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Fall in love with yourself this month
Mark Kishel
Mark Kishel

February is typically the month of love. With that in mind, what if this year, you fall in love with yourself?

Loving yourself means you have a healthy body image. You’re comfortable in your own skin, and you feel good about the way you look. But for many, feeling comfortable is not easy, and struggles with self-esteem and body image begin during puberty.

According to data released in 2012 by the Keep It Real campaign, approximately 80 percent of all 10-year-old girls have already dieted at least once in their lives. Additionally, 53 percent of 13-year-old girls report they have issues with how their bodies look, a percentage that rises to 78 percent by age 17. Last, 40 percent to 60 percent of children 6-12 years old report they are worried about their weight, and 70 percent would like to slim down.

Most preteens and teenagers develop their sense of body image from not only advertising and the entertainment industry, but also from how parents and other relatives see and treat their own bodies. That’s why it is important they are taught what a healthy body image is at home.

Here are some tips to help everyone in your home develop healthy body images and learn to love themselves no matter what they look like.

• Measure your health, not your weight. Don’t beat yourself up over the number on the scale. Visit your doctor and see what a healthy weight range is for you. It’s important to remind yourself that your healthy weight range may not be the same as your friends or neighbors.
• Concentrate on developing a healthy lifestyle, not on losing weight or dieting. By changing your lifestyle, rather than crash dieting, you’re doing yourself a favor in the long run. Be nice to your body and pay attention to what it needs.
• Focus on the positive aspects of your life. Positive thinking helps ease stress and can even improve your health by increasing your quality of sleep and eliminating stress eating.
• Avoid self-criticism, comparison and competition. All of these can undermine motivation and drag you down. By avoiding them, you will improve your body image and your self-esteem.
• Most importantly, surround yourself with supportive and positive people who make you feel good about yourself. It is impossible to improve your body image and self-esteem with others tearing you down.

When you improve your body image, your family will take notice and you will set a positive example for your children. Encourage your family members to improve their own body image as well by sharing these tips with them.

Kishel, M.D., FAAP, is regional vice president and senior clinical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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