Help your daughter get strong (and raise her self esteem)

By: Yuki Hayashi

© Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©


Help your daughter get strong (and raise her self esteem)

By: Yuki Hayashi
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. We’ve never put the focus on being slim but on exercising and eating to be strong," says Churchill.

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. After all, who wants their kid to be one of the astounding 136,000,000 people Googling "Mom said I’m fat"?

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 bodybuilding 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. Sell a you-go-girl ethos about exercise by celebrating mountain biking as a way to build expertise in tearing down trails or CrossFit as a fun way to vent frustrations.

Address the food issue
"Information is key. 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," says Churchill. 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. Ongoing convos make it easier to reinforce the message that strong is beautiful – for both of you!

Pop Culture Role Models
Want to reinforce the beauty in strength? Here are three super cool women who inspire us to bang out another set at the gym or run another lap around the track.    

Kick-ass role model: Camille Leblanc-Bazinet
Why: Canada’s top CrossFit athlete, Quebec’s Leblanc-Bazinet is known for her graceful approach to hard-core moves such as burpee muscle-ups or one-arm dumbbell snatches. And she’s brainy too: Leblanc-Bazinet is a chemical engineering student.
Catch her: In CrossFit top 10s. Leblanc-Bazinet is working her way up the Reebok CrossFit Games rankings.
Follow her: @camilleLbaz

Kick-ass role model: Zoë Bell
Why: One of Hollywood’s top stunt doubles, Bell has won numerous awards for her ability to hang off speeding vehicles, fall from rooftops and samurai-sword slash her way through fight scenes like no other.
Catch her: In the movies. Bell has doubled for Uma Thurman (Kill Bill) and Lucy Lawless (“Xena: Warrior Princess”), and has tackled acting roles in Whip It, Oblivion and"Lost.”
Follow her: @TheRealZoeBell

Kick-ass role model: Sarah Kaufman
Why: One of two Canadian women in the UFC’s nascent women’s division (the other is Ontario’s Alexis Davis), Kaufman started muay Thai training at age 17. She holds a purple belt in Brazilian jujitsu and was a
world champ in other mixed martial arts leagues.
Catch her: In the UFC. She is  working her way up the Women’s Bantamweight division.
Follow her: @Mmasarah

We have lots of fun ways you can add more daily activity into your child's life. Plus, tips on how you can raise your daughter to be a leader.      
This story was originally titled "Strong is Beautiful" in the September 2013 issue.
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Help your daughter get strong (and raise her self esteem)