By Dominique Hodge, MUTV-23 News reporter

 

COLUMBIA – MU’s Women Center had a series of workshops for “Love Your Body Week” that consisted of open discussions about weight bias, radical body positivity and more. Dr. Ramseyer Winter led a discussion about how to teach children body positivity and the importance of this knowledge on February 25th. Winter laid out ten concrete tips about how to implement this positive thinking with exercises and personal testimonies. 

Winter explains that body image affects us more than we think. It affects our physical, mental sexual and relationship health. An individual with better body image reaps benefits like safer sex practices, better overall health and lower levels of depression and anxiety. 

There are three tips from Winter’ s presentation that university students can learn and apply in their own lives — in their interactions with both children and themselves. 

The first tip is to model self compassion and self care. Like in many cases, what kids see they will mimic. If a child is actively engaging with someone who models low self esteem and a negative self image, they will pick up on it and apply it to themselves. However , when interacting with someone who actively shows themselves compassion and care, they will internalize that positive energy. Winter encourages individuals to actively think about ways they could demonstrate this in their own lives.

The second tip is to focus on intuitive movement when it comes to exercise. Engaging in movement does not have to have a goal or be bad. Winter points out that to focus on intuitive movement means focusing on what feels good for your body. Regardless of what that movement is, the point is to enjoy the activity. Be wary of pursuing movement for the sake of fitting beauty standards or expectations. This encouragement to pursue activities that the child enjoys can really help combat toxic behaviors with exercise.

The final tip is to teach children to be critical observers. The prevalence of photoshopped images, altered appearances and even the way bodies are depicted in kids’ films and tv shows can affect the way children perceive their bodies. Winter says that asking kids why they feel certain characters or people look the way they do in the media they consume can really help distinguish reality from fiction. This extends to university students when it comes to social media and other forms of entertainment. Acknowledging the intent and manipulations to media can rid toxic comparisons and harsh ways of thinking that can damage body image. 

Winter believes that these steps to bettering body positivity are not only relevant to children but MU students as well. 

I think this topic is incredibly relevant to MU students because almost all students have young people in their lives in some capacity (e.g., siblings, youth at the place of worship).”

As for those who do not necessarily have these interactions, they can still gain something from applying these tips to their lives.

“These are very applicable to improving body image among adults and the tips can be used by college students to improve their own body image and maybe even their peers’,” Winter concludes.

 

Edited by Rachel Henderson

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