Search icon


01st Jan 2022

How to be a body positive parent (Spoiler: It starts with you!)

Laura Cunningham

“You deserve your own love and kindness”

Cliona Byrne is a body positive parenting coach who works with mothers who struggle with their body image. She helps them to like their own bods, so they can raise their kids to be body confident too.

Addressing the nation’s mams with her infectious enthusiasm, she says: “I see you looking in the mirror, sucking in your tummy, telling yourself ‘I look awful’. If I can see you, so can your kids. And I know that you don’t want them growing up feeling the same way about their bodies. Let’s fix that!”

Read on for Cliona’s five top tips on how to like your body, and boost your children’s body image in the process.

1 Get your sweet bod back

“Nah, I don’t mean that you need to erase every physical trace of the fact you’ve had a child, or try to look like a celeb who’s done nothing but consume protein powder and work with a very expensive fitness instructor for six months. Let’s get one clear on one thing, you don’t need to get your body back, because your body didn’t go anywhere. It changed. So rather than living in a body that you consider to be a “before” stage, get your body back by making peace with its new form; a badass form that created life because you are a goddess.”

2 Mirror Magic

“Mirror Magic is the number one thing I tell all my clients to do. It’s an exercise I created that makes you happy and helps you to start liking your reflection. All you need to do is smile at the reflection. In the mirror, in a shop window, and even when you go to take a picture on your phone and you accidentally turn on the front camera. Smile. Even if you look like a thumb taking a selfie. When you smile, your brain releases serotonin which makes you feel good. Your brain does this even if you are just doing a fake smile (I know, cool right? I bet you are smiling right now, aren’t you?). Anyway, if you start smiling when you see your reflection you will begin to feel good every time you see yourself. After some time, you will start to associate seeing yourself with feeling good. So, even if you forget to smile sometimes, you will still feel good just from association.”

3 Tell yourself sweet nothings

“If you spoke to your friends the same way you speak to yourself, would you have any friends? If the answer is no, then read this carefully – you deserve your own love and kindness. Sometimes we can be our own biggest critic, especially when we look in the mirror. Maybe your critic points out blemishes, says you look old, or tells you to lose weight. But you aren’t your thoughts, and you can slap the microphone out of that cow’s critical hand. Start paying attention to when your inner critic appears, hear what she says and then respond with a positive. For example, if she says, “your tummy is too big” reply with “I love my tummy, it’s cuddly, keeps me warm, and it made life because I’m a GODDESS”. Cheerlead yourself the same way you’d cheer on a friend. That inner critic will run out of steam and gradually become quieter and quieter.”

4 Look for the beauty and good in others

“I’m going to drop a truth bomb here – looking for the flaws in others is like voluntarily drinking poison. Here’s how it works: When we don’t feel good about our own bodies, we can find ourselves looking for the flaws in others, both physical and behaviour-wise. We might even find ourselves saying it out loud to others. But that outer criticism fuels our inner critics. If we are judging others, then we can feel like everyone else is judging us too. It creates a vicious cycle of not feeling good enough, being critical of others to try and feel better, feeling like others are doing the same to us, and then feeling worse. In short, you deserve better and thankfully the solution is easy-peasy: Start looking for the good in others. Notice something that makes them beautiful like their dazzling smile or hearty laugh and pay attention to people’s good qualities. If you can start to see the good in others, then it will help you to see the good in yourself.”

5 Unfollow Shitspiration

“Shitspiration is a term I coined for anything you see on social media that’s supposed to “inspire” you, but only makes you feel like poo. Next time you’re scrolling, ask yourself, ‘does this account on how to make gluten/dairy/fat/joy-free food make me feel good, or does it make me feel like I’m not good enough?’ If it’s the latter, unfollow that account like a boss. Unfollow ‘mummy’ accounts that make you compare yourself and feel like a bad mum. Unfollow your second cousin’s friend who is selling detox tea made of purified air and glorified grass. Be brutal. Your feed is your own, you do not need to look at things that make you feel bad or trigger you in any way. But here’s the fun part, once you have cleaned it up, you can fill it up again with things that make you feel good. Follow what you like and check out all the fantastic body positive accounts out there.”

“So, you’re probably wondering why these tips have been all about boosting your body image and haven’t really mentioned your kids so far.

“Well, here’s the thing – you’re going to boost your children’s body image by boosting your own, because you are the Beyoncé of your house. You are your children’s biggest influencer. The best way to teach your kids to be body confident is by you being body confident. Be in the family photos, stop hiding beneath baggy clothes, speak well of yourself and others, and (dare I say it) wear the bikini.”

 Find out more from Cliona and Body Positive Parenting on or at @cliona_the_coach