Speaking negatively about our bodies has been an ingrained method of survival for the last few generations. We’re not thin enough, or not muscly enough, need to shrink the waistline or tone up that bottom.
Not only that, but we are a generation who fears fatness, and as adults, we are passing this unwarranted fear onto our children.
As a mummy to three sons, I’m overtly aware of the messages out there, telling both adults and children that fatness is to be feared and avoided at all costs.
This message was bought into clear light when my 6 year-old came home from school asking what he would need to do to “not get fat” (my heart sank to my boots, but I speak about how to have this discussion with our kids here).
Our western society is so completely consumed with the (apparent) ‘Obesity epidemic’, that we are losing sight of the mental health of our growing children. You see, the more we strive for thinness, the more we will, and are, seeing striking increases in eating disorders and other mental health issues (I’m looking at you anxiety).
Many studies have shown, that while short term, weight loss dieting may be effective, by a five year follow up, most people had regained most of the weight lost (1).
Along side this, this yoyo of weight loss and gain can have some pretty nasty long term effects like hormone imbalance and metabolic alterations which make reaching health more difficult (1).
And while we are so busy trying to lose the weight, which potentially shouldn’t have been lost in the first place, our children are watching on, learning from us.
The stats on children and fat phobia
A few studies conducted (2,3) have shown that children as young as two (this hurts my heart in so many ways) have developed negative attitudes towards fatness as a result of mothers attitudes towards weight loss and negative fat stigma. This fat phobic view, beginning at such a young age, can propel young children, especially girls, to pursue thinness at all costs.
Other studies (4,5) have shown the development of disordered eating as a result of negative body image and pursuit of thinness, and this…. this can cause developmental issues, which have long term implications. Again. Especially in girls.
I guess you could call me one of those girls. And I guess that might be why this subject is so close to my heart. And without asking, I can guarantee that many of you have been, or are in this boat.
So what reasons are there for us to change our body dialogue?
And how do we do it?
End the negative stigma and fear towards bigger bodies.
Start understanding that all bodies of all sizes are normal and acceptable and should be celebrated as such.
Stop the increase of girls pursuing the thin ideal which ultimately leads to self hate and disordered eating practices.
Allowing a space of self-acceptance to gain traction to end our body hate, which could decrease disordered eating, support more healthful behaviours and help us enjoy our bodies (imagine!).
Living in an environment that doesn’t judge a person based on their looks? Wouldn’t that be liberating!!!!
It’s time to change our dialogue and start speaking about our bodies and other peoples bodies in a positive way, and mums of girls, this is particularly crucial for you (see stats above).
Changing the Body Dialogue script
I bet you’re thinking some of this;
“How do I do that when I don’t like myself?”
You don’t need to love yourself to change the script you use toward your body.
When you look in the mirror, instead of judging all your flaws, look at what your body can do!
For all those mummys out there, you have grown humans in that body, so instead of criticizing that bigger tummy or wider thighs, thank those body parts for how well they have carried you and your child. And make positive comments in front of your children!
A few weeks ago, one of my sons said to me “mummy do you have a baby in your belly, because your tummy is big”.
My response was “nope, but I did carry all three of you in this tummy and isn’t it clever…. Its such a lovely tummy!”
Do I actually 100 % believe that dialogue? NO!
Am I starting to believe that dialogue? YES
And was that dialogue affirming to my boys that bodies are perfect just the way they are? YES YES AND YES!
Words are powerful, and using them positively towards your body will help you (yes it will) BUT it will also change your childrens views as well.
Another important point to make, is instead of commenting on your children (and friends) looks, focus on other values, like intelligence, kindness, creativity, and strength.
This is just the tip of the iceburg, so please do join me in ending the cycle of body hate and fat phobia one comment at a time, and continue following this blog space to hear more about how we can embrace our bodies and help our children do the same.
Learn to love your version of you, and be the change our children so desperately need.