How Our Body Image Is Ruining Our Girls

by stacie on January 24, 2021

Note: As much as I’d like this post to be a tangent on a certain television show that exploits children’s self-images for the sake of beauty pageants, I won’t. But that might be coming later down the line…now back to your previously scheduled programming.

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I like to think that I’ve got a pretty healthy body image. I run several times a week, eat healthy for the most part, and splurge without guilt (meaning, if I want a peanut butter smoothie, I’m eating a peanut butter smoothie).

So, when New Year’s rolled around and my twelve-teen read off her resolutions, I was devastated that the #3 slot was taken by the hope that she’d lose 15 pounds. At 5′ 6″ tall and 140 pounds, she’s far from overweight. In fact, she’s far from needing to lose weight. A competitive swimmer, a snowboarder, and a sprinter on the school track team, she’s constantly in motion and, as a mom, I’m proud to say she beats boys in pull-up competitions on a regular basis.

But she still feels she needs to shed 15 pounds.

That night, as I climbed into bed, I asked the hubs what he thought about it. I told him that I thought I was setting a good example with my own lifestyle, so why did she still think she needed to lose? Was it those pesky pencil-thin teenage girls at school that hadn’t hit puberty yet? Maybe I shouldn’t let her watch television anymore. In my head, she had already hit eating disorder and was on her way to rehab (which is definitely not meant to be a joke because eating disorders are a very serious topic and problem).

But when I stopped fretting for one second, the hubs looked at me and said, “Well, what did you expect? You’re constantly on a mission to lose weight.”

What?!? No I’m not! I’m happy with where I am, except for that last 10 pesky pounds from the baby that’s now turning two…and maybe those love handles that won’t go away, no matter how careful I am…and perhaps the hint of crow’s feet I’m now developing and …

Oh. Oh no. He was right. While I didn’t think that I had been openly criticizing myself, apparently I had. Or maybe I hadn’t, but my behavior made her feel like I was unhappy with the body nature has given me.

Oh dear. This calls for a recon mission for sure. But now what? How do I love me enough to get my daughter to love her? And that, my friends, is the question.

Stop and Think

Sounds easy, right? But think about the last time you ate something you “weren’t supposed to have.” Did you say it out loud? I know I did. Even better, I looked up the calories on Lose.it! to log it in an app! I bet it happens more than you even realize.

Exercise Is Not A Chore

This is something else I’m totally guilty of. When I go for a run, I’m the first one to say, “Uh, I’ve got to go take the dog for a run.” What I should be saying is, “I’m looking forward to my run today because I feel so good and strong and clear-headed when I’m done.” How do you portray exercise?

Rethink Your Magazine Subscriptions

Surprising, right? But think about how you feel every time you get a SHAPE magazine with a bikini-clad, six-pack-showing-off super model on the cover. I don’t know about you but I think, “hrm. I wonder how I get those abs?” If I’m not thinking about all the air brushing that went into that cover, my kid sure as heck isn’t it.

While these are just a few things you can do, they’re a good start. Try it for a week, just to see how many times you catch yourself. I bet you’ll be surprised.

photo credit: lululemon athletics


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  • http://www.adventuresinbabywearing.com Adventures In Babywearing

    I remember at that age that I was always making lists about losing weight and what I was going to diet, looking back I think it was from the magazines I was reading and the people I wanted to be like in school. I know things are different these days, but I have a feeling a lot of girls just go through the same thing no matter what era. I wish my mom had been more aware and talked about it with me.

    Steph

  • Penny W.

    Lemme tell ya, it isn’t just the girls! I nearly cried when I heard my five-year-old son tell me he was “fat.” Of course, he wasn’t. But because he was able to pinch a little SKIN he thought that meant he was fat. I said, if you didn’t have that, your body wouldn’t be able to bend!!

    It’s scary what our kids can be thinking about themselves. Always be on the alert for what you say, and how that might influence them. But it isn’t just us, it is the world around us. That said, it’s up to us to ensure they hear the positive messages about being healthy and feeling good, not looking a certain way.

  • Pingback: The Mommy Files: Can We Ever Accept Our Post-Baby Bodies? | Modern Home Modern Baby

  • LEB

    I’ve already seen my SIL passing these “lessons” on to her daughter, who is only six years old. My SIL has always valued fitness, and my niece is like her mom in terms of athleticism. The past year she’s been in gymnastics, and the kid has ABS! It’s amazing… and it’s why I get very bothered when my niece says anything about being fat, or someone or something else being fat.

    My SIL didn’t start it, though… my MIL does the same thing. It’s very frustrating being around the two of them and hearing them casually put themselves down about how they look. Ever since I’ve been aware of the female bonding “ritual” of self-degradation (“Omigawd, I’m so fat!” “No, sweetie, you’re way hot!”) I’ve made an effort to NOT take part in that sort of interaction. Oh believe me, there are plenty of things about my body I don’t like… but I don’t want to commiserate with others on it, nor do I want them relating to me that way. It’s so horribly negative, and I just don’t like hearing it.

    So if I’m ever lucky enough to have a daughter, I hope I can remember these self-taught lessons, and not pass on the practice of self-loathing.

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