By: Alison Ross, LMFT, CEDS
I love watching my child play volleyball. However, I can't help but feel upset when I hear some parents from the stands making body-related comments about their own kids. It's disheartening to hear them express concerns about their kids' weight and shape, and even talk about putting them on diets. I know they probably don't mean any harm, but I can't help but think that their own insecurities about their bodies are affecting how they see their kids.
As I watch these young athletes perform at a level that surpasses anything I could ever achieve, it's hard to reconcile these parents' weight worries with the reality. Each athlete has a unique body, just like puppies in a litter or kids in a kindergarten classroom. Some may be bigger, some may be smaller, but all of them are strong, healthy, and thriving. So, it's frustrating to see how our cultural obsession with thinness blinds these parents to the fact that their kids are perfectly healthy even if they're not super thin.
What's even more concerning is when parents push their kids to excel in their sport while pressuring them to restrict their food and watch their weight. This kind of behavior can lead to young athletes depriving themselves of the nourishment they need to grow strong and develop a healthy brain. It can also trigger eating disorders and other mental health issues that can have life-long effects.
For the sake of our kids' well-being, we need to move beyond society's narrow definitions of health and fitness that the diet industry imposes on us. Health comes in all shapes and sizes, and if your kid is performing acrobatics on the volleyball court like I just witnessed, they don't need you projecting society's toxic body ideals onto them. What they truly need is your respect.