Girls and Their Body Image

I suppose I knew it would come. The time when my daughter would start worrying about how she looks.

My 11 year old has recently started coming up to me, standing sideways, one hand behind her back and one on her tummy to show me exactly where I should be looking, asking me 'Am I fat or thin?'

After I sigh and groan and say a silent 'thank you' that she feels so free to talk to me about her issues I explain to her (yet again) that she is neither fat not thin but something inbetween - that she has a slim, strong and healthy body.

My reply does not seem to suffice - 'No, am I fat or thin?'. Apparently I have to choose one or the other. I feel that a lecture here on shades of grey would be out of place and answer 'thin'.

Et voila - one happy bunny!

Us mums have to combat negative influences in so many areas of our children's lives these days but our girls' body image must be one of the biggest.

Walking the Walk

Firstly us mums have to be a good role model for healthy living if we want our girls to follow suit.
  • Never talk about, or go on, a diet - always focus and talk about healthy eating

  • Enjoy your food

  • Allow yourself the occasional snacks and cakes absolutely guilt-free

  • Keep yourself fit and healthy with some form of exercise (I walk several times a week and take yoga classes).
One day my daughter asked me 'were you thinner or fatter than me when you were my age?'. 'Oh, I definitely wasn't thinner' was my reply. 'Oh good, then I'll be ok because you and I are similar and you look pretty good.' ! Just as I was beginning to feel a real 'mum', approaching my forties and feeling the generation gap, that was a real compliment coming from my young daughter who, like all girls her age, knows a thing or two about what looks good and what doesn't.
Talking the Talk
I thank the stars that my daughter and I often have little 'heart to hearts'. It acts as a sign to me that I'm doing something right (after all - us mums don't get too much positive feedback).
These are the messages I tell my daughter. Maybe they'll be useful for you too:

  • Your body is healthy and strong

  • Your body is a gift
  • Look at the amazing things your body can do without us even knowing it - it heals scratches, it is constantly breathing, fights off germs, takes the nutrients it needs from the food we eat, as well as being able to create a new life when you have a baby

  • Look at what your body allows you to do - your legs allow you to move, dance, swim, climb trees, jump and run, your arms let you hug, your eyes help you see and your ears aid you in hearing.
I try to be aware of moments when there is a chance to show how grateful we should be for our whole and healthy bodies - chances to see people who do not have fully functioning bodies like a programme on the television where someone is dealing with the challenge of an illness or disability or someone we know who is dealing with a similar challenge.
Pick out special little things that make your daughter unique - 'I love your cute freckles, I love the way your eyes sparkle, I love your shiny hair, your beautiful smile...After hearing it enough times your daughter will internalise it and start to believe it herself.
The influence of our daughters' peers at school is very strong, so we have to make sure that our voice is not only louder but more important to them. That comes by walking the walk and showing them what a healthy strong body looks like, and by talking the talk of positivity and truth; the truth of the miracle of their amazing bodies and the truth of their beauty.
For true beauty comes not from their size but from their inner light, their inner beauty. And all our girls' beauty is about who they are within their hearts.
May the lights in the hearts of all our young girls shine brightly.

Affirmations for Mums and their daughters
  • My opinion of myself is the only one that counts

  • I love every inch of my wonderful body

  • I treat my body with kindness

  • I am blessed with the miracle of a healthy, mobile body

  • My body allows me to express who I am within

  • I treat my body with respect

  • I exercise and nurture my body

  • I love my body exactly as it is right now.
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