I did something in front of my daughter that I thought I never would and I hope that I never will again.
It happened about six months ago, I was stunned in the moment by my own behavior, and the moment has stayed with me and has shaped me.
There we were in her bathroom together, at this time we were in the thick of potty training and we were heavy into a phase where she would stay on the toilet with a book for a very long time.
When I say a long time, I mean the book of choice was The Jesus Storybook Bible and we could have easily covered from the birth to the resurrection every time she went to the bathroom.
So there we were, Lola “reading” me the gospel, and me standing in front of the mirror waiting it out. First checking out my hair, then my pores, then some blemishes, then my teeth, then without a second thought, I turned around and started inspecting my less than satisfactory rear-end.
That’s when it happened, I am not being dramatic when I say that I was struck with horror. I couldn’t believe I had just participated in scrutinizing my body in front of my impressionable little 3 year-old girl.
My little girl that runs around naked, would go out in public in her underwear if I let her, completely unashamed. The thought to not like something about her body is so far from her mind, it is not even conceivable – that is unless of course her own mother puts the idea in her head that it’s a thing to not like stuff about your body, by not liking stuff about her own body.
I think all of us women are at least somewhat aware that we live in a culture that is constantly telling us that we should want our bodies to look differently. I work with women and men that have disordered eating patterns, eating disorders, and women that are just plain done with subjecting themselves to dieting and are tired of not liking their bodies. It is because of this that I am really, REALLY aware of how much our culture tells us to be unsatisfied with our bodies.
I realize that I can’t protect my daughter forever from hearing and seeing these things from our culture.
But there I was, standing in front of a mirror, bringing body dissatisfaction into my home and putting it on display right in front of my daughter as one of the most influential people in her life.
Ladies, while we are here, let me just state for the record that body checking has got to be one of the most counterproductive and fruitless activities that we participate in. So much so that I would say binge-watching Keeping up With the Kardashians and the Real Housewives of New Jersey while simultaneously flipping through an entire years worth of US Weekly would be more redeeming and productive.
And you know what? It came so natural to me, leave me in front of a mirror for more than 5 seconds and there I am, inspecting what I don’t like. And you know something else? Those parts of me that I find not up to par, they have never changed. I didn’t like them when I was 18 years younger in college, or when I weighed 15lbs less, or after I got done training for a marathon. Sure, there are times that I hated these body parts less, but I can never say that I accepted them as good enough, when I didn’t want them to look better.
Take home message: I am never going to think that my butt and thighs look like what I see in the magazine or on tv or whatever woman I want to compare them to, and as long as that is what I am looking for when I look at them in the mirror. I will be dissatisfied.
Fortunately this is an area that God has been freeing me from for a while now. Long before I started working with the clients that I do and even better understanding how harmful body checking is, I started to want to participate in it less. Quite frankly, I think I was growing tired of not liking my thighs.
And you know what I found? The less I spent time scrutinizing them, the more I acceptedmy thighs as they were…funny how that happens.
Am I trying to say that I love my thighs completely cellulite, saddle-bags and all? That would certainly sound nice in my story, wouldn’t it? But No, I wouldn’t be the truth.
Maybe that is possible to do one day, but if it is, God hasn’t taken me there yet…it’s a journey I’m sure. But do I stand there looking in the mirror wishing that my thighs were something different now? I don’t. I have made peace with my thighs, I have accepted them into the family of my body where I have parts that I like, and parts that I don’t even think about, and now parts that I accept with all their imperfections.
So I share my experience to say, that ladies, unfortunately, there is stuff that we do that can impact our kids that we may not even be aware of. Behaviors that we don’t even realize that we are doing because we have been doing them for so long and it is so pervasive in our culture. Perspectives that we have adopted from our culture about weight and dieting all in the name of being healthy, that can be harmful to our kids.
And its not just body checking or even comments about our bodies or other’s bodies. It’s other things that we do that exhibit body dissatisfaction. It is going on a diet. It is talking about our diet. It’s going on a cleanse or detox. It’s drinking a meal replacement drink instead of sharing in the family meal. It’s having mommy’s special diet foods that are different from the family’s food.
So am I saying that we shouldn’t strive to be healthy? I’m not, I honestly believe that every diet, every meal replacement drink, every cleanse and detox that we participate in, is a well-meaning attempt to be healthy. It is the way that we are being sold as a means to be healthy. But based on research and just plain word on the street, these things are not healthy for us, and they don’t work for long-term weight loss. And in my experience most individuals that have an eating disorder of any type can tell you that at least one of their parents are or were unsatisfied with their bodies and dieted, and it has contributed to their eating disorder. These behaviors are unhealthy for our kids too.
Moms, what we do matters, and there is a different way to strive to be healthier. It starts with accepting our bodies the way they are now, which allows us to focus on being healthy in ways that are healthy, not on making our bodies look different. It frees us up to convey to our kids that looking a certain way is not what is most important, but that caring for our whole selves is. We teach them that it is important to eat foods that make us feel good and give us energy. That it is important to still enjoy foods that just plain taste good yet supply no nutritional value…because they taste good. That we should enjoy all foods and that we should never feel guilty for eating. That we should move because we feel good when we do, and that we should sleep enough – thank God for sleep – because it makes us well and helps us want to eat well and move more.
When we experience this freedom, we extend it to our children. We extend freedom to them instead of extending the bondage that many of us have experienced from body checking and body dissatisfaction, dieting, restriction and food rules, and guilt and shame from eating.
Ladies, I write all this to say that I want this freedom for us and I want it for our kids more. I know as in any way that I parent that I’m still going to mess this up 100 times over but I know that I am making a happier and more free life for myself and for my daughter.