How to teach your teen that strong is beautiful

By: Yuki Hayashi
How to teach your teen that strong is beautiful

Author: Canadian Living


How to teach your teen that strong is beautiful

By: Yuki Hayashi

Physical activity raises self-esteem, so use these tips to get the girls in your life moving!

When talking with preteen girls about the importance of exercise, keep the message simple: strong is beautiful. That’s what Stephanie Churchill, a personal trainer in Hamilton, Ont., and a mom to 14-year-old twins, does.

“My girls have been brought up with the message that strength is good,” Churchill says. “We’ve never put the focus on being slim but on exercising and eating to be strong.”

For many of us, the challenge is to promote fitness while steering clear of the dreaded F and D words (“fat” and “diet”). We want our girls to benefit from the confidence boost and health effects of regular exercise, but we don’t want them to think we’re encouraging them to work out because we think they’re overweight.

By focusing on strength, you can cut the likelihood of sending mixed messages. Convey that being healthy is what you’re after, not skinny mini.

Promoting exercise takes time. It requires a consistent approach to a healthy lifestyle, not just a once-a-year weekend bootcamp.  And starting by taking your daughter shopping for cross-trainers or a gym bag doesn’t hurt! Here are some simple ways to stay on message.

Get Yourself Moving
“I think it’s important to lead by example,” says Churchill, who works out most days of the week and has competed in body-building competitions.

Your encouragement for them to move is more credible if your tween sees you breaking a sweat while doing a sport you love.

It’s All About the Journey
Don’t promote an exercise regimen as the best way to get into skinny jeans. Try a you-go-girl ethos about exercise and celebrate mountain biking as a way to build expertise in tearing down trails or aerobic boxing class as a fun way to vent frustrations.

Address the Food Issue
“Information is key,” Churchill says. “The more information they have, the better they’ll be able to make healthy choices. I emphasize sports-focused eating as opposed to dieting to my girls. We talk about what foods do what for you, whether it’s how lean protein helps build muscle or how too much sugar is a bad thing, but sugar is necessary for our brain function.”

Talking to your tweens about food helps them filter competing messages from pals about fad diets.

Share Goals
Bond with your daughter by sharing your exercise goals and fitness tips. You may be surprised by her insights or find yourself offering good advice you’d forgotten yourself. On-going convos make it easier to reinforce the message that strong is beautiful — for both of you!

If your teen is looking for more information, send her to

Share X

How to teach your teen that strong is beautiful