How do I talk to my kids about body image?
This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and author of A Kids Book About Body Image, Rebecca Alexander. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
What is body image?
Yeah. So body image is how we think about our own bodies. We think about specifically how we look and how we feel and how other people see us, and that is—those internal thoughts, those are body image.
Listeners, I’m so excited to have this conversation about body image with you, because, well, it’s been a big part of my life since I was a kid myself. I felt insecure about my body, worried that people were judging me because I am fat or because I can’t run well. As I grew up, I also found a lot of confidence in my body and who I am. Those are both examples that have to do with body image.
Maybe it’s been a big part of your life, too. And you know what? That’s absolutely normal. Because, body image is for everyone with a body.
It is everything that we think about ourselves and ourselves and the way we look.
So it's our size, our shape, our color, our like type of body. So are we muscular or are we slender? Are we athletic? Or are we soft and squishy? What kind of hair do we have? Do we have straight hair, curly hair? [What] skin color do we have? Do we have parts of our bodies that maybe have been scarred or hurt or injured in our life? Like, do we have parts of our bodies that don't work, were we born with, like things that make us look different from other people?
Every bit about our outside comprises our body image. Our thoughts about every outside part of us compresses our body image.
One of the coolest things about bodies is that they grow with us as we get older. As long as we live, our bodies are changing, growing, learning along with us. So our journey with body image can change too.
For so many people, like we struggled with it when we were young and by the time we're older, we start to accept ourselves. For a lot of people that's what the journey looks like.
For some people, they're really happy and confident as kids and they have great body image; but then our bodies change throughout our lives. All of us, like we know this, [our bodies] change from the time we're born and they don't stop until we die. You can always have an opportunity to redefine your own body image.
So you can decide, you know, “I'm going to learn to appreciate the new things about my body or the things that are different about my body now” and get healthier body image.
As you consider your own experience with body image, you might think about the words for your body you want to use. Sometimes people use words to describe someone’s body to hurt them or make them feel less confident. That is never okay! Other times people can take those words that were used as weapons against them and turn them into something different.
I decided to, you know, a long time ago to like, try and think of myself not as a bad person for being fat.
So why would I think that fat was a bad word? Like that was the conversation I had with myself. And so like, oftentimes when we're trying to say something, we don't want to use a specific word. We come up with other words that are cutesy or you know, kind of like they don't make a lot of sense. We call them euphemisms.
And one euphemism for fat that I've heard people say—there are lots of them—but one that's the funniest to me is fluffy. So you've met a lot of people who were like, I'm not fat, I'm fluffy. And that just makes me laugh. Like I just laugh. I can't call myself a fluffy person. I'm not just that, like, we can just like call it that.
And I don't have to worry about being called fluffy, that doesn't make it any different. And it, frankly, just makes me giggle. So yeah.
Some listeners might remember talking about diversity a couple episodes ago with Charnaie Gordan. Diversity means having variety represented in a group. Diversity of bodies includes all of the possible skin colors and tones, physical abilities and disabilities, and shapes and sizes of bodies. All of our bodies are unique—different—and all bodies are good.
And one of the great things about diversity is our shapes and sizes. So like my best friend is, you know, like a tiny person. And she's been a tiny person. She's like five foot one, and, you know, a very slender human. And she also has very dark skin and then there's me. And oftentimes I feel like we couldn't be more different, you know, as a white lady who's tall and big and yeah.
Like we're both people. And we represent the diversity that exists within the human species. And so now at this point in my life, my body, and the way I think about body image, it's just about finding that beautiful diversity and really thinking about how special it is that there are so many different people in our species.
And that's such an amazing thing. And we know that diversity is such an incredible part of success on a scientific level. Like we want our species to succeed—you know, we want to have more humans—for the rest of history, who are happy and healthy and are contributing good things to our society.
Like we need all of us and I have special skills and my body does special things that need to be passed down. Right? Like my traits need to be passed down just like everybody else's. And so when I think about body image now, I really start to think about diversity and how important all those differences are for all of us.
And so I just really celebrate those things that make me unique and the things that I see that are unique in other people.
Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. This week we have Rebecca Alexander, author of A Kids Book About Body Image.