I debated even writing about this subject, but this past week has been an eye opener to me that I am making my daughters fat.
It’s no longer a joke that obesity and children are becoming not only a huge problem, but an epidemic. Childhood obesity prevention programs are touching the surface, but aren’t having the huge impact that one key piece of the puzzle can.
A girls body image, (more specifically my girls body image) depends a lot of what I’m doing and saying. And I am guilty.
I never knowingly come out and say that my girls are fat. Because they’re not. One is of toddler age, and the other is tall and slender for her age. When they come out with a crazy outfit that is not flattering, I never say something like, “that makes you look fat.” I would never do that because I would never want someone to say that to me. And I know how damaging it can be to them. I struggled with disorders in my teen and adult years. I still struggle from time to time.
Playing around on ipiccy.com the other day for the first time, I uploaded a picture of myself that we took earlier on in the year. I played around with some of the features on the site by whitening my teeth, erasing a few early signs of crow’s feet and getting rid of the ‘mommy bags’ under my eyes. My daughter happened to come in the room and sit down right next to me. “Look Mom, you can make yourself thinner and give yourself a tan too. Can you upload my picture and whiten my teeth?” Right at that moment I thought, “Oh crap.” (I did not say oh crap. I replaced it with another four letter word).
Luckily we were able to have a really good talk about magazines and looks and how looks can be changed. But she wanted to know why I was changing my look . I don’t know if my reply had an impact, and that thought scares me. I may not know.
The other day my niece and daughter were caught pinching their stomachs and comparing fat. They aren’t even teens yet and they feel the need to compare bodies. A talk with the girls and I felt pretty good about how they felt after, but you never know.
Yes, body image and the media have an effect on how girls perceive themselves. Yes, peers have an influence on how girls view themselves. But parents are probably one of the largest influences.
My daughter hears me when she comes down the stairs and my husband compliments me on my outfit and I reply with an, “Ick, I don’t know honey.” She hears me when my friends and I talk about the latest diet or our sad weight loss attempts. She hears when I degrade myself after getting a positive compliment. She hears my sigh as I get off the scale. She sees me go through three shirts and give myself a disgusted look in the mirror when it doesn’t fit right. She sees Aunt Lucy’s great weight loss picture posted on Facebook.
What if I could take away my influence and replace it with a positive one? I think of a situation that happened the other day. The kids woke up and didn’t see me exercising and asked why. “It’s just so weird that you weren’t exercising Mom.”
That’s a great positive impact to have on your child. That being healthy is important. I don’t send my kids outside to play by themselves, I often join them. Except in winter. Too cold.
If I encourage them to eat their veggies I eat double what I give them. I constantly try to drill into their brains that “healthy” is what you feel about yourself, not what a magazine shows you. I often point out myself and other friends as examples of different body images. Many of them have run marathons or triathalons.
Complimenting them when they make positive choices in their life but more importantly making positive choices in your life. When your husband compliments you say “thank you.” When your friends talk about the latest diet fad, change the subject. When three shirts don’t fit, smile at yourself in the mirror instead of frowning. Not only will it change their perception of themselves, but your perception of yourself.
One of the best resources I found for pre teen girls is “The Care and Keeping of You.” It’s part of the American Girls Collection. It has great ways to teach your girl about positive body image and the way that girls change and grow.
Above all, (i know this from experience) don’t berate yourself when you do make a mistake. I use my mistakes as a learning experience. And I hope that it will help my daughters one day not have to face what I have.