The day my eleven-year-old came up to me and said she might need to be on a diet, I about cried. Where had I gone wrong? She lifted up her shirt to show me that she can pinch a bit of skin, and that was the sign to her that she had to lose some fat.
After some questions, I finally understood, that somewhere in our twisted sense of health classes we are still teaching our children that if they can “pinch an inch” they are unhealthy. Say what?!?!?
My grandmother always told me that she knew I was going to grow because I would get chubby cheeks and fingers. Sure enough, shortly after she would pinch my cheeks I would grow an inch. Yet, when I thought about what my daughter said to me I realized that it was at about her age that I started to evaluate the “inch” around my waist. That evaluation never ended. It stayed with me throughout my teens. Even though I had the perfect hourglass figure, I was not a size zero. Surely, I must need to lose weight.
There was never a time when I thought my body was beautiful. I was always embarrassed and compensated by wearing clothes that were two sizes too big. I needed to do something to hide all those curves!!
As I grew up, my grandma would pull my shoulders back and tell me to be proud of what I was blessed with. Now, as I am faced with a daughter that is starting to look critically at her body, I am left wondering why my grandma’s body positive message never made it through all the other noise from people that should not have mattered to me.
When I look at my daughter now, I realized she has the same build I did at her age. She is so active; climbing, jumping, riding her bike, hiking, and so much more. She is the poster child for what it means to be healthy.
As I delved deeper into the messages that my daughter is getting about her body I realized that my voice, much like my grandma’s voice, is getting drowned out by the constant feed of negativity. It comes from peers, health books, the media, and even random strangers.
Wow! How am I ever going to win this battle? I am absolutely certain that I don’t want my daughter to face the same battle I have with owning my body and loving it. It took thirty years, and a whole lot of self love, to finally realize that no one has to love my body other than myself.
I am reminded of a day several years ago when I was at a conference with a very dear friend. There came a point in the day when her mood shifted, she was near tears, and all she wanted to do was retreat to the room and hide. This was not the person I knew. After a brief chat at the back of the room, she let me know that someone had asked her a question that always hurts.
When are you due?
She understood that the person meant no harm, but that did not change the sting. At the time she was battling many things that this stranger did not know about. For her, one of those battles was the knowledge that she may never be able to have children on her own. So that question truly was a double edged sword.
When it comes to our bodies, we all have battles. These battles come in many forms.
- …food addictions.
- …chemical imbalances.
- …hormone issues.
I am sure I have missed some. The fact remains that I have no idea what battles you face and therefore have no right to look at you in judgement.
The funny part is how easy it is to look at someone and instantly judge. It is a part of being human, it is actually harder to stand in the position of non-judgment and remain unbiased about what you see.
When we see a body that seems healthy there is no other thought than “health”. Yet, we don’t know that person’s battles either.
- …smoking addiction.
- …Celiac disease.
- …severe food allergies.
- …Chron’s disease.
Again, I am sure I have missed some.
It does not matter what size of body you are in, you probably fight battles every day that those around you don’t know about.
Our journey in this world is personal. It is meant to be shared by our fellow human beings, not judged by them. There are times in my life that I have made the wrong decisions. There are times when I have done the right thing for me, but it was not easy for those around me. Yet, in the end the journey is mine to make and mine to navigate.
I now realize that I need to work harder to get my daughter to own her journey, it will never be about getting her to love her body. She will naturally do that once she knows that no one, outside of herself, has the right answers for her. No voice in her life is more important than her own, including mine.