Teaching my daughters about their bodies and the food they eat is one thing. Teaching them to deal with what other people say about it is a whole different ball game.
Here are examples of recent conversations I’ve had with my daughters that made me think hard about this issue:
Daughter #1: “Mum, why are there different thoughts about obese people? Some people at school call them “fat” and you don’t like that word. Every day, when we go to school, the man on the radio talks about losing weight. If it’s OK to have different sized bodies, why do so many people want to lose weight?” she asked.
Me: “You know, there will always be someone — or a book or product — that tells you why you are not okay, even as you are. All of these opinions are to be ignored except your own. The only thing you will ever have to think about is the relationship that you have with your body. Do you understand?”
Both girls nod their heads yes. This is not their first rodeo. It’s a common topic in our household.
Me: “Our bodies are so intelligent that they can create a baby; isn’t that cool?”
Girls: “Yuck, Mum! That’s gross!”
Me: “That’s beside the point. My point is, if your body can nurture, grow and deliver a human being, it can tell you when you are hungry and when you are full!”
[Perfected eye rolls by the girls].
They have heard this message from me over and over again. And they probably want me to stop now. I get the message, but I blatantly ignore it. I’m having a moment and I am driven by fear that someone else will undo all the hard work I have done to teach my girls to listen to and honor their bodies.
In times like this, I have to stop myself from projecting my past body image battles onto my children.