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Pounds and Popularity: How Friendships Influence Your Daughter's Weight

Apr 13, 2008
Is your daughter's weight the result of her social network?

A recent study authored by Adina Lemeshow claims that feeling unpopular can actually lead to weight gain in girls 12 to 18 years old. The study showed that girls who perceived themselves as "unpopular" were 69 percent more likely to gain two points on the body mass index scale in the subsequent years following the original survey.

The fact is, maintaining a healthy weight is not just about food choices; it's about self-esteem, self-worth, and a healthy emotional life. Diet is not just about what we eat but how we feel. Healthy eating practices and nutrition are well known by many people, but what affects whether or not they make healthy choices is almost always related to how they feel about themselves and their life.

Feeling good about one's self is what allows a person to make healthy choices. If a person feels unpopular or inadequate, they are more likely to compensate with food. Unfortunately, the weight gain will then increase their feelings of being socially unpopular and unacceptable.

Conversely, when a child feels good about herself and her friends, she is more likely to make healthy food choices, which will help her maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can help her feel more comfortable in social situations and with friends.

"Food can often be a source of comfort and safety. When girls feel insecure about their popularity, food is often used as a replacement for healthy relationships."

Perhaps unpopular girls do not feel like they can gain much from being thin, but it is also likely that food is a poor substitute for friendships. Food feeds the body, and friendships feed the heart. Unfortunately, when people are lacking friendships, they use food to feed the heart, which strains the body.

If your daughter has been struggling with unwanted weight gain, the solution may not be found in the dietary arena. The solution may be found in the social realm.

Instead of solely focusing on what she eats, help her develop other ways to feed her body and her soul. Here are some tips for improving her self-esteem and helping her achieve a healthy weight in the process:

Find Nurturing Social Environments

Adolescence is a challenging time. For some, school is a sanctuary, whereas for others it's a prison. If your daughter doesn't fit in with the "cool" crowd at school, find other outlets where she can socialize.

Some ideas include theater troupes, dance lessons, yoga classes, sports, and volunteer activities. She might not bond well with her classmates, but she can develop wonderful friendships in other activities. New activities and friendships will help bolster her self-esteem and help her feel good about herself.

Encourage Yoga and Meditation

Yoga and meditation are wonderful tools for helping your daughter get in touch with her feelings and her body. These mind-body disciplines can help her to feel her feelings instead of using food to quell uncomfortable sensations. They will help her reduce her stress and cope more effectively with the challenges of adolescent life.

Help Her Hone Her Communication Skills

Communication is essential to building healthy relationships. Help your daughter to become aware of what she is feeling and then be able to communicate those feelings to others. Learning to understand and express her emotions will serve her throughout her life.

The more capable she is of navigating her emotional life, the less need she'll have to rely on food as a source of comfort. She will also have a greater ability to build meaningful and lasting relationships.

Be There For Her!

Nothing can substitute for parental love and affection during adolescence. As your daughter navigates through the teenage years, it can feel like she is pushing you away. The fact is that she needs you more than ever.

Give her space, but don't let her feel alone. Assure her that you are always there to talk about anything. Try to serve as a sounding board for her and resist giving advice until she is ready for it.

The more she feels like she can express herself without being judged harshly, the more likely she will be to share.

Be Willing to Seek Professional Help if Necessary

Sometimes it may be helpful for your daughter to talk to someone who is not a family member. Trained professionals, such as psychotherapists, can help identify problematic patterns and behaviors and help your daughter to make more effective choices in every area of her life.

Affirm Her Self-Worth

If your daughter feels unpopular at school, you may need to offer her extra reassurance. Receiving approval from her parents can seem second-best to receiving it from her peer-group, but it can make a profound impact.

Tell your daughter about her wonderful qualities; teach her to be grateful for the wonderful and glorious person she is. Learning how to offer herself love and support is a skill that will serve her throughout her life.
About the Author
Sarah Maria is a body-image expert and personal empowerment coach who helps people love their bodies no matter how they look. She leads workshops and works one-on-one in consulting sessions to assist people in overcoming hatred and dissatisfaction with their bodies using holistic healing and spiritual principles.
Get her FREE e-book: "5 Steps to Loving What You See in the Mirror"
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