I Don't Want To Pass My Negative Body Image Down To My Kids

I’ve been obsessed with my weight since my doctor told me at 14 that I was outside what was normal for my height and that I needed to work on losing weight. On that day, I went into the doctor’s office for a physical having normal concerns and came out thinking I was fat. One of those concerns was not my weight but when I left the doctor’s office, it was now my main concern.

From there, my mom took me to Applebee’s for “one last cheat meal,” which became the first of many times I would declare that an unhealthy meal was my last. Then we went over to Barnes and Noble and picked out a few books on calorie counting. She was trying to help by being supportive of me, joining me in my new calorie counting way of life.

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Let’s be clear: I was not fat. I know this now. I knew I was always the bigger one of my friends, I had thick thighs, but a small middle. I played sports and was semi-athletic. I may have been a bit bigger, but in no way could I be considered fat.

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Bodies are so smart. When there is inadequate food available, they slow down to conserve energy. Metabolism slows, rate of digestion slows, brain function shifts. This is by design. This is to keep you here. And for all the wisdom that our bodies have, they do not have the ability to differentiate between dieting, semi-starvation, and states of famine. When the body is not getting enough food, it is not getting enough food. This applies to mental and physical restriction. If you are following food rules, if you have a list of good and bad foods, if you believe that you can’t be trusted with a specific food, if you don’t allow yourself to enjoy foods, expect to think about food all the time. So many of my clients get annoyed by this experience. This is biology focusing you on survival. And until your body has enough food, and lack of judgement around food, for a long enough period of time, and feels trusting that it will be cared for thoughtfully, these messages will keep coming. This message applies to all bodies. Diet culture wants us to believe that we can outsmart our bodies. And in truth, for short time, some of us can. But thankfully, the wisdom of our bodies persists, despite any diet culture oriented intervention we may attempt. I don’t blame you for wanting to diet, you are welcome here if you actively are dieting. You’re welcome here if your relationship with food is not as you would like it to be. If you don’t have adequate access to food, I appreciate that you may have a deeper understanding of what this is like. If you do have adequate access to food, please know that food is not an enemy. That diet culture is a liar and that your body is trustworthy. And your body is so smart and will work to protect you at all cost. . . Pathways from dieting to weight regain, to obesity and to the metabolic syndrome: an overview. Abdull G Dulloo, J‐P Montani Obesity reviews 16, 1-6, 2015 #fuckdietculture #dietculture #diet #dieting #biology #bodyimage #effyourbeautystandards #allbodiesareworthybodies #fatpositive #haes #healthateverysize #rdchat #bodyrespect #fatacceptance #nourish #bodyneutrality

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That summer, I spent counting my calories in a little journal. I also became obsessed with exercising. I had found a routine in one of my teen magazines that promised to “give me the body I always wanted” and every morning I would do this routine. If I couldn’t do it first thing in the morning, say because I slept over at a friend’s house (you know a normal teenage thing to do), I would break up the routine throughout the day during bathroom breaks; lunging and squatting my way through the day. Once school started that year, I had lost a little bit of weight and a whole lot of my confidence.

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From one comment by my trusted doctor, it began a lifetime of thinking I was fat; a lifetime of counting calories, points, macros; a lifetime with being obsessed with my body. I’ve tried all the fad diets and still it’s been a rollercoaster ride with my weight.

And I know that I am not alone in this struggle with my body image. Nearly 91% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance and weight. Half of all women are disordered eaters; 75% of women state that their weight directly impacts their happiness. And unfortunately, these statistics are bleeding down into our children’s perception of what is normal for body image.

A recent Australian study shows that children as young as 8-years old have already started developing a poor body image. 8 years old! Another study on 5-year-olds showed that a significant portion of them associated dieting with food restriction, thinness and weight loss. Up to 60% of elementary-age children are afraid of “becoming fat.”

Those worries and associations are coming from somewhere. Unfortunately, there are studies showing that negative body image and negative self-talk are contagious. If we as parents are unhappy with our own appearance, children pick up on it. We need to do better for our littles! We need to set better models for them. We need them to know that their self worth is not related to their appearance.

Now that I have children, I am terrified to pass down my poor body image to my children. But it is so hard. I am careful not to say anything terrible in front of them about my body or anyone else’s body. I don’t say the dreaded F-word (that being FAT, not the other F-word).

My son recently walked past a large man in a restaurant and barely out of earshot, he said, “Woah, that man was so fat!” I stopped dead in my tracks. My worry about shielding him from that nasty word had been fruitless; it found him anyway. My immediate reaction was to pull him aside and reprimand him, telling him that that’s not how we talk about other people and that it’s mean to call someone fat.

Instead, I paused and continued walking. When we got to the car, I looked at him and I asked him where he had learned about being fat. Being 5-years old, he couldn’t remember. I know he wasn’t trying to be mean, so instead, I told him how we should never say anything about someone else’s body. Some people are big, some are small, but that doesn’t mean that they have any less feelings than anyone else.

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He soaked it in and smiled back at me, “Okay, Mommy” and asked me to grab his Nerf gun, asking if we could play once we got home. He had already moved on to the next thought in his 5-year-old life. I wondered about the large man and if he had heard my son’s comment. I hoped not, and I hoped that what I had told my son would sink in. But I also knew it was the first of countless conversations I would have with him about body image.

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‘Have you lost weight? You look great!’⠀ ⠀ A sentence some might be very happy to hear. But in my eyes it’s a very strange thing to say to someone and borderline offence! Let me explain why...⠀ ⠀ What it implies is that a) you didn’t look great before! And b) that people are staring at your body and making comments and judgements on it, either good or bad.⠀ ⠀ That’s quite odd! To look at someone’s appearance and tell them what thoughts you have just processed about it. Doesn’t that make you feel a bit uncomfortable, that people are looking at the levels of fat on your body? And then on top of looking, they are commenting on it and making it a topic of conversation? Really really odd!! ⠀ ⠀ You would NEVER say to someone ‘have you put on weight? You look terrible’. So why is it socially acceptable to comment if they have lost weight. Why do we still think that’s everybody’s goal? That weight loss is every woman’s main aim? ⠀ Let’s try and shift all this talk about what we look like. And shift it into how we are. How we are feeling? How our heart is feeling? Things that actually matter! ⠀ ⠀ There are so many other things you can comment on, I truly believe someone’s weight isn’t it! And if you feel you must comment, maybe you could just tell them how happy they look. Or that they are glowing! ⠀ ⠀ This post is more about shedding some light on people’s comments and less about something I am currently going through. ⠀ I don’t know if I have recently lost weight or put on weight. I don’t really care either way. Sometimes my clothes are tight and sometimes they are loose. Sometimes I eat an entire block of Lindt at 3pm (yesterday!! 🙋🏻‍♀️) and sometimes I don’t touch chocolate for months. ⠀ ⠀ 📸 @hayneshayley ⠀ #disorderedeating #weightlossjourney #eatingdisorderrecovery #bodyimage #bodypositive #positivevibes #positivebodyimage #womenshealthcoach

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Being aware of what we say to ourselves and about other people is half the battle. During a recent study of 2 to 4-year-old children, parents stated that they have never discussed body image with their children, yet 40% of the children of those parents exhibited one body-related behaviour, such as discussing their own weight or the weight of others or seeking praise for their appearance.

They are always watching, so even if you don’t think you’re directly conveying the message that to be thin is to be worthy, they can see how we pick apart our own body or complaining about our clothes not fitting. The little ears are always listening. The other half of the battle starts with us- we need to cultivate a better body image for ourselves so that we can model what it means to love your body no matter what.

Hard as hell to imagine after a lifetime of being weight-obsessed, but I look at my daughter and I would never want her to feel about her body like I do about mine. I want her to know that she will be loved and supported no matter what. And if that means that this body love needs to start with me, then I better get to loving me.

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