Body neutrality is the most important lesson for young girls

Filipino culture is commenting on someone’s weight as a greeting. You might think it’s funny, but it’s not normal to hear people focus on your body and measure your worth and health based on how you look. Especially since we’ve been hearing these types of comments since we were kids.

Our society has conditioned us to think “You’ve lost weight” is a compliment, and that people commenting on our weight is said with love. But also, there are people who straight-up point out your weight gain or your petite frame because you look “unhealthy” in their eyes.

These comments are especially upsetting because society imposes an impossible standard of beauty onto women’s body sizes. They claim you should be fit and sexy to be deemed attractive, and flabs have no place here.

That’s not something anyone should hear from family and strangers, especially young girls who are still figuring stuff out. So instead of placing importance onto one’s looks, we need to be teaching them how to understand and listen to what their bodies need. At the same time, enlighten them on how body diversity works so they don’t call another person “fat” or “ugly” as an insult. It’s time we destigmatize the issue of weight.

More than looks

Guardian op-ed noted that gender stereotyping affects how girls look at themselves because they feel that people place importance on their physical attributes, not their talents. “Even the most enlightened people are usually surprised when they begin noticing how often they unconsciously reinforce the notion that a woman’s worth is nothing more than the sum of her parts,” author Natasha Devon wrote.

Nonprofit organization Beauty Redefined shared an enlightening post on Instagram on how to talk to young girls about their looks. One of the first things you should note is not to focus on their appearance so much because it creates the idea that she is just pretty or cute.

“Tell her who she is—smart, loving, curious, energetic, creative, articulate, compassionate, talented, etc.,” they said. It’s really all about enforcing that your daughter or niece has a purpose in this world and her looks aren’t measurements for her successes in life.

It’s the same when it comes to body image. When she refers to herself as “fat,” remember not to put value on the word. Remember that having fat doesn’t mean a person is unhealthy, and being thin isn’t equivalent to having optimal health. “The second you respond to her calling someone fat by telling her, ‘That’s not nice.’ You’re teaching her that fat is bad,” Beauty Redefined noted. What you can do is teach her the importance of how fat can help our bodies and how certain features make people unique.

How it positively affects children

She Knows said that introducing the concept of body neutrality to kids at a young age will “proactively guard against the internalization of the ‘thin ideal,’ which is the root of disordered eating and negative self-image.” It also helps them understand they don’t need to go on restrictive diets just because society told them their bodies aren’t acceptable.

“Children focus on caring for their bodies in ways that feel good instead of punishing the body for being ‘wrong’ through restriction, deprivation, [overexercising], etc. By honoring, accepting and having gratitude for their bodies from a young age, children learn to listen to their bodies’ signals, which in turn promotes whole health,” Shiri Macri, Green Mountain program and clinical director, told the outlet.

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Learning body acceptance should start from childhood. Let’s stop the normalization of using weight as a greeting, an endearment, or an insult. We are all more than our bodies and our appearances, and our children deserve better in this judgmental society.

 

Art by Tricia Guevara

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