I remember visiting a nutritionist with my mother when I was a preteen. I remember the nutritionist holding up a simulated five pounds of fat and thinking that was incredibly huge – that if I could lose five pounds, I’d be the skinniest girl in my class.
I remember being in high school and wanting the perfect slim body. I took jazz class and played tennis and was a size 2. Being the thoughtless teenager I was, I didn’t think I was skinny enough. After all, I reasoned, some people in my high school were size 0.
A similar mentality occurred in college. I wasn’t skinny enough. If I could just lose five more pounds. I had seen how much of a difference five pounds could be. So if I could just lose five more pounds, I could be skinny enough.
Instead of losing, I started gaining. I’m not really sure what happened. I could shrug and say, “Marriage,” but it was more than that. For the first time in my life, I was working 40 hours a week – and going to grad school at night. Fast food – and cheap fast food – seemed essential if I wanted to eat. I had never really watched what I ate before, so what was the point in starting now?
I gained five pounds. And then another five pounds. And another. Until at one point life just came crashing down, and food wasn’t the answer.
I eventually picked up running and stuck with it. My best friend and I – neither of us who had ever run from anything other than someone chasing us – started dropping pounds. My stress subsided, and I do attribute a lot of that to running. Life became more hectic, but I was able to unwind doing something healthy, like running – not by eating ice cream.
Then we had this beautiful baby girl, and my husband jumped on the healthy lifestyle wagon, too. Something clicked for both of us – we could talk about wanting to eat healthy for each other, but we’re both grown adults. It’s hard to convince grown adults to do something, even if they know it’s the best for them.
We wanted to be healthy for her because we know if we’re healthy, there’s a better chance we’ll live longer lives. So, yes, that’s part of it.
We have this little girl looking up to us, mimicking us. She ate lettuce for the first time last week because she saw me eating it.
We want her to be healthy, to be active – but we want her to be so much more.
The first time I saw her step on the scale – again, mimicking me – I froze. I almost panicked because my first thought was, “Oh my gosh, she sees me on the scale every day. What am I teaching my daughter?”
My husband saw it too, and the same idea came to us simultaneously.
“That’s awesome, baby! How much do you weigh?”
“Twenty-one point six pounds! Woo hoo! That’s my girl!”
“You are awesome!”
“You’re awesome because you’re fun!”
“You’re awesome because you’re a sweetheart!”
“You’re awesome because of everything you do!”
My daughter is and will always be more than her physical appearance, more than her weight. I NEVER want her to judge her worth based on how much she weighs.
That’s what I want to hand down to her; that’s what I want her to see. She is more than a number on a scale; she is more than her dress size.
Runner’s World had a great article in their August 2015 magazine about a distance runner Mirna Valerio who, at 250 pounds, does not have a stereotypical running body. She’s constantly questioned regarding the truthfulness of the miles she runs. But she runs – and loves it! I want my daughter to look up to women like her, who have a positive attitude about life and about living.
I want her to love fresh fruit and veggies. I don’t ever want her to take diet pills – or even feel like she has to take diet pills. I don’t want her to feel like she has to look like a twiggy model she sees on social media or in a magazine to validate her life.
I want her to be wise. I want her to be healthy. I want her to be kind and considerate. I don’t want her to have a love affair with food. I want her to have a love affair with life.
And that begins with me.
Share your experiences with teaching your children to have a positive body image. Did you have a similar experience to me as a child?