Becka Wall | @beckawall

Kids as young as five have body image issues. Girls’ self esteem peaks at age nine, and decreases from there. 90 percent of those with an eating disorder are between ages 12  and 25. More than 90 percent of girls ages 15 to 17 want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance, with body weight ranking the highest. 80 percent of 10-year-old girls have dieted. 90 percent of high school junior and senior women diet regularly. Young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer or losing their parents.

As someone who has struggled with body image, weight and disordered eating habits my entire life, I’ve thought long and hard about the habits I want my kids – and my little cousins, nieces and nephews – to learn from me. I have my share of bad body image habits.I poke my belly and frown at my fat. I talk about “good foods” and “bad foods,” though I should just call it “food” and think about which food is more nutritious.

Kids learn from our behavior. They look to us to model what society expects of them – and I, for one, don’t want them to think society expects them to poke their belly fat or never eat a fast food hamburger.

I want to make it clear for the kids in my life – both present and future – their bodies are beautiful. Life is full of ups and downs and that’s normal. So, in that spirit, here are five things I vow to start – and keep doing- this year to make sure kids I know feel great about their bodies, their lives and themselves.

  • Do not panic or worry if you gain weight. Your weight will fluctuate and that’s OK. I stopped weighing myself a while ago (and have become a happier woman for it, but that’s a story for a different time), and now go by when my pants start feeling tight – if they do, it’s time to stop eating out so much and eat more veggies.  
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    Becka and the little ladies in her life.

    Eat what you want! Food is delicious and should be enjoyed. If you’ve been craving a grilled cheese sandwich all day, go make one. If donuts show up in the office kitchen because it’s National Donut Day, eat one. As long as it’s something you really want, go forth. Live long and prosper. All that jazz.

  • Add, don’t subtract. Healthy living isn’t about depriving yourself of the things you love, like truffle fries or spending a Sunday on the couch. It’s about adding healthy things to your lifestyle like a side salad, a snack of baby carrots and almonds or a walk between Netflix binges during that lazy Sunday. Don’t say no, say YES! (Especially to kale, whole grains and fresh fruit.)
  • Wear whatever you damn well please. As long as it’s generally appropriate for the setting you’re in (i.e., maybe don’t wear a bikini to a job interview), YOU CAN TOTALLY WEAR IT. Crop top? Hell yes. Bikini (at the beach)? Do it up. Your body is beautiful and you should feel great and comfortable in it at all times.
  • Respect your body. Whether it’s consent, getting a snack when I’m hungry, or regularly doing moderate exercise, I vow to treat and love my body like it’s the only one I have for the rest of my life – because it is.