Before you do anything else, take a minute and read this letter from a daughter to her mom about what happens to a girl when Mom calls herself fat and ugly.
Perhaps you can relate. It’s not unusual for a little girl to think her mom is the most beautiful woman in the world, to try and emulate her mom’s every move and mannerism. And yet, unbeknownst to their adoring daughters, many moms struggle with body image issues. The question is, can your issues affect your daughter’s own body image?
All moms of daughters are in the same boat. We all want to teach our daughters to have a healthy body image, to love and accept themselves as they are. To be nice to themselves (nicer, perhaps, than we were to ourselves). In a recent post, we discussed the importance of passing along a positive body image to your daughter, being careful not only about what you say to her, but what you say about yourself in front of her.
Because at some point, if Mom isn’t careful, she will pass along a very dangerous message to her daughter: I’m fat. I’m ugly. I hate my body. And you’re going to grow up and be just like me.
How to Talk to Your Daughter about Weight
In a follow-up article, Kasey Edwards, the author of the letter discussed above, provided some guidelines she uses to teach her daughters to have healthy body images and avoid what she calls ‘body hatred’.
Kasey says “Body hatred isn’t about how you look; it’s about how you feel about how you look.” She said she has spoken to supermodels who loathe their bodies and constantly obsess about losing that last five pounds. On the flip side, she knows women who are overweight and yet don’t exhibit a trace of body hatred.
Here are Kasey’s strategies for avoiding body hatred in her daughters:
1. Never talk about body weight.
Kasey vows to never talk about her body weight or someone else’s body weight in front of her daughters. If someone else does, she tries her best to neutralize it. She wants her girls to know that a person’s weight is as UNrelated to their worth as their height.
2. Never talk about food in terms of calories or fat content.
Instead, Kasey says, talk about food in terms of its nutritional value. Her kids know they need to eat a variety of foods each day. Some make them grow stronger, some make them smarter, some keep them from getting sick – and some just taste yummy.
3. Do not ban any foods.
Kasey doesn’t want to create closet eaters or positive/negative associations with certain foods, so no foods are banned in their house. Her daughters know that processed food is sometimes appropriate because it tastes good and it’s part of a tradition (such as birthday cake), but those foods don’t help their bodies grow.
4. There’s only one Food Rule.
The only food rule in Kasey’s house is, you have to have some of everything on your plate. They don’t have to finish everything, but they have to have some of it. Kasey wants her daughters to feel in control of their own appetites and learn to listen to their own bodies.
5. Focus on how bodies work, rather than how they look.
Marvel at all the wonderful things your body is designed to do. Running, jumping, skipping, hugging. When Kasey’s daughter pokes her “wobbly belly”, Kasey tells her it’s a trophy from growing her and her sister, and how amazing it is that her body was able to create two wonderful little girls.
Think about what your mom taught you about body image. If you really consider your mom’s words and example, you have to admit how profound those things were in shaping your own body image. You are equally as important, if not more important in this image-obsessed and media-driven culture, in shaping your own daughter’s body image.