I was running with my trainer on Tuesday morning when we got to talking about body image – as in how we think of ourselves, and what people say to their daughters in terms of their body image – that sort of thing. We found that women often tend to find some sort of “issue” with their body, even though nobody else can see the flaws that they think they might have. This focus on the negative can often lead to some sort of negative thoughts and thus affects us throughout our lives. And I know that I am just as guilty as any woman out there.
For instance, I was talking to two of my closest friends and I noticed that we were picking on what we perceive as the flaws we had, when the others were thinking that these “flaws” were not ACTUALLY flaws – if you get what I mean. It made me think and look back at what the real issue could be that has conditioned us into focusing on our perceived flaws. I would love to just blame the media, the models and all the fitness gurus out there but are they really to blame? Maybe, to a certain extent, but aren’t WE smarter than to blame these outside forces? Or maybe it is a culmination of a lot of things, including how we were brought up. And I’m actually talking about the conversations that we hear while growing up.
I saw this article that came up on my personal Facebook news feed this morning and shared it on my Facebook page. The article shares how you should be talking to your daughters their bodies, although I do think it applies to both males and females. Not just because boys should be taught of their bodies the same way, but also how THEY should think of the female body. Instead of focussing on the body the article encourages us to focus on WHAT the body does; how strong it is, for example. It also encourages us to never comment on other women’s bodies – I would say, never to comment on ANYBODY’S body.
What really hit home was when the writer encouraged us NEVER to say anything negative about OUR own body in front of our daughters. This included stating the diet you might be on – instead, just buy and cook healthy food. Never say a food is evil because then it might later on lead to shame when consumed later in life. There were more in the article, and I encourage you to read it, as it does deliver a very relevant and helpful message.
Why did this article resonate with me? Not only because I have kids of my own but it really did remind me of my own childhood. Growing up, I had no issues with my own body or weight. I was a skinny child, so really in my culture, being skinny usually equated to being something that is positive. Never mind if the child is eating a healthy diet or not. That wasn’t really the point.
I also always saw and heard my mum being on this and that diet while growing up and she was constantly weighing herself. Even to this day. So did my aunts, and I believe even my paternal grandmother – ever heard of the “grapefruit diet”? Yes, that. Whatever fad diet there was, they would be the first to jump on it. The thing was, not a single one of them ever mentioned the word EXERCISE. Nor did they think to change the quantity and quality of the food they ate. Things we now take for granted because they are in our faces all the time.
While I do have my own body hangups, I do try my very best NEVER to mention them in front of my girls. Sometimes, I think they’ve got rose coloured glasses on when they see me, but then again, maybe that’s a good thing? I eat everything in moderation, I exercise for health and not so I can have some idealistic body, and whenever any of my girls ask about their body, I just focus on what they can do instead of how they look. And when they mention how different their body is from each other, I share how different people have different body shapes and that’s just normal. It’s no easy feat, but I have to start somewhere right?
I think as adults and as we move on with the times, we need to change the conversation about our bodies. We need to share our love of food but at the same time educate them on the basics of moderation. Labeling foods as being “good” or “bad” could just complicate things, instead try serving freshly made food as often as we can. Be mindful of what we serve not because of our or their weight but because of health. The same goes with NOT criticising what other people feed their kids in front of your own kids because really, it’s not our business is it?
While I admit that changing the mindset we have about our bodies is not an easy task, we have to start somewhere. Take baby steps because I know we will all get there eventually.