Body Image Resilience: The Secret to Helping Your Daughter Be Body Confident

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If you\’ve heard the term \”body image\” a million times but are still hungry for fresh insights and practical strategies for helping your daughter feel good about herself and body, you\’re in the right spot!

The body image arena has gotten so much more sophisticated (ie smart!) when it comes to understanding how we think and feel about our bodies. We’ve got new options and approaches to building up our inner reserves—and helping our daughters do the same, ladies!

One thing we’ve discovered at NourishHer is that there’s power in pushing aside the term “body image,” which focuses on our perceptions of our looks. We teach moms and girls to think about body image resilience instead!

In this piece, you’ll learn what body image resilience is and how you can start using it to bolster your daughter’s body esteem, self-acceptance, and self-confidence. Together, we\’ll dig deep into what body image resilience really means and discover the incredible impact it can have on our girls\’ lives.

Get ready to explore a whole new perspective on body confidence that will inspire you and your daughters to shine with authenticity and love for yourselves.

What is Body Image Resilience?

Okay, we all know that raising girls comes with its fair share of challenges. And one of the biggest hurdles they face is navigating the rollercoaster ride of body image. So what does this game-changing term, body image resilience, really mean?

It\’s not just another buzzword – it\’s a powerful concept that will empower your daughter to conquer those challenges with strength and grace. It\’s about helping her build an unshakable sense of self-worth, regardless of society\’s unrealistic beauty standards.

Body image resilience refers to our daughter’s ability to navigate the challenges of living in a beauty and weight-obsessed culture in a positive and empowering manner.

In other words, when you have body image resilience, you’re able to acknowledge the fact that not meeting cultural beauty or body ideals (99 percent of us don’t, let’s remember!) while living in a culture that values those ideals can be downright uncomfortable, painful even. When you have body image resilience you still maintain a deep love and respect for yourself and your body despite this fact.

Teaching our girls how to have body image resilience involves helping them develop a strong sense of self-worth and acceptance, which enables them to withstand societal pressures and unrealistic beauty standards without having it take a toll on their own self-love or self-esteem.


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While we might not be able to wipe the world clean of the tendency to objectify ourselves nor make our girls blind to ever-present images of the thin ideal, we can take steps to lessen the negative impact of those factors on our daughter. That’s where body image resilience comes in.
— Amelia Sherry, Diet-Proof Your Daughter

Where Does the Concept of Body Image Resilience Come From?

While they didn’t necessarily invent it, body image resilience is a concept that’s explained in More Than a Body, a book by Lindsay and Lexie Kite, twin sisters who literally have PhDs in body image! They’re also the founders of Beauty Redefined, which is dedicated to understanding the harmful effects of objectification.

The Kite sisters use the framework of resilience from positive psychology and apply it to body image issues and, I have to say, it really makes so much sense!

Here’s my best attempt at restating their explanation (found in Chapter 1 of More Than A Body) in a simple way:

First, think about how cultural ideals of beauty and weight pressure us to see ourselves as objects.

When we realize we don’t measure up to those unrealistic standards, we—and our daughters, of course!—feel pain, shame, or a disruption in our sense of self.

We have a choice in terms of how we respond to that pain—and we have a choice in how we raise our daughters to respond to the pain too.

  1. We can choose to sink into shame (ie have low self-esteem)

  2. We can try to “fix” ourselves (ie we start dieting or working harder at trying to match our looks to standards via make-up, clothing, injectables, and surgery, etc),

  3. We can reintegrate our idea of ourselves and the culture around us as incorrect and wrong (being resilient!)

This last part, resiliently reintegrating ourselves, is body image resilience. It essentially means we acknowledge the pain, hurt, harm, or shame we feel by not meeting ideals and we also, at the same time, recognize that those standards are not accurate, helpful, nevermind right, just, or fair.

In other words, we can be body image resilient by acknowledging that culture judges us by our looks while also rejecting the idea that we, too, need to judge ourselves the same way.

So as mothers who are building body image resilience in our daughters, we help them acknowledge those standards as unrealistic, call out the ways in which these standards are harmful and hurtful, and do our best to model actively resisting and internalizing them.


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The first step of resiliency is to identify the disruption. Name it. Shine a light on it. Call it what it is: a crappy, painful opportunity for positive change… If you will work to identify disruptions in your life and use them as opportunities for growth, you can cultivate a million strategies to make those disruptions happy.
— Lindsay Kite, PhD

What’s the Difference Between Body Image Resilience and Body Positivity?

The difference is subtle yet important! One rejects the notion of objectification. In my mind, the other kind of embraces it.

Body image resilience resists that objectification is paramount to existence. If you’re working from a body image resilience point of view, you know that there are other more meaningful ways to think about and value yourself beyond how you look.

In some sense, body positivity still objectifies you. It pushes you to change your standards of judgment say by encouraging your to love your body and be positive about it regardless of whether it means idealized standards. That, of course, is definitely positive and helpful.

However, that point of view still teaches us to think about ourselves in terms of our looks. If you teach your daughter positivity, you’re still teaching her to think of herself in terms of her appearance, reinforcing the idea of focusing on looks.

Of course, encouraging your daughter to love her looks can be a positive move! (So long as having her reassure herself that she’s cute or beautiful doesn\’t make her cringe or fill her will palpable resistance!).

However, I think we can do better! In my mind, body positivity misses the mark by continuing to emphasize her looks and size as being a point of pride and value while body image resilience teaches her to resist the idea of objectifying herself altogether.

(All body image movements have little nuances that make the appealing to different people in different bodies and at different stages of their body acceptance journies. Understanding the differences between them can help you and your daughter figure out which one feels best—and is, therefore, most helpful at any given moment!)


What’s the Benefit of Building Girls’ Body Image Resilience?

Boosting our daughters’ body image resilience lowers their risk of body dissatisfaction or negative feelings about their bodies, according to research.

Bonus: Since body dissatisfaction is a leading risk factor for disordered eating, countering those negative thoughts by building body image resilience can protect against that serious threat to our girls’ emotional and physical well-being too.

Building body image resilience may be a powerful way to counter the negative influence of social media on our girls’ too!


Can Body Image Resilience Be Developed?

Absolutely! Body image resilience isn’t necessarily something that comes naturally to us and our girls. It’s a cognitive and emotional muscle that’s built bit by bit over time through things like:

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  • Having a supportive family (that’s you, momma!)

  • Actively working to lessen sociocultural pressure and rejecting the thin ideal

  • Taking steps to cultivate our relationship with our physical self such as through enjoyable types of self-care

  • Increasing coping skills

  • Prioritizing wellness such as by taking steps to be active, have positive relationships, and stay well-nourished

Sound complicated? Not so! Simply having the kind of parent that’d read this blog post is a good indicator that your own daughter has the resources to increase her own body image resilience; in other words, having you in her corner means she’s already got a lot going for her when it comes to building up her own good feelings about her body!

And that’s true regardless of whether you talk to her directly about the importance of a positive body image or body image resilience at all.

By being aware of the societal pressure and looking for ways to promote a culture of self-love and embracing diversity, you’re likely already helping your daughter build resilience and navigate the complexities of body image in a healthy way without even realizing it!


 

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Building Body Image Resilience in Our Daughters: 8 Strategies for Moms

Want to strengthen your daughter’s resilience against negative thoughts and feelings about her body or her looks starting now? Here are a few of my favorite ideas on what we can all start doing:

  1. Encourage Her to Talk to You

    While it sometimes might feel awkward, the more you can initiate conversations with your daughter about body positivity, self-acceptance, and the harmful effects of comparing oneself to unrealistic beauty standards—or even peers—the better. She needs to know that you’re open to hearing about her thoughts and feelings without being dismissive or trying to talk her out of her feelings.

    Encourage her to express her feelings, concerns, and questions about bodies (her own and others) and body diversity without judgment. Sometimes it can be hard to hear our girls put themselves down or hearing they that they wished they looked differently; however, knowing she can share those feelings with you safely can help them seem less powerful and scary.

    Actively listen and provide support and guidance, reinforcing the message that her worth extends far beyond her appearance. You can also use this list of non-looks-based compliments to reassure and remind her that her value is tied to so much more than her size or shape or how she looks.

  2. Help Her Be a Conscious Social Media Consumer

    Today, girls’ body esteem takes a huge hit from the intense barrage of images they get from social media. And research shows it’s taking a significant toll on their mental health, including ratcheting up their risk of eating disorders.

    To protect your daughter, teach her to critically analyze and question the images she sees on social as well as other media outlets, such as television, film, advertisements, and magazines. By developing media literacy skills, you can teach her to be a more conscious consumer of these images and ultimately she can protect herself from harmful influences that lead to body dissatisfaction.

    How do we do it?

    • Discuss the use of photo editing and how it distorts perceptions of beauty

    • Look at photos online and help her identify photoshopping and airbrushing

    • Encourage her to recognize unrealistic body standards by pointing out that the ideals shown are often unrealistic and do not represent the diversity of real bodies that your body know, see, and live within in real life, among family, friends, classmates, teammates, or community

    • Encourage her to engage in body-positive communities and follow accounts that represent body diversity

    • Limit her exposure to harmful media by monitoring her accounts for diet-related content

    • Analyze media messages alongside her by teaching her to question the motivation of the original poster. Ask, are they selling something, looking for attention? Are they genuinely trying to be helpful? Could they be insecure and looking for attention?

    • Encourage her to unfollow accounts that do not make her feel good or act as a positive source of education or inspiration or education

  3. Nurture a Healthy Relationship with Activity

    Shift the focus on being “healthy” from appearance-centric goals such as being thin to overall well-being, which means having a balance of good emotional, social, and physical health over one that prioritizes physical health only.

    Promote regular physical activity as a means of feeling strong, energized, and confident—not reaching a certain weight or body type.

    Encourage your daughter to participate in activities she enjoys, whether it\’s dancing, swimming, or playing a sport because it feels good as opposed to how it might impact the way she looks.

  4. Help Her See the Value in Being Well-Nourished

    You can explain the idea of eating well-being or get very clear about what it means to be a healthy eater, which also includes a balance of eating for physical, social, and emotional reasons. (If you’re interested in understanding this idea, there’s an entire chapter devoted to it in Diet-Proof Your Daughter.)

    Emphasize the importance of nourishing her body with wholesome foods, rather than restrictive diets.

    Teach her to listen to her body\’s needs, her hunger, fullness, and appetite, and take information about what and how much to eat from within as opposed to listening to outside fads or influencers. Consider teaching her about concepts such as intuitive eating and eating well-being.

    Make sure she knows the dangers of dieting. In fact, if you’re raising an adolescent or teen then I recommend having a very clear “zero tolerance” policy for diets in your own home.

    If you notice what I call “red flags” with your daughter’s eating, seek out professional support. While one or more of the following isn’t a confirmation of an eating disorder, it is worth being curious about. Red flags include:

    • Insisting on eating meals by herself or in private

    • Avoiding time at the table with family

    • Cutting out entire foods (such as grains or nutrients such as carbohydrates or fat)

    • Counting and measuring foods (in the absence of a significant food-related medical diagnosis such as type 1 diabetes)

    • Skipping meals

    • Adopting a restrictive eating style such as veganism or keto or paleo

    • Frequent body checking, such as looking at her reflection and scanning for imperfections

    • Frequent negative comments about body or weight

  5. Help Her Cultivate a Positive Community

    Building a network of positive influences—ie friends, family members, coaches, teachers, and other caregivers—is essential for your daughter\’s body image resilience. Not everyone values body image resilience over beauty, so be proactive about making sure she’s got positive influences around her.

    Encourage her to connect with like-minded individuals, whether through extracurricular activities, sports teams, or online communities that promote body positivity and self-acceptance.

    Check in periodically to see that activities, conversations, and time spent together doesn’t revolve around appearance, weight or dieting, or comparison-type activities.

    Foster friendships that are based on shared values, support, and encouragement.

    By surrounding herself with a supportive community as opposed to one that’s competitive or looks-focused, she will feel empowered to embrace her unique strengths and individuality as well as feel more empowered when it comes to resisting negative influences.

  6. Exposing Her to Body Diversity

    Finding books and images such as in fiction or advertising, movies, or television that include a wide variety of body shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities can help her develop a more realistic view of what bodies look like.

    With this in mind, she will be better able to manage her own expectations in terms of how her own body is developing, as well as being accepting of her body regardless of where it falls on the size spectrum.

    By exposing her to a variety of body types in women and girls, she’ll be less prone to experience body shame of her own—she’ll have proof that real bodies are all really different!

  7. Advocate for Her (& Other Kids!) via Her School

    Research shows that when schools are united in promoting body confidence and body diversity, kids do better when it comes to body satisfaction and even being more protected against the dangers of social media and eating disorders.

    Ask your child’s guidance counselor or health education department what eating disorder prevention education or programs they have in place. If there’s nothing, share your favorite resources. Talk to the principal or other school administrators about your concerns and the importance of putting a program in place.

    If you need support, you can reach out to an organization like Be Real which will educate your child’s educators on non-diet ways to talk about body image, body diversity, and healthy eating.

    If you live in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or the Denver or Orlando area, reach out to me. I’d be happy to contact your school and see if they like to host a Body Confident Schools teacher training myself!)

  8. Be a Positive Role Model

    As mothers, we play a crucial role in shaping our daughters\’ perceptions of themselves. Even though it might feel hard, now is the time to work on embracing and celebrating your own body, demonstrating self-love and acceptance. If fact, knowing your own daughter’s self-esteem stands to get a boost can make you feel more motivated to accept yourself than ever before!

    Avoid negative self-talk or engaging in diets or exercise regimes that are meant to “fix” your flaws or get you “toned” or “bathing suit ready.” Instead, focus on promoting a balanced lifestyle that emphasizes overall well-being which can be a powerful example for your daughter to follow.

    If self-acceptance is a real struggle, consider reaching out for help from a professional or reading a powerful book. These books have been life-changing when it comes to healing my own relationship with my body and many of the mothers I work with agree!

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If you’re looking for a book for yourself, consider More Than a Body by the Kite sisters, Body Kindness by Rebecca Stritchfield, The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor, Beauty Sick by Rene Engeln, Beyond Beautiful by Anuschka Rees or You Are Not a Before Picture by Alex Light.


Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links, which means if you decide to purchase one after clicking a link, I may earn a small commission.


 

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