What did you do to get your weight off,” my younger sister asked. I smiled as I looked up from the computer and at my sister. I’m always excited to share whatever information have on proper diet and exercise. I was anticipating a conversation about awesome flavors, cool exercises, and why developing good habits early on is such a good idea.

“Well, I don’t have a set menu to give you but,” I paused trying to figure the best way to talk to a 16 year old with a short attention span. Before I could continue she went into a list of all of the foods she needed to give up, pointing out all of the things on her body that were too big.

My smile immediately changed.

“If you want to talk about health we can,” I said. “But if you’re going to pick on yourself and compare yourself to other people, we can stop the conversation right here.”

Her facial expression said she didn’t like my tone. My tone said I wasn’t rocking with her reasoning.

I instantly flashed back to a conversation with my mother from years ago where, despite what my doctor had just told me, my mother sat trying to convince me that I didn’t need to lose weight.

My mom was trying to keep me away from the yo-yo diets and the accompanying self-esteem crashes. She wanted to keep me away from the disappointment of working out really hard just to look like someone who had been Photoshopped beyond recognition. I wanted my sister to be in love with herself enough to workout and eat healthy, instead of working out and eating healthy to get someone else’s body…one she could love.

A few minutes later I realized that I might have been doing too much projecting. I offered to talk to my sister about some great food choices. But I tried to avoid any reference to beauty and size. It seemed damn near impossible.

How do you encourage someone to live a healthier lifestyle without telling them that there is something physically wrong with the way they look? Is it possible to encourage positive body image while encouraging them to lose weight, especially when they are not at the point of sickness?

How do we break this connection between health and beauty? And if we did, how could our community benefit?

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