Building Body Image, A Mommy’s Tale

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In such a weight-conscious society, it is hard to understand that one passing remark might forever change the mental state of a young woman or man. It might be a comment about food, weight, diet, or exercise. For a parent, the comment is innocuous. We make them every day. They are habits we don’t even think about, and don’t realize the harm that might be caused to a person predisposed to an eating disorder.

Let me give a few examples:

“I need to lose five pounds.”

“Do these jeans make me look fat?”

“I cannot stand the way I look in the mirror.”

“I need to watch my carbs.”

“I’m starting a low fat diet.”

“I’ve been dieting for a month, but the weight on the scale isn’t moving.”

“That shirt is too tight on you.”

“You always weigh less in the morning than at night.”

“You should really think about putting on longer pants to cover your thighs.”

“I’m going to work on my bikini body.”

“I can’t believe I haven’t exercised in a week, I’m going to get fat.”

“If only I could look like her, then I would be happy.”

“Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I ate that entire slice of cake.”

Heard those types of comments, or comments like them? Most likely, those words have come out of your mouth. Worse, those comments have probably been made in front of your children.

Do you know that the habits and comments of parents negatively affect the way children see themselves? If they hear bad body image comments coming out of the mouths of their mothers, and fathers, soon they will begin speaking those same comments. Just like Pavlov’s dogs learned to salivate at the ding of a bell, children learn to emulate the words and tone about their own body image, from you, the parent.

Whether it was intended, or not.

So, here are some tips from this mommy’s mouth on learning to promote a healthy body image.

Keep negative body image talk down, or erase those thoughts entirely!

Everyone is beautiful, and no one is the same. So, why are you doubting your image in the mirror? What placed those ideas in your head to make you doubt your own beauty?

Society’s views, based on envy. That’s the simple truth.

If you are unhappy with your body, don’t inflict your views on your child, but figure out how to love yourself. How can you love yourself the way you are, right now? If the answer is that you want to lose weight, do so to become healthy, not to become skinny. The same problems you hold, right now, will still be there even if thirty pounds are lost.

Losing weight does not make you happy. Learning to love yourself, and embolden your mind with the fact that you are beautiful, despite weight, will make you happy.

If you’re going to diet, don’t call it a diet.

Do you know what happens when you decide to diet? You decide to restrict food.

Do you know what your mind does when you decide to restrict certain foods? It feels deprived.

Then you begin cheating on your diet, and your mood changes as a direct result of whether you stuck to your strict diet that week, or whether you allowed yourself to cheat. Not only you are affected by the crazy diet plan. Your family is affected by your moods, as well. Unfortunately, they are often forced to follow whatever crazy diet scheme you started. Or, if you are the only one following it, you become angry at everyone else for not seeing your struggles in keeping to your dieting plan.

Basically, no one is happy until you lose a few pounds, and start going back to eating “normal.”

But, what would happen if normal was just everyday healthy eating? What would that look like?

Throw out the scale.

Yesterday I stated that scales meant to weigh humans are inherently evil. I mean it. People base their feelings on the number on a scale.

Think about it.

How do you feel when you see you have gained five pounds? How do you feel when you see that you have lost five pounds? How do you feel when the number on the scale refuses to budge, and you are desperately wishing for it to go down? How do you feel when you are weighed, fully clothed with shoes on, at the doctor’s office?

As humans, we are ruled by that tiny little device. And, we teach our children to view their happiness about their body image based on the numbers on that scale.

Do you know how long I have now lived without a scale in my home? Nine years. Do you know how many times my day has been ruined because the scale said I gained one pound?

Zero.

I can feel the mental freak-outs from here. But, how will you weigh yourself, or know your weight? Um, why do you need to know your weight? Do your clothes fit?

Oh, and as a side note, either look away from the scale at a doctor’s office, turn around and have the nurse weigh you backwards, or tell the nurse to keep that information to herself.

Don’t obsess in the mirror.

Staring in the mirror actually does more harm than good. It allows for us to nitpick and obsess about our appearance. Have you ever looked in the mirror, while prodding and poking at various parts you didn’t like that day? Have you done it in front of your children?

I did that one time in front of Tiny Tot. Anyone remember what happened? Tiny Tot flooded the bathroom floor.

Lesson learned.

This goes back to learning to be happy with yourself. If you find yourself looking in the mirror, counting all the flaws on your body, and ultimately chipping away at your positive body image, stop and ask yourself what you’re doing. Is it helping you feel better about yourself?

Try telling yourself what you like about your image. Enforce that on a daily basis. Then turn around and tell your children what you like about them. On a daily basis.

Don’t ask the question, “Does this make me look fat?”

How do you think your children, in turn, start asking that question?

If you’re going to ask a question, ask if your shoes match your dress. Ask if your earrings look good with your outfit. Ask if your blouse matches your skirt.

Go with the assumption that you look amazing. Teach your children to believe the same thing.

Never, ever tell your child that you think they are fat.

That should be an obvious statement. Really, it should. Sadly, too many parents tell their children they are ugly, fat, dumb, or worthless.

Think about the words that come out of your mouth when you speak body image to your child.

Is it totally positive?

It should be.

Promoting and building a positive body image starts at home. With words, actions, looks, and even inferenced claims, our children internalize what we say. So make the comments beneficial to their growth and learning, just like everything else. We, the parents, are our children’s greatest emulators.

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No comments posted on April 14, 2013 in Opinions, Winging It, Mom Style

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