I had the incredible pleasure of speaking with Dana Suchow, Award Winning Speaker, Educator, and Coach to talk about social media, diet culture, and how she’s changing the way kids view their bodies by shaking up the approach and giving parents and teachers the tools to raise body confident kids! Since overcoming her own eating disorder, Dana has become a powerhouse expert in the field of body image and eating disorder prevention.
When did you first feel the pressure of diet culture?
I think I felt the pressure my entire life, but I wasn’t aware of it because disordered eating and body hate are so normalized in our society. It took getting an eating disorder at age 25 to see that all the behaviors and language I once viewed as normal growing up, were actually extremely toxic and harmful. So now, 9 years later, I have this incredible opportunity to show others what I’ve learned through my recovery, and give adults the tools they need to help prevent body hate and eating disorders in kids.
Diet Culture is a huge issue, what can we do about it?
The most important thing you can do to fight diet culture, is to learn about it. The goal is to stop this miseducation about bodies from getting to the next generations, and that starts with us! Learn about fatphobia and how we live in a world that gives privileges to those in smaller bodies. Learn about how we marginalize people in plus size bodies and learn about the Health At Every Size movement. Understand that the rise in eating disorders is a symptom of a diet obsessed society, and at the root of this sickness is an epidemic of self hate. We weren’t born to hate ourselves, and we must unlearn so much of what we believe is true, so we can break the cycle for the next generation.
Your approach as an educator is so unique and important. You’re working with the parents and teachers, not just the youth directly. What do you feel is the most rewarding part of working with adults?
Working with adults is incredibly rewarding because we have the common goal of wanting children to grow up loving themselves, and I’m here to show parents ways they can achieve that goal! And it starts with being a positive role model. One of the most important parts of my work is helping parents unpack their own body image issues. Because everyone in society has them, and you are not a broken parent or teacher because you don’t love fully yourself. You are a normal human being living in a society that has learned how to profit off your self hate. I’m here to create spaces for parents to know they’re not alone and to learn ways they can protect kids. It’s ok to not know everything…no one knows everything. And I’m not here to shame anyone or yell at anyone for making mistakes, because I’ve made mistakes too! I’m just here to help families and classrooms be the best they can be through love.
What is the most important advice you give to parents for raising body confident kids?
A great piece of advice for parents that they can do right now, is to not body shame yourself or other people in front of kids. When we say negative things about bodies in front of children, what they end up hearing is: “I won’t love you if you look like that.” This fear of loss of love is hardwired in all of us, but it is especially strong in children because kids depend on adults for survival (i.e. food, shelter, clothing, education, love, etc.). So children will do almost anything to not lose a parent’s love, even change their bodies. Instead, saying to a child, “I will always love you no matter what your body looks like,” can be one of the most loving and safe phrases they will ever hear.
What is an important lesson you’ve learned over the years?
You’re going to make mistakes. You’re not going to get it right 100% of the time, but you can’t let that stop you. Remember that every important life lesson comes from a mistake, and you can’t get better and change course unless you hit a wall. Don’t forget why you started the work you do to begin with, and remember your passion. I will never forget how my eating disorder nearly ruined my life, because every day these memories drive my passion and navigate my work. And when advocating for groups you might not necessarily fall into category with, the best thing you can do is listen and not lead if you come to an experience that’s not your own. Amplify the voices who have been impacted. Because every body has a story, and every story deserves to be heard.
What makes you feel powerful?
Human connection. Getting to that A-HA moment with a group of people, is such a beautiful thing. And maybe I’m not looking for actual power. I’m not trying to be strong and powerful, I’m trying to create conversations and empathetic spaces where we solve problems. I want to learn from others’ experiences and mistakes, and I want to help this generation protect future generations through love and education. I don’t want children to go through what I did, and together I know we can change this world.
For more information on Dana or her amazing causes please view the links provided below.
#MyBodyStory Series: http://DoTheHotpants.com/mybodystory/