***Warning: This is one of the most soul-baring things I have ever written.***
Like many women (and men), I have spent decades fighting a negative body image. I think I was in 7th grade the first time I looked down on the school bus and noticed that my thighs looked wider while plastered against the faux leather seats. I spent the rest of my bus-riding days trying to prop my feet off the bus floor so that my legs would look thinner. In high school, I refused to eat breakfast or lunch because I wanted to be thinner, then overate in the evening because I was starving. In college, I quickly caved into the freedom and gained more than the “freshman 15.”
As a 20-something woman I finally learned to strike the right balance of eating right and exercising. Then I found out I was pregnant with a girl. Fear of eating disorders nearly paralyzed me. One of first thoughts was “how can I prevent passing on my own insecurities?”
So from the time Olivia was born, I refused to comment on weight, focusing instead on “healthy” vs. “unhealthy.” The word “diet” was banned. Family and friends were told the use of the f-word would not be tolerated around us (“fat” is the word I was most concerned about.) My nearly 7 year old still will refuse to say the word “fat” when reading out loud in a book. I’m glad she knows it is typically derogatory and judgmental and hurtful.
I know I’m not alone in fighting the cultural pressures that many people of both genders feel when it comes to weight. Now I am wondering – have we gone too far?
Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed a study that reveals many overweight kids don’t seem to see themselves that way. More than three quarters of overweight young people and more than 40 percent of obese kids didn’t realize they have a weight problem. And if you don’t see yourself as having a weight issue it may be hard to change to more healthy behaviors, according to the report.
As for me, I am trying to live the life I want my kids to lead – including eating well, limiting sugar and salt, and exercising. But today’s report certainly makes me take a closer look at how I’m addressing the situation.
Do you think the “body image” pendulum has swung too far and we need to be more upfront with our kids about weight? Or do we need to keep nurturing kids to be confident and deal with any lasting body-image consequences later in life?