Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Body Image

Apropos of nothing, my two year old, Claire yells out, "I LOVE MY BELLY!"

This kind of joyous non sequitur is what makes being a mom to a toddler so fantastic.

But just as quickly as my delight and love for my daughter washes over me, I start to wonder when her love for her belly will end.

I know. I'm a buzzkill. Or I read too much news. I prefer to think my doom and gloom is related to the latter, as well as living in a society obsessed with body image. I can't help but remember the article that I read last year that stated that 80% of ten-year-old girls have dieted. Ugh! Or the alarming trend of teens obsessed with measuring the gap between their thighs. Insert jaw drop here.

My own life is not the roadmap that I want for my daughter on the subject either. I think back to my college days and remember that it was easier to count the girls with an eating disorder than the girls without one. My friend's sister died from heart failure at age 22 courtesy of bulimia.

At worst, these issues can be deadly, at best, they can shift a young girl's focus from nurturing nascent parts of herself to obsessing about things that should be a given. I spent just as much time worrying about my looks, as I did about scores on final exams. I look back on my preoccupations as a complete waste of time.

Society's influences today are no help either. Claire will contend with a world of photo retouching, and the speed with which potentially damaging images can be accessed on the internet. Now, the messages are not only hostile, they are truly unattainable and available at an accelerated pace.

Of course, I will strive to be a role model for my daughter. Yet, I still struggle from the aftershocks of the messages of my youth. Can I say that I love my body now? I am in awe of the fact that I made a baby with this body, which is an improvement.

But I'm not yelling, "I love my belly!" anytime soon. That would be absurd.

Why is this affirmation so absurd?

I'm not going to write on and on about this subject. So many other men and women have done it more eloquently than me. In fact, I was hesitant to publish this post, because my views and fears about the subject have become so commonplace as to possibly render them boring.

But I do have a few more personal things to say...

I know my daughter will experience pain in her life. Someone will break her heart for the first time. She will lose a race for student government or the state track meet. A friend will betray her. She will believe she will never recover, and I will be there to tell her that she will. And to love her. These experiences are part of growing up, no matter how much I wish it to be otherwise.

Having to hate her body is not a necessary part of youth. 

My mothering impulse is to want to silence whoever or whatever may be perpetrating such needless pain on young girls.

The only problem is there is no one object towards which I can direct my anger. I fear I'm less a lion slayer than someone in the lion's den.


Connect with: Bloglovin'FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Photo Source: Public Domain Pictures

98 comments:

  1. You are a wonderful role model for your daughter. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I hate that it starts so young. I hate that it ever happens, that we feel like we need to change our bodies.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 80% of 10 year olds? That's insane! You are such a good mother and a wonderful role model for Clair.
    It pains me that we will have to watch our daughters go through that heartbreak but we can be there for them with love and support!!

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.•*´
    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
    www.raising-reagan.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't that statistic crazy? It breaks my heart!

      Delete
    2. Thank you for linking to Raising Imperfection.
      Please come back Friday to see if you were featured. :)

      ¤´¨)
      ¸.•*´
      (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
      www.raising-reagan.com

      Delete
  4. Seriously, it is just scary and about body image in young girls nowadays and I too worry about my girls as they are growing up. I think all we can do is our best and have no doubt you will do that Rachel :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is scary and we will do our best! Thanks, Janine!

      Delete
  5. I love your post. Certainly not boring; your take on things is always eloquent and interesting. And the fact is that I'm at this moment in my mothering. Twice this week my daughter, 5 weeks shy of her 8th birthday, has asked me if she looks a little chubby? WHAT?! She is the picture of physical health without an ounce of "fat" on her. She makes excellent choices as far as what she eats and how active she is. I have to admit, I'm not sure where to start. Maybe with a post of my own! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kills me! I can't stand it. Heartbreaking story.

      Delete
  6. I adore you. I think we have body image problems that go back just too far. Yes you want to be in shape and look good but not be obsessive about it. I think you are an awesome role model for your girl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, thanks, Kerri. What a lovely thing to say! You made my day!

      Delete
  7. Oh this is something I think about all the time. I am thankful that I have a son, so I know it is not nearly as bad as it is with the girls... but I am still so conscious about how I portray my own body image even to him. I want him to know and to accept the fact that we all come in different shapes and sizes and that what is outside is not nearly as important as what is inside. It is a hard thing being a mom and knowing that you can't stop all the pain, but I think you have it just right, we can at least be there for support and love!

    Holly at Not Done Growing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So great that you are conscious about the issue with your son too! I think that will go a long way in helping!

      Delete
  8. I think about this too. I don't want my daughters growing up hating their body like I did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know. It is a complete waste of energy that could be put towards other beautiful parts of life!

      Delete
  9. I wish we ALL ascribed to be healthy, whatever weight that is for us, instead of to mimic the bodies we see in magazines.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The bodies in magazines are probably NOT healthy! Isn't that the irony of the whole thing?

      Delete
  10. My daughter was born in China, to Chinese parents who created a beautiful young girl. My daughter sees her dark skin next to my pasty white skin. She sees black, straight hair as ugly compared to my dishwater blah. She doesn't need magazines to see the differences, but I am baffled that she sees her differences as bad. I would love glossy hair of an actual color and skin that glows.

    We will continue to tell her she is perfectly made and that we love her exactly how she is. And I will pray for her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry to hear your story. You are a beautiful parent to a beautiful girl!

      Delete
  11. This the consolation I give myself. I was always tubby and messy, always. I hated myself for it, thought of nothing but weight loss, tortured myself. But the thing is, for most women...it fades away. Like a phase. We agonize over our bodies when our primitive brains are demanding we attract a mate by the standards of current fashion...but as we age, and we have more to show for our lives (career, children, achievements) that painful obsession and putting your whole self worth on your thigh gap isn't a thing anymore. The best we can do it be with them with our wisdom and love as they go through it for themselves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ten-year-old girls are not worried about attracting a mate. Of course, that's a part of the whole issue later in life, but there clearly is so much more going on than our biology. I blame the consumer society we live in.

      Delete
  12. I've already felt twinges of this with my 14-yr. old daughter. She wears a size 3 pants. Size 3. But she has a little belly, and few years back someone called her fat, and it stuck.

    he is also a GREAT dancer. That girl's got rhythm in her bones and I have no idea where she got it from (not her dad or me, that's for sure). She used to dance all of the time until someone called her 'jiggly belly' while she was dancing. She only dances at home now. I hate that someone's careless words that were meant to sting (the person and her had argued earlier) affected her so greatly. I'd shield her from the world if I could, but I can't.

    All I can do is what you're doing, protect her as best I can and consistently let her know how wonderful she really is. I hope it will be enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your story is heartbreaking. You are absolutely doing everything you can in loving her and telling her how wonderful she is!

      Delete
    2. It really is heartbreaking when any child is getting made fun of, but it's a direct hit when it's your own.

      She has decided to go to her 8th grade dance though, and I'm very excited for her. I so hope it turns out well.

      I like that you've written about it. I think it's important for people to know how much of an impact words can have, especially on the kids.

      Delete
  13. What on earth are ten year olds dieting for? When I was ten I still played with dolls!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It gives me chills just thinking about it. It is crazy, indeed!

      Delete
  14. I just went to grand rounds today on eating disorders in adolescents and it freaked me out. I don't know how we teach it to them so early on, but we do. I'm going to try so hard to counteract the forces that make us body-conscious to a fault, while still being the fattest nation in the world. Lord knows I've wasted enough time on that myself. I, too, learned it in college, and you know, you just can't unring that bell.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh! That sounds so hard! And, yes, I want you to "unring that bell"!

      Delete
  15. Yah, when I was 10 I was a slightly overweight child but never had any pressure put on me. That is crazy!!! I am not a perfect BMI and with right guidance from my parents, it all worked out! I dont want my kids to worry about this at all.

    In other news, thanks so much for the well wishes for the pneumonia. I will be back tomorrow night for my laughs finally!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's an inspiring story! I need one! Thanks!

      Delete
    2. Thanks for linking up Rachel!! Hope to see you tomorrow:) Have a great day!

      Delete
  16. Society puts such a stigma on being thin! All you can do is be there for Claire when she goes through the "tweens" and things start getting messy. I think it is very important that you keep a positive attitude about your own body, and she will follow your example. She needs to know that thin model types are NOT the reality. Yes, chances are she'll get hurt at some point in her life, but didn't we all? And you turned out just fine despite whatever heartbreaks you might have had---you are an awesome mother, Rachel, and Claire will know she can always count on you to be there for her and to guide her through the rough patches.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup, thin models are not the reality. It bugs me that I actually have to tell her this, but I do and I will!

      Delete
  17. Oh my gosh, this post! So very, very true. I always wanted boys, and most people assumed that it was because I'm such a tomboy myself. And that's partly true--I'm not sure I'd know how to raise a girl! (I know I'd figure it out, but you know what I mean. :)) The truth is, though, the thought of having a girl makes me anxious because of so many of these things--self-image that we, as girls/women inevitable are faced with being one of them. You've put it so eloquently here. What an unfortunate struggle!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My husband was terrified when we found out we were having a girl.

      Delete
  18. Dear Rachel,
    Claire and your openess in your blog has inspired me to write a blog about women's body image because "I LOVE MY BELLY!" It did, however, take me 42 years to be able to exclaim that. much love to you & Claire
    http://wearelovejoypassion.blogspot.com/2013/04/i-love-my-belly-blog-inspired-by-claire.html

    ReplyDelete
  19. I love that Claire loves her belly! But yeah, the whole body image pressure sucks. I'm 44 and still struggle with accepting my back fat, my belly, my wrinkles. I think Claire is a lucky girl to have such an awesome, grounded, amazing mommy! :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. I still remember the first time my son told me it was more comfortable to sit on my lap than Daddy's because my belly was squishy and Daddy's belly was all hard and stuff. *sigh* I struggle with my own self-image, and I'm trying hard to make sure I raise a confident (but not obnoxious) daughter! She's a teenager so it's getting trickier!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good for you for being aware of it all! It is so much harder with a teen.

      Delete
  21. I hate that all of this starts so young! My teenage daughter is an athlete and works out probably 10-12 hours a week has made comments that she weighs more than her friends! I have told her several times that it's all about being healthy...the number doesn't mean anything. She is extremely fit, but the last thing I would want her to do would be to cut calories...she needs them! Thank goodness she has a lot of self confidence but I worry about the kids that are more unsure of themselves...the last thing they need to do is be worrying about conforming to some ridiculous society ideal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know. The age kills me. I think being an athlete can help, as long as the coaches instill the idea that being healthy is important.

      Delete
  22. Totally with you on this. Totally. As a mother of three teens I ban the word diet from our house and let my children eat pretty much what they want, when they want. Maybe wrongly. But I dont want to be in charge of controlling their food intake for all teh reasons you have highlighted.

    Great post

    ReplyDelete
  23. How very very right you are.It is such a shame that so many people put so much pressure on the body conscious and who exactly decides what you should look like anyway?! Well done for speaking out on this. Thank you for linking up to PoCoLo xx

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm with you! I wrote a similar post last year about things I don't want my daughter growing up believing. I definitely don't want her aspiring to be the next top model - deathly thin and constantly anxious of body appearance. It's a tough, tough world. Sounds like you are doing a great job raising your daughter. Keep it up! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It isn't healthy to be America's Next Top Model!

      Delete
  25. It is a real worry and I have just the same fears for my 7 year old daughter (as well as her brothers). The good thing for them is that I don't worry about my figure or my looks. I do sport and I'm naturally slim. I also eat a lot! I'm hoping my healthy attitude will go some way towards balancing out what they hear from friends and the media. Found you on PoCoLo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know it does affect boys too! I hadn't really thought about it! Such a shame.

      Delete
  26. Fascinated to read the post and all your comments. Am just so glad I no longer have to raise girls - having done so for two! Whilst they both went through their teens with issues, only one had, and alas, still has weight issues. The other seems to have worked through hers without too many side effects. It is a problem though, and really, until we mothers stop worrying (and thus maybe accentuating the already troubling issues for your girls) there's not much to be done. It's certainly a lot to do with outside factors - mainly led by the media's concentration on beauty (not necessarily the best yardstick!). Good luck everybody!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Terrible yardstick! Great way to put it, Isobel!

      Delete
  27. That's a tough subject. Where to begin? I do know that I talk to my young boys about what it means to call someone fat. I also talk to them about having a healthy body vs. a skinny body.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I have a baby girl. Having a body issue can give her a bad example, But not taking of myself is also a bad thing. I think we need to balance everything. So we can make our child balance too.

    CuteyPatutyCrochet

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We need to take care of ourselves and be good examples. I struggle with this myself.

      Delete
  29. Being the positive role model for your daughter is the best thing you can do, unfortunately I didn't work that out soon enough and have passed on my negative body issues to both of my sons because I stupidly thought boys wouldn't pick up on that. Maybe we should all scream at the top of our voices "I LOVE MY BELLY!" #PoCoLo

    ReplyDelete
  30. I love your posts they are so genuine and honest #PoCoLo

    ReplyDelete
  31. What you have to say is definitely not boring! I'm finding myself hating my body more and more and worrying even more about passing poor body image thoughts onto my son. I don't want him growing up questioning whether he looks good enough or not. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I hope one day I could happily affirm myself just as your daughter has.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Oh how I wish I had the body I cursed at twenty! Yesterday, a friend of mine posted a bikini shot of Marilyn Monroe, the beautiful sex symbol of her day. At size 16 (which would probably be a 12 today), she had a bulging belly and thick thighs, yet she was considered to be the symbol of beauty. Where have those days gone?

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! Isn't that crazy? I completely agree with you!

      Delete
  33. I worry about this all the time with having a daughter. I was not and sometimes am still not kind to myself about my body and weight. I am trying really hard to lead a happy active life to lead by example. It is hard.

    Thank you for linking up to Raising Imperfection!
    Make sure to check back on Friday to see if you were featured.
    Leslie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is hard. I know you are a good example for your daughter, Leslie. I know it!

      Delete
  34. Thank you for joining our Let's Get Social Sunday party ! have a lovely week :-)

    Linda
    With A Blast

    ReplyDelete
  35. Amazing post, really well written. Sadly a lot of women have complexes about their body, generally unjustifiably. I sincerely hope this doesn't filter down to our youth, but I fear it is doing so... and the youth are getting younger.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! That is ironic isn't it? Usually men are more accepting of our bodies than we are! And, man, you could not have said it more tersely..."The youth are getting younger".

      Delete
  36. Fantastic post. It really is tough for young girls and I fear it will be harder for our daughters than it was for us. I Felt the same as you at Uni - so much attention wasted on image. I think you sound like a great role model. We can only do our best for them xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I appreciate the encouragement!

      Delete
  37. its such a tricky one isn't it. As well as the false images of fashion there is the more real health issues of being overweight. Thus some of the discussion about body size and shape is legitimate. If it was all a bunch of [insert expletive of your choice] it would be so much easier to just say that its all unnecessary and we can put it down to consumerism and fashionista, but balancing that tight rope of saying you don't need to worry about what you look like, oh but if you put on too much weight it will be bad for your health is very hard. (I as a life long over weight person know this only too well). Glad you published, yout posts are never boring. Sharing this on the Sunday Parenting Party pinterest board

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's such a catch-22, isn't it? The USA is a nation of obese people with an unrealistically thin expectation of women. Crazy!

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. I've featured your post on this weekends SPP, you're on a roll = unlike me, i had to delete previous comment as I'd said "your on a role" - grammar was never my strong point

      Delete
  38. There are so many pervasive images and messages in the media regarding women's body image. It's sad and frustrating and I have boys, so I can't imagine how difficult it must be to have to deal with it raising young girls now. You're a wonderful role model for your daughter and I believe your daughter will have the tools to grow up having a positive self image.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your words of encouragement!

      Delete
  39. Hi! I’m new follower of your blog and would like to invite you to join me at my weekly Clever Chicks Blog Hop:
    http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/04/clever-chicks-blog-hop-32-crayon.html

    I hope you can make it!

    Cheers,
    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

    ReplyDelete
  40. It is so hard to learn to take reasonable care of ourselves without obsessing over how we look. So hard. Weighing and measuring, forgetting that we are measuring our flesh and not our worth. Still trying to figure this one out.

    ReplyDelete
  41. You're an amazing mother, Rachel. :) Nice seeing you again! Visiting you from Smile with Us Mondays! :)

    Would you be willing to join in on this project with us? Check it out... http://modernhippiemomma.blogspot.com/2013/04/may-is-for-all-women-project-post-1.html

    <3 Amanda*

    ReplyDelete
  42. Yet the fashion industry touts how cool it is to be uber thin. It's not.

    Have a terrific day. You're a great mom. ☺

    ReplyDelete
  43. fab post honey, thanks for linking up with #magicmoments x

    ReplyDelete
  44. It's so darn hard. Really. My good friends daughter has an eating disorder, she's in treatment and they said they can't help her in that facility because she doesn't care if she dies, she doesn't want to get fat. I have known this girl since she was 4. She's 19. She has never even been chubby!!!! And her mom has never, ever even talked about body shape in front of her. As a matter of fact she has a sister who has a perfectly normal body.....so whether it's media, peer pressure, boys....it's an uphill battle. Even my son, who's 7, has asked me if he's fat :-(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know. People say parents have all the influence. I just can't help but wonder if that's really true.

      Delete
  45. Love your post. Such a big sad issue, affects boys too I suspect...thinking of my own yo-yo dieting, perhaps the best role model is for mums to be positive about their own bodies (for some of us, harder said than done sometimes).

    ReplyDelete
  46. Don't you wish you can bottle up these emotions before they get older and allow others to pick them apart. Personally I would record her saying stuff like this now as a reminder:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would have loved to have caught that on video!

      Delete
  47. 80%? That is SO scary. New follower here. I found you through "Mod Moms" blog. I'm enjoying scrolling through your posts and I look forward to visiting again.

    Sylvia
    http://www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  48. Oh I love this!! What a great reminder.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...