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The Holidays Can Be Especially Challenging for People’s Body Image and Mental Health

December 6, 2021

Our Health Unit supports a “Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds” approach which focuses on promoting health for everyone by shifting the focus from weight and body size or shape, to overall health. Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds promotes balanced eating, active living, and mental well-being for people of all shapes, sizes, and ages.

Especially throughout the pandemic, we see and hear messages about healthy eating, physical activity and weight. Physical activity and healthy eating are often encouraged for weight loss, and negative perspectives on these topics can often lead to weight bias. Weight bias happens when people make judgements about another person based on their weight. Some people assume that being critical of someone’s weight will help encourage them to become more “healthy”. In reality this can lead to poor body image, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, disordered eating and eating disorders, and avoidance of physical activity and health care services. We developed a resource that may help you respond with a clever reply to a damaging remark or change the direction of the discussion.

Ways to support yourself, your family and friends to have a Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds outlook:

  • Enjoy physical activity for overall health and wellbeing. For example, a visit while walking, an outdoor activity (skating, skiing, snowshoeing) as part of your time off – remember to keep the focus on having fun and feeling good
  • Role model healthy active living to those around you
  • Try not to compare bodies; healthy bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes
  • Focus on strengths, skills and seeing the positive traits in yourself and others
  • Consider how all foods fit as part of a healthy eating pattern

If you want to help your child eat in a balanced way here are some tips:

  • Focus on balance and variety; trust your child to know when they are hungry or full
  • Consider the language we use to discuss food;
  • Avoid labelling foods as “good” or “bad” as this can link emotions to food and may create guilt around eating certain foods
  • We want to make sure children aren’t eating foods because they want to be seen as “good” or to avoid being “bad”
  • To help develop their food skills and knowledge, include children in grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation
  • Children are more likely to eat the healthy foods they helped prepare

If you want to help your child to be more active:

  • Try new and challenging activities so your child develops new skills and confidence
  • Try activities in different environments; for example, in snow, on or in water, and on ice, grass and rocks
  • It’s important for children to learn to move in a variety of ways; this includes: jumping, running, climbing, throwing and catching

It starts with having a healthy and positive outlook about bodies and wellbeing, nurturing self-acceptance and respect for yourself and others around you. Help your children learn how to question media messages – is it realistic, is it diverse, is it trying to sell you something?

For more information about this positive approach to well-being, including helpful resources like, “Clever Replies to Damaging Remarks”, visit www.healthunit.org. You can also call 1-800-660-5853 or connect with @LGLHealthUnit on Facebook, Twitter or lglhealthunit.z on Instagram.

Contact

For media interviews, contact: or Susan Healey, Communications Co-ordinator, 613-802-0550 or Katie Jackson, Manager, 613-812-0416 or email [email protected].