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Love Your Body

body image love parenting self-love teens Jun 08, 2022

I was browsing through the racks of dresses in a local clothing boutique when I overheard the conversation between a woman and her two daughters a few feet away.

With a heavy sigh, the mom was flipping through the articles of clothing.

"Ug, I have so much fat on my body I can't fit into any of these."

"I hate my body with all this fat on my belly. I just look awful."

"My belly has grown so big. I can't stand the way I look."

The two daughters, one in her teens and one elementary school aged, walked next to their mom with their eyes focused on the floor.

The teen daughter tried to offer comforting words to her mom, to no avail. The younger daughter just walked behind her mom in silence.

I observed the three of them perusing the clothing in each rack and observed the daughter's reaction to their moms' critical statements.

My heart ached for those girls.

No mother ever intends to send negative body images to their children. Whether our kids are boys or girls, they hear what we say.

When a parent says - "Ug, I have so much fat on my body, I can't fit into any of these clothes."

Our children hear - "Fat is bad. Fat equals shame. If I have fat, I will not be able to wear cute clothes. I need to make sure I don't have any fat to be acceptable and loved."

When a parent says - "I hate my body with all this fat on my belly. I just look awful."

Our children hear - "Fat on parts of our body are really bad. No one will love me if I don't look a certain way. I need to make sure my body matches society's standards or I won't be loveable."

When a parent says - "My belly has grown so big. I can't stand the way I look."

Our children hear - "When I look in the mirror, I will only be acceptable if my body looks the way I think others want it to look. If it doesn't, I'm not worthy of love and acceptance."

For those of you who think you may be hiding the way you feel about yourself when you look in the mirror, you are not. Your kids hear the heavy sighs, see the eye rolls, feel the tension when you are especially upset about your body, and watch the way you carry yourself. You may not be saying anything verbally, but you are communicating the same way.

I currently have a client who remembers the way their mom talked about herself their entire childhood. Their mom enrolled in several different diet programs for well over a decade. My client watched their mom as she went from one diet program to the next, desperate to find something that would shrink her body. 

Today, my client is terrified of gaining weight. They go to great strides to ensure that their body meets the standards set by diet culture and society. 

Another former client of mine worked out at a gym twice a day for a couple hours each time. Their children are now adults and all of them are terrified of what might happen if they gain any weight.

My own story with my children isn't that different. Although I never vocalized my feelings about my body, I stayed in the diet culture for over a decade, working for one of the top programs in the world for much of that time. My older children would ask how many "points" a certain food was and were always worried that I might run out of "points" for the food we were enjoying as a family.

Women especially, I plead with you to learn to love your body. Love every cushion, roll, muffin top, crease, cellulite, jiggle, and flab. Love your body fiercely. Defend it. Treat it like you would treat a sensitive child. 

Your body is amazing. It does incredible things. It swallows, breathes, thinks, moves, sleeps, heals, and creates. Nothing about your body is unworthy of love. Every hair and particle has value.

Our home is the most powerful place to stop the cycle of body shaming among our children (some as early as 8 years old!). We can help our children see how amazing and beautiful and miracle of every human body.

Learning to love yourself is a priceless gift you can offer your loved ones. When you love yourself, you become the role model your kids desperately need.

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