Hope and Despair
Trigger warning: Dieting and weight loss talk.
Two different stories crossed my path recently: one was sent by my sister who knows exactly how to get my back up, and the other I discovered at Offbeat Families. The first I couldn’t bear to read until I’d given myself some space from the title, and the second I dove into right away.
The first is an article by Emma Waverman, who wrote at Embrace the Chaos about a seven-year-old on a self-imposed diet. Seven. years. old. And she thinks that doing push ups and star jumps and running up and down the driveway is important enough that she should make a list and check it off to make sure she does it every day. The mother of this little girl has what looks like a good self-image and a handle on weight and body issues; her daughter just picked up the diet thing from a friend. (Please, stay out of the comments if you don’t have the Sanity Watchers points.) We know that kids as young as three and four are worried about their self-image, and that it leads to higher incidences of eating disorders. So there’s despair.
Thankfully, the second article brought me hope. Offbeat Families most often has excellent articles, and this one really hit home for me. In it, Kelli describes how being the nanny to a three-year-old girl brought her down the road to self-acceptance. It’s a wonderful read and I hope you’ll go over there and enjoy it all. She writes: If we don’t love ourselves, who will? Indeed.
Every time I read about a little boy or girl who thinks they’re not absolutely wonderful just the way they are, my heart breaks a little more. Every time I hear my own son talk about how he’s afraid to become fat, or look at my daughter’s incredibly chubby baby body, I fear for them. The talk about body image and weight shouldn’t start when a parent notices that something is already wrong. Like Kelli, it should begin much earlier, and be a continuous reinforcement both through words and actions.
It’s not often that I get shown in one day, in moments so close together, exactly why I’m doing what I do (blogging, fat activism, feminism) and how to do it best. Leading by example, walking the walk as well as talking the talk, is the best defense I can give my kids, the best resource I can offer to other parents. By not having a scale in the house, by talking positively about my body, by constantly reinforcing the idea that ALL bodies are beautiful in their own way, that fat and thin are neutral things, I’m building a strong foundation for the both of them to lean on as the years go by and the pressure they face about their looks increases. I just hope it’s enough.