“Do I look fat?”
I was five years old and remember looking at my gorgeous, size 6 mother like she was crazy for asking me that. I was too young at the time to understand that her mind was playing tricks on her, so all I can recall was being totally confused and thinking to myself, “How in the world could she possibly think that?”
My mom was drop-dead beautiful. I’m not saying that with a biased opinion, or because I think it’s something I’m obligated to say as her daughter. Seriously. She was a show stopper with the most beautiful figure a woman could have. I used to hate going to the grocery store or the mall with her, because men would stop dead in their tracks to stare at her. As a protective daughter, it always irked me and I’d shoot her admirers the snarkiest looks that I could possibly produce in hopes of scaring them off.
On top of mom’s incredible body, waist-length dark hair, and 1000 kilowatt smile, she had a killer personality and needless to say, she was a big hit around town. She did runway shows for a few local clothing boutiques and everybody always went out of their way to tell me, “Your mom is so pretty!” Men adored her and all of the women wanted to be friends with her.
Everything was groovy on the outside, but the problem was that she truly believed in her heart that she was never good enough. She didn’t need to tell me that; it showed in her actions. She was always self-consciously fiddling with her clothes, hair and make-up, and queried me over and over again on how I thought she looked; not out of vanity, but in a way that was genuinely worried and unconvinced.
“Beautiful” was always my very truthful response to her, but I knew she never believed me.
For as long as I can remember, my mother has always been (unnecessarily) concerned about her body and constantly talked about “needing” to lose a few pounds and/or has been on a diet, even though her athletic body held steady somewhere between a size 6 – 8. I remember her consistently skipping meals and when she did eat I would watch her pick at her food, taking only a few bites before forcing herself to shove it aside. For as long as I can remember, she has under-ate.
Not Just Mom
It was no wonder my mom was so self-conscious. Weight was always a hot topic in our family. The men all preferred their women to be extremely slender (and were very vocal about it), and my dad, uncles, aunts, and grandma frequently spoke about the body size of themselves or other people… not in a derogatory way, but good, bad, or otherwise, it was a popular topic of conversation.
Pulling out a camera on holidays would cause mass chaos and send all of the women running for the hills because nobody wanted their photo taken for fear of what they’d look like on camera. Because of this, the number of photos I have of some very important women to me are extremely limited, and the majority of my memories have had to be stored in my head. Again, it wasn’t because everybody was vain – on the contrary! It was because everybody was so damn self-conscious.
My family was always wonderful to me; they frequently told me how smart and beautiful I was, but, unbeknownst to me at the time, my subconscious was furiously taking some very dark notes about what they were saying about themselves.
“Do I Have a Nice Figure?”
On the first day of Kindergarten, at the ripe age of five years old, I asked my aunt and my grandma, “Do I have a nice figure?”
That marked the beginning of a long, torrid relationship between myself and my body image. For the next, oh, twenty-some-odd-years, I have found myself struggling with self-esteem when it comes to my body.
I’m confident that my family never had any intention to compromise my self-confidence, but it’s amazing what our mind slurps up without us even noticing. Hearing frequent talk about diets and how one’s body looks will inevitably creep inside our mind and plant some ugly seeds which – I guarantee – will sprout up down the road.
They Are Listening
|Our gorgeous niece who is like a parrot right now to her mama.
Absorbs and repeats EVERYTHING!
Always be careful what you say, but especially in the presence of young, impressionable little minds. Five years old, 16 years old, 20 years old… they are absorbing it all. There is so much pressure from the media to look a certain way, the last thing that we want to do it add fuel to that already messy fire. It’s important for us, as role models for the next generation, to put emphasis on health and having a strong, adaptable body.
After all, isn’t that what really matters?
It’s fine to talk about your training and nutrition around the kiddos – matter of fact, I encourage it because I think it’s important – but lets reframe it. Instead of talking about how you need to lose weight and diet, point out the importance of good health.
“I choose to eat delicious vegetables because they make me feel great!”
“I lift weights because they keep me strong!”
“I love to workout because it keeps me healthy and being healthy makes me happy!”
“I make sure to get plenty of sleep so I feel my best everyday!”
Remember to be cautious of what you say, especially around children. Their developing brains are like little sponges and they absorb everything, whether you think they understand or not. Lets be wonderful role models to the next generation and emphasize the importance of health rather than passing them the heavy burden of body image issues.
How about you? Did you hear anything growing up that has contributed to the way you see yourself today, good or bad? If you’re a parent, how do you fuel your child’s healthy self-image? Drop me a comment below and lets discuss!
If you liked this post, you’ll love:
Please subscribe to my emails in the upper righthand corner!