Understand how and why to build positive body image in our kids even when we do not have a positive body image in ourselves.
Oh body image! Isn’t this just such a hard thing? I really feel very strongly about trying to help children have a fighting chance at a positive body image. I grew up with a mother who constantly (or so it seemed to me) talked about how “fat” she was. And I am talking about a woman who is 5’6″ and at her “worst” weighed maybe 150. Sound fat to you? Not me! Didn’t look fat to me at the time, either. And even me being as confident of a person as I naturally am, in my head I knew if she was fat, then I was, too. Yes, me at about 110 pounds was positive I was fat, also.
Which leads me to the quote “I wish I was as fat as I the first time I thought I was fat.”
Oh that is so true!
My mother-in-law was no different. I remember she and my mother talking to each other about how fat each of them was sure she was while the other assured no, she was the fat one. And my mother-in-law is no where near fat! Never has been.
Women are told over and over again that they are not the right size.
So how do we help our daughters be content and have body positivity?
Please oh please oh please do not say self-deprecating things to or in front of your children. I don’t even want you saying them in your head, but I will settle for your children.
Example, example, example.
If you put down your own self, then why would you ever think your child won’t do the same to her/him self? This post sums it up well: When Your Mother Says She’s Fat.
Your daughter will probably look a lot like you if she is biological. She has your genes. If YOU are not good enough, she will not think SHE is good enough.
>>>Read: A Mother’s Impact on Her Daughter
When I got pregnant, I informed both my mother and mother-in-law that they were in no uncertain terms to talk about how “fat” they were in front of my children. Oh no. If they did, they would find they were not around my children anymore. I am not okay with it. It is actually the ONLY thing I have ever drawn a line in the sand about. And so far as I know, they have complied with my threat request.
So you love yourself. Sure. Easier said than done, right? Anyone not relate to the quote I posted above? Anyone relate and then some? Meaning, you wish you were as fat as you were the second, third, or fourth time you thought you were fat. Ha!
How do you love yourself? Oh so complicated! First, stop trying to blame everything around you for how you feel about your body image. We seem to like to blame the media for how we feel about ourselves. The women we see in put make-up on heavily, use expensive cameras and great lighting, and with anything that winds up a photograph, they spend a fair amount of effort editing that photo.
While I think the images we see in the media are not helpful, I do think we would struggle with our body image even without the “help” of the media. Our bodies are a wonderful gift and one I believe gets assaulted on because it is so amazing and beneficial to us.
Our body is a gift from God, and as such, Satan wants us to hate our bodies.
Yes, if looking at magazines or watching certain things on TV leads you further into hateful thoughts toward yourself, stay away from those things. But recognize full blame is not on the media. Women are naturally hard on themselves even without the help of external forces.
Second, look at your body through different lenses. Are you looking at your body as half full or half empty? I love this story about a woman coming to love her body as it is for what it is. What about your body that you don’t like is actually a result of bearing children? Three of my children “gave” me stretch marks in different places. One “gave” me a new mole. These are things I can look at and lament or despise or I can look at and say, “That is Brinley.”
Third, realize and accept that every body is different. We have different body types. That means that in our ideal, each of us will look different from each other. Know what your body type is and accept it! Embrace it! Work with it! I have really come to see this as true even more so as I have had two girls who have worn the same size of clothes. Clothes fit them differently even as little girls with basically 0% body fat. Just their bone structure is extremely different.
A little search on Pinterest will easily present you with ideas for what looks best on your body type and what doesn’t. Also, do a bit of learning on what looks good in general. Even very thin people can wear things that make them look not-so-hot. I like this article for simple information on what goes well together.
I also like How to Dress for Your Body Type. If you want more articles that are similar, search “body type” on Pinterest.
Fourth, figure out what works for you to lose weight and/or get in shape. Remember that body type I just talked about? Well, it not only impacts what you look like, but it also means we will need to work differently than others to get into shape.
A friend recently commented that running is the only thing that works for her to get in shape. What works for you to get into shape? There is no one-size-fits-all workout plan. If there were, there would probably only be one plan around by now. This article discusses how to get “skinny” according to your body type. Again, work with your body. Try things out. How much cardio do you need? How much toning? Treadmill? Elliptical? Walking? Running? Do you need a gym? Do better with a friend? Figure out what works for you.
Fifth, aim for healthy! Remember the body type thing? You will look like the best version of you. And that is okay! “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken” (Oscar Wilde).
Eat well and exercise daily. Healthy matters. Size doesn’t.
Sometimes we have a negative self-image because we are frankly being lazy or gluttonous. You will have a harder time feeling good about the body you see if you know you are not taking care of it the way you should.
Exercising and eating right are healthy. And they are required for healthy. Thin people can be thin and not healthy. When you aim for healthy, you aim for lifestyle. When you aim for “size” or “pounds,” you can easily tip back to old habits once you reach those goals.
No gender is exempt from negative thoughts toward body due to size. There are males who are naturally very thin and no matter how much they eat or how much they lift weights, they stay thin. This is frustrating for a male! So whether you have daughters or sons, focus on healthy.
Sixth, assess any obstacles you might be facing. If you have some medical condition between current you and your optimal you, you will find it bitterly difficult to be content with where you are. There is nothing quite as frustrating as putting in effort and getting no results because of something like your thyroid is off (I know from experience).
Sixth, come what may and love it. You may find that your natural body type is not what you were hoping for. Work to love it! Once you have done all you can, love yourself! It is what it is, and hating yourself isn’t going to change what it is. It will only negatively impact your happiness and contentment. It is much easier to be happy with yourself once you realize what works for your body type and what doesn’t, so take those tips seriously. Once you are in a healthy pattern, be happy with who you are.
Seventh, get professional help if you need it. Some of you will need help to see yourself for who you are. Maybe all it will take is prayer. Maybe it will require some counseling. Please do what it takes to love your body and self mentally.
HONESTY IS OKAY
I am not asking you to lie to your children about how you feel about yourself. But there is a difference between answering questions and observations honestly and frequently commenting on how fat you are, how old you look, and how your physique is overall undesirable.
I think the desirable place to be mentally is if your child comments on your flabby belly, you can say something like, “Yes, it is flabby. I don’t like it that way, but that is what happens when you have a baby! And I would rather have you and a flabby belly than no you and a tight belly. But part of the reason I try to eat healthy foods and exercise is to help get rid of this flabby belly–or at least get it less flabby.”
If you can’t honestly speak kindly about yourself, then you need to change your view of yourself, as I discussed in the section above. Honesty is often about perspective more than it is about your perceived version of reality.
WHAT ABOUT DAD?
Dad should talk nicely of himself, too. But more importantly, he should talk nicely about you and about your children. I know not all do.
Try to get Dad to talk nicely about it. If he can’t, tell him to listen to Thumper’s mom and just say nothing at all. And a lot of times they are just trying to be helpful–they think they are helping. Let them know it is not helpful.
I can’t really speak of more experience beyond that–fortunately for me, my Dad was not one to make comments about weight or looks in a negative way. That is probably a huge contributing factor to me not having an eating disorder or major body image issues. See Fathers Impact on Daughters
Remember we are talking about body image. What image do you see? We all see things differently, and you can see yourself as fabulous if you allow yourself to do so. And the way you view yourself will impact your children–males and females.
And if the idea of body image is one that you really want to look into further, I highly recommend the blog The Great Fitness Experiment written by my friend. I have linked to all of her posts she has labeled with “body image.” She is funny, she is real, and she has had real struggles in accepting herself as she is.
- How I Exercise with 3 Young Kids
- Tips for Building a Positive Self-Concept in Kids
- Building Positive Self- Esteem in Your Strong-Willed Child
- Fighting the Body Image Battle for Our Daughters