I saw a recent statistic that claimed 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and that 1-in-4 girls under the age of 7 have tried to lose weight.
My first reaction was to shake my head and think how horrible for that girl. And then I realized – that girl was one of my own daughters – if not ALL of them. I can remember times that my girls have told me they were fat or that they needed to lose weight. There have been times I’ve watched them carefully to make sure they were eating and not starving themselves. We have talks, routinely it seems, about self worth and how we view ourselves compared to how others view us. So why am I surprised at this statistic?
I’m not. But it does make me sad.
I have three daughters ranging from 12-16 yrs of age. Each girl is unique on her own – her own personality, desires, dreams and body structure. I’m hesitating in my descriptions of them because I realize that the words I want to use are probably words that are used to cause body image issues in the first place. Lithe. Stocky. Muscular. Sporty. Shorter. Model tall. Skinny…the list could go on.
Yesterday my youngest was weighed at the doctor’s office and the first thing she focused on once we left was not how sick she was or the type of medication she had to take but it was her weight. “I’m fat and need to diet” is what she said to me.She is anything but fat. Nor does she need to diet.
I realize that there is an epidemic in North America regarding childhood obesity and that it is a serious problem, one that most parents need to be aware of. This post is not about that. Nor is it a post on the pressures our kids face in society today (although I’m sure I’ll talk about that later).
This post is about my failings as mother to my daughters – something I think most mother’s will understand.
Our children create their worldview, how they see, react, interact…based on us. They are our mirrors, aren’t they? I remember my girls all trying on my clothes, my shoes, my make-up…because they wanted to be like me. So it’s no surprise when my daughter’s pick up on my insecurity about my weight, when they see what I eat or am not eating, when they listen to the words I use to describe myself and others around me. I know they hear me when I say, I wish I could wear that, or I’ve gotten so fat, or when I complain because I’m out of shape. Oy…with summer just around the corner, I know they’ve heard me complain about swimsuits…let’s not even go there.
The point is…my daughter thinks she’s fat and while I know I’m not 100% to blame, the majority is on me. If she’s my mirror, then it’s no wonder she has body issues.
Being a mother means that I need to show her that she’s beautiful no matter what size she is. I need to show her that it’s important to be healthy, to eat properly, to exercise…to be okay with how your body is built – whether you have big muscles or small bone structure – and be okay with who you are. If I can install that in her, then when she’s at school and experiencing peer pressure about her body, she’ll be confident and strong.
If I’m not okay – how I can expect her to be? Why would I be surprised that my daughters have all been self conscious of their weight – whether they are model thin or have strong muscles when I’m the exact same way?
When I was a teen/early adult, I had an eating disorder that affected me for years. You would think I’d have learned my lesson, that I would have worked through my body issues through counselling but you’d be wrong. Those triggers that affected me all those years ago are still there today. But what I’ve learned is how to deal with them. But have I taught my daughter’s the same? Are they aware of what it means to eat healthy, to be active, to live a healthy lifestyle and have a healthy body mass index? Or have I taught them how to eat to lose a pound or two, or how to respond to emotional triggers? Have I taught them to celebrate things with food or with praise?
I’m going to be honest…I haven’t taught them the things I should and but I am working on it. Tell me I’m not alone in this? I know I’m not – because according to that statistic, I’m only 1 in the 91% of women who are unhappy with their body. Sigh. I guess this is something us mothers need to work on then, right?