Monday, September 26, 2011

Save Our Daughters part III: positive body image for my daughter

This is part III of my Save Our Daughters series. If you have not read part I or part II, please read them for the motivation behind  this post.

G on Mother's Day, about 2.5 months old
My daughter is beautiful. She is amazing. She is fun. She is smart. She is silly. She is personable. She is mine.

The love between me and my husband (plus God) created this little girl, who has no idea what the world has in store for her. Before little bear was born, I had hoped for a boy. I didn't really care what sex our baby was, as long as he or she was healthy...but I really did hope for a boy.
One of the main reasons?
I didn't want my child to experience the pain and agony of trying to be a certain size or weight...and the odds were a lot better if our baby was a boy. I know that men can be self-conscious, and I know they can be bullied and have poor body image. The statistics don't lie though: Women are a lot more likely to suffer from an eating disorder.

G, about 3 hours old
Anyways, our baby was born. She laid on my chest, and I marveled at her perfection. I was also really proud of myself for giving birth to her au naturale. How strong and amazing is a woman's body!? In those first days I felt many things (thanks hormones), and it was inevitable; I wondered how I would ever be able to shield her from the situations I had fallen victim to.

Mothering is tough, let alone trying to promote a positive body image, so thank God I have a few years before G starts to understand what that is.

Here is what I have so far--

G 7 months old
I hope G will have a good relationship with food.

I will not force her to 'clean' her plate. She can eat when she is hungry, and be done when she is not. I hate "wasting" food, so we'll just serve less. If she's hungry, she can have a little more.
We will have primarily fruits and vegetables for snacks. Grains, sweets, and fats will be mostly reserved for meals and dessert. I don't want to call them "treats," as that has the connotation they were earned.
I will teach her to fill her plate with a healthy balance of all food groups.
I will not eat a lot of junk in front of her. Well, I just won't eat a lot of junk period. I have to lead by example.
G will not be given food as a "reward." I know this will probably be really hard, especially in the preschool years. I don't want to use candy for potty training, going to soccer practice, or getting a good grade in school. I think that could lead to the mindset of hard work = eat food. I suffered (still do) from thinking that if I worked out, I deserved a treat. I think that also leads to an emotional attachment to food. I really, really don't want her to have that. Food fuels our bodies. End of story.

G around 1.5 months old
I hope G will understand health is more important than the number on the scale, or the size on her clothes.
When we go to the doctor, or get sports physicals, I will emphasize the health issues. We won't care about BMI or weight, so long as she is active, eating right, and not at risk for serious problems like diabetes.
I will have G turn away from the scale when they weigh her, and ask the nurses not to say the number aloud. I will not keep a scale in the house. I do not want her to be obsessed with some number.
I wish it were possible to keep G from knowing about sizes while shopping...but I can't go into the stores and cut out all of the tags. Bummer. I will focus on the fit of the clothes, rather than the size. We will discuss why sizes are "necessary," and how important it is that she feel comfortable in the clothes.
I will not get frustrated if she outgrows a size "too" quickly. I will not comment on how "big she is getting." I will, instead, say, "you're growing into a beautiful young woman, I'm so proud of you!" or something like that...
I will not discuss my own issues with sizing around her. I will be proud of her shape, so I need to be proud of my own.
I will not dismiss her feelings, if she is having any negative thoughts, I will be there to encourage, promote, and empathize.

G at 3 months old
I hope G will talk to me or her dad if she is struggling with stress.
Part of developing an eating disorder stems from the desire to control, when other things feel like they are spiraling out of control. What you put into your body is something that you control. I hope to give G ways to control other things in her life by giving her options that allow her to take ownership of decisions.
I do not want to let G 'over-book' herself like most kids these days. As a family, we will decide what extracurricular activities to take on each year so that a good time balance is found. We will focus on being great at the things we do, rather than spreading ourselves too thin and ending up being mediocre at them all.
I will not put pressure on G to have all A's. Yes, that's ideal, but as long as she is working hard, learning the material, and keeping up with the assignments, we'll be happy.
I must get better at dealing with my own stress. I cannot expect her to handle stress well, if I get worked up over little things. This will be a big challenge for me, but she needs a good example. We will find ways to de-stress that are healthy. Going for walks, listening to music, taking some quiet time, sometimes saying "no" to things that don't have to be done today, and praying are good options.
We will attend mass as a family, and discuss faith matters in our home. We will pray together and talk about those things stressing us out. We will start this at a young age so that good foundations are already set in preparation for the teen years.

I hope G will be critical of media, social media, and her peers interpretation of both.
This one is pretty simple. I don't want her watching junk, but I won't really be able to stop that forever. So the main thing I must do, is teach her to watch TV, surf the web, and listen to the radio with a critical eye/ear. She must know that not everything in the media is true. People lie, airbrushes exist, and most people are just trying to make money & promote their own interests. I want to teach her to be an independent thinker. I will teach her to research topics that interest her. I want her to know who, what, when, where, how. I think this will be a fun job, because of my interest in journalism and investigative knowledge.

G, 6 month professional pictures
Most importantly, I hope G will be happy. She deserves to be happy. Everyone does.

I know I cannot stop her from developing an eating disorder, or even a poor body image, but I can try. I really want the cycle to stop with me. I want to save our daughters.

For other Save Our Daughter blogs, see The Shape of a Mother.
For resources on recovering from an eating disorder, please see the National Eating Disorder Association.


  1. What a great post! Thank you for writing this!! I didn't think about not giving food as a reward. That will be tough for me too. Ice cream kind of lends it self to that idea (at least in my head).

    I totally agree about not over booking our kids! Kids are WAY too busy, but I want my kids to have time to enjoy their childhood and be able to just relax and play outside.

    I also really want to have family dinner every night (or at least almost every night) - another very important idea for several reasons. It's hard to do that when you have soccer / gymnastics / karate / dance 5 days a week!

    I will pass this post on! I'm a new follower by the way!!

    For Love of Cupcakes

  2. Several years ago, I worked at a Mexican restaurant and several of the women (all Mexican immigrants that had lived very hard lives) said that they hoped someday I had a loving husband and many sons. When I questioned them about daughters, they told me how heartbreaking it was to raise girls - how women had much more difficult lives and as a mother, you didn't want to see your children face those difficulties. It made so much sense, and I always thought I would only want boys. Of course, I will love my child no matter what and I will delight in a little girl, but I understand what you mean by wanting a boy because a daughter would have this added societal pressure.

    What great ideas on how to prevent Gianna from developing a negative body image!

  3. Hi, Debs Dealz stopping by to follow you via GFC. I love your site! I would like to invite you to check out by blog as well, and follow me back if you like, and/or like me on Facebook. We have daily blog hops...we would love to have you link up and participate!! We feel the blog hops are great ways to network with other bloggers, increase our followers and meet awesome people! We currently have the Time Out Tuesday Hop available to link up to. Stop on by!! Also, if you exchange buttons let me know!
    Thanks, Debs Dealz

  4. In regards to all of this - the one struggle with raising sons is to ensure to raise a son who sees women as beautiful regardless of their appearance. I think in some ways this might even be harder... Thank you for admitting your true feelings about your baby.
    When I was pregnant the first time - I hoped for a girl. I was hurt by boys as a child, and I was scared that if I had a boy - what if I screwed up, and he turned into a jerk who turned around and hurt other girls... I knew how to comfort a girl, but I didn't know how to keep a boy from saying these things. This time, God gave me a girl. And I struggle with my body image also - I hope she never knows it.


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