Body image and unintended messages0
The Complicated Business of Body Image… The concept of fitness and feeling good about one’s body is a tricky one for mothers. Whether we are aware of it or not, our children watch how we treat our bodies and they learn from it. They draw their own conclusions. Sometimes these conclusions touch how they feel about their own bodies. Something as simple as a new year’s resolution to get fit can somehow become a message of, “I am ashamed of my body because I am overweight.” Or, “People that look like me do not deserve to eat what other people can eat.” Or, “I will like myself better IF I am thinner.”
I do not want my daughters to feel anything but respect and acceptance of their bodies. I know that they are bombarded by unrealistic, altered images in the media every day. I know that they compare themselves to these images. I am also aware of the fact that my job is to be a healthy counterweight to all of this messaging, and that being this counterweight is important for their health and self-respect.
Recently, I was sent a link to a poem by a young woman named Lily Myers and I share it with you today in the hopes that it will give you pause in the same way it did me. Much of the power of the poem happens in the first second or two when Ms. Myers is quiet, perhaps nervous. She is centering herself and seems to be making a decision, a decision to talk about something true, but painful. The poem is read at a Poetry Slam and you can hear the audience’s reaction every time she provides another nugget of truth that sheds light on how our multi-generational relationship with food affects our broader selves.
So how to move forward? We make decisions about food every day. Our children watch the food we consume, or don’t, and how we do it. As Ms. Myers’ poem makes clear, our children are too smart to believe what we say vs. what we do. They know how we really feel about our bodies and ourselves. Perhaps the answer lies in shifting our own views of our own bodies. If we want our daughters to focus on their health vs. their appearance, than we need to do that ourselves. If we want them to be conscious about the food they put in their mouths and the effects it will have on their mood, long-term energy, and ability to concentrate, we need to demonstrate the same consciousness when we eat. And perhaps we need to show them that although our bodies are not media-perfect, our bodies deserve to be loved, respected and accepted and cared for with love, respect and acceptance.
We are awash with advertisements offering weight loss miracles and discounted health club memberships. Magazine headlines promising to help us “Get a perfect butt” assault us in the checkout line at the grocery store. All of the not-so-subtle messages that we need to “shape up” are upon us. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve ones health and how one feels about ones body, but the relationship we have with food and the messages it sends our children is tricky business. Becoming more conscious about the message we send and the message we live, will help.
[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]