A must-read for every mom.
As if parenting wasn't challenging enough, sometimes you actually have to talk to your children. Not only do you have to speak with them, but you want to do it in a way that will have positive and lasting results.
One of my best friends once confided in me about how concerned she was about her daughter's weight. While her daughter was very athletic, she also (like many teens) enjoyed fast food. Both my friend and I had struggled with our weight and body image as teens, and while she grew out of her baby-fat phase, my weight is an issue I still have to deal with.
When I was growing up, my mother constantly had me on diets and she kept very little food in the house. Because I wasn't allowed to have anything that my mother deemed as unhealthy, junk food became almost an obsession for me and grew in importance.
My mother was always watching her weight (even though she didn't have a weight problem) and was constantly working out. She forced me to take tennis and swimming lessons, and made me walk almost everywhere.
Exercise wasn't ever enjoyable; it was just something my mother made me do. It's only recently, after joining a gym and doing a lot of water aerobics, that I've realized how much fun exercise can be.
I told my friend to encourage her daughter to find healthy snacks that she actually liked and that didn't feel like they were some form of punishment. Luckily, her daughter was already into all different kinds of fitness.
How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don't talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.
Don't say anything if she's lost weight. Don't say anything if she's gained weight. If you think your daughter's body looks amazing, don't say that. Here are some things you can say instead:
"You look so healthy!" is a great one.
Or how about, "You're looking so strong."
"I can see how happy you are — you're glowing."
Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body. Don't comment on other women's bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment; not a nice one or a mean one. Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.
Don't you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don't go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don't say, "I'm not eating carbs right now." Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.
Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there's nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that's a good thing sometimes.
Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you'll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn't absolutely in love with.
Prove to your daughter that women don't need men to move their furniture.
Teach your daughter how to cook kale.
Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.
Pass on your own mom's recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.
Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It's easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don't.
Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.
Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.