the squat form of a seasoned powerlifter. 

She also started yelling and emoting with her hands when she got frustrated because my husband and I were going through a gnarly rough patch, and there was a lot of screaming going on in our house. Not proud of it, but it's a fact of the situation. Our 1 year old, who could speak maybe 10 words, had picked up everything from proper exercise form to arguing. 

So imagine she has a mom who is constantly saying, "I need to lose weight," "These jeans are too tight on me," or, "I can't eat that. I'm being good." 

It's not going to be good. To put it very straight, here's how our body image affects our kids:  If you imply that you are bad for having some cake at a birthday party, your child will 100% think they are bad for having cake at a birthday party. How many of you reading this can look back at your childhood or teenage years and think that maybe your body image issues started with your parents, big sister, etc?

It’s time we start reframing the conversation about exercise, food, and our bodies. If not for ourselves, at least for our children.

Mother holding hands with and looking down at young child

I once sat in a meeting with someone (who is very fit and “fit looking” by normal standards) who told me she wanted to lose weight. While I try not to invalidate people's concerns, I do always try to dig a little deeper into the why behind this particular stand-alone goal. I do this because, to be honest, a lot of people's desire to lose weight is rooted in fatphobia. It’s rarely an actual health concern, and I usually don’t hear much about how someone wants to physically feel better.

So back to my meeting. I asked her why she wanted to lose weight.

So I can look better.

Just by being smaller?


So you would look better if you were smaller?

I think so.


My clothes would fit better.

Can you buy new clothes?

*nervous laugh* Yes

Do you think people who are smaller look better?

*hesitation* Um I don’t know

Do you think your daughter would look better if she were smaller?


Do you want her to think she will look better, the smaller she is?

*tears* No

I have SO many conversations like this. Ladies, you have to understand that whatever you believe about your own body, you absolutely will project onto your children or other young children that you influence. No amount of affirming your children will ever be strong enough to undo damage that’s caused by what you actually demonstrate.

Toddler girl smiling with ab wheel exercise equipment have you ever wondered How our body image affects our kids

If you’re constantly on a new diet, constantly berating yourself or your body, constantly miserable at events that are supposed to be fun, your children will learn that.

They will learn that ice cream is bad, that certain bodies don’t belong in certain clothes (bonus: they will start looking for the imperfections you point out on yourself in their own bodies), or that they shouldn’t eat pie at the Christmas party. They will learn that exercise only exists as a way to stay or get small.

So if you notice yourself doing this, it’s time to change it. Find movement you like (and that your children like), and encourage it for literally every reason except weight management: Endorphins (stress and anxiety relief, mood booster), injury prevention, sport acceleration, heart health, overall badassness, fun, etc.

The more you actively do these things for yourself and around/for your children, the more ingrained these ideas will become. This is the start of a beautiful relationship, if you just give it a real try!

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