“Starting tomorrow, my mom isn’t allowed to eat breakfast.”
“Really? But that is the most important meal of the day!”
“It is for her new diet. She said it isn’t the most important meal for adults.”
“Oh. I see.”
“She can only have 20 calories a day.”
Now, obviously this child got some of the info wrong, but this is a snippet of a conversation I recently had with a little girl. I was heartbroken…and a little angry. This little girl was being taught that skipping meals was a good way to lose weight.
Moms, please listen carefully to what I am about to say: If you are going to diet and try to lose weight, there is a much better way to discuss it with your children, especially your daughters!
As a little girl, I remember eating a candy bar at my grandparents’ house with my little brother. My nanny looked at me and said, “You’re going to end up fat if you eat those sweets!” She did not say the same thing to my brother. I remember feeling shame and embarrassment. This was not the only comment I would ever receive from her. As I grew into a teenager, she would still criticize what I was putting into my mouth.
My mom had learned not to make those comments to me because she had endured them as well. Looking back now, I can see how it affected my mom, though. My Irish grandmother had told my mom, when she moved to America, that, “She was going to end up fat like all the other Americans.” I watched my mom try diet after diet, some successful, some not. I saw her be so unhappy with her body and so disappointed in herself.
Fast forward to me growing into a woman. Looking back, I have always felt fat, even when I wasn’t at all. I look back at pictures and remember how much I hated my body, and now I see nothing wrong with the way I looked. I don’t write this to blame my grandmother. She probably endured the same thing from her mother. I write this to show an example of how we, as mothers, directly affect the way our daughters view their bodies. If we speak negatively about our bodies, and our daughters grow up to have similar bodies, how do you think they will feel? I am built like my mom. She was built like her mom. It is genetics. Not that we shouldn’t strive to be the healthiest versions of ourselves, but we also need to love ourselves just as we are.
Because of this generational impact on my life, I make it a point to never speak negatively about my body in front of my daughter. She will never know when I am trying to lose weight. She will never see my weigh myself. She will, however, hear me say that I feel pretty in a new outfit. She will hear me say that I have always liked my legs and my many, many freckles.
Our girls get negative body image shoved in their faces from every direction possible, more than we ever did! Motherhood has the greatest potential influence in human life. We must display a positive body image at all times, even when we least feel positive about our bodies. I don’t remember commercials or magazine ads that I saw growing up, but I do remember how my mom felt about herself.
So, moms, PLEASE do not talk negatively about your body to, or discuss your fad diet with, your daughters. Teach them to take care of their bodies, to eat healthy foods and to be strong! We may be the only one teaching them just how special and precious they really are.