Building a better body image with our daughters.

Instilling a positive sense of self is one of the lasting gifts we can give our children.

Brenda Janschek - building a better body image with our daughters

A large part of that in modern society relates to body image – helping our little girls feel confident and worthwhile in their own skin. Women always seem to be under pressure to look their best, and quite often the ideal presented by airbrushed magazine models is potentially dangerous to how we view ourselves (and our heath). Our girls need to know the reality.

From a very young age girls are exposed to music videos, fashion magazines, Barbie dolls, advertising and TV shows that focus on appearance. The ideal image the media bombards us with is the skinny supermodel or actress, who’s image has most likely been manipulated to within an inch of it’s life. My fear is that this creates the unnecessary expectation of body image, setting them up for disappointment, low self-esteem, or even depression and eating disorders. In other words, failure by someone else’s rules.

But make no mistake, we are our little girls most important role models. They are listening when we talk about our (and other’s) bodies. They notice when we diet and how often we do so,  and this will become their reality too…

Our daughters need to know that true beauty lies within, and that they are respected and loved by their family and friends for who they are, not how they look.

Yasi nippers for body image post

My mother was very focused on her appearance, and knew that Dad liked his women skinny. I don’t recall specific negative self-talk about her body, but she seemed to be perpetually on a diet and certainly appearance was a hot topic on everyone’s lips at get-togethers. It’s a habit even amongst my own peer groups today, to the point where it’s almost a ‘conversation-padder’ like the weather. It wasn’t long before I was on the Weight Watchers bandwagon, beginning the diet merry-go-round which included diet pills at one point as appetite suppressors.

In my own home we don’t talk about our bodies in context of weight or shape. Rather, our bodies are strong, flexible or fit, and we like to explain how ‘moving our bodies’ makes us feel healthy and happy. It’s all about body function in our household, and proper nutrition and exercise takes care of that. We also don’t keep any scales, fashion magazines, watch video clips or the like around the house. However, Amercian sit coms are worryingly entering our zone, so it’s time to be vigilant!

As much as I try to protect my own daughter from this sort of exposure, this is the real world. The best I can do is to instill the values that I think will build a resilient woman who is confident and happy in herself.

Some tips:

– communication is crucial- explain how photos are manipulated, and why

– avoid emotive descriptions such as ‘fat’ or ‘thin’ and emphasise the benefits of a nutritious diet and exercise regimen for positive well being

– teach our girls to appreciate what our bodies can do, not just how they look

– focus on other factors other than appearance – effort, skill, positive personality traits and achievements

– draw attention to inspiring role models

– explain how sports and exercise clear the mind, and reduce stress and anxiety and highlight the good feelings produced after exercise and when eating a
nutritious diet

– explain how sport and recreation connects you with nature (surfing, rock climbing), or how Nippers (surf life saving) gives you confidence and skills, while connecting you to your community

Above all, I want to be a positive role model for my daughter, and I am in the best place to do it! My 8yr old knows I am passionate about healthy food and exercise, but she doesn’t even imagine it is born of wanting my body to look a certain way. She knows it’s because I want to feel a certain way – healthy!

I have worked hard throughout life on acceptance and self love, and finally in my 40’s I have not dieted in years! It’s funny in a way that the process of eating properly gives you the results that dieters search for, the difference being that one is sustainable as a way of life, and the other is temporary.

I am healthy and happy, and I hope that’s how my daughter will be, not just in her 40’s, but from today onward.

Bren x

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Your thoughts on this post

10 Comments   

  1. Nicola

    I LOVE this been everyone needs to read it. I had such food issues and body consciousness growing up but when you are eating real food and believe in nourishment first and foremost life really changes xx

    • Brenda Janschek

      I think we’d be hard pressed to find many women without food issues and negative body image. There seems to be so little awareness around this subject from women and mothers. It seems to be a deeply embedded part of the culture of being a woman to live with these issues, that nobody considers questioning why it is this way. Let alone what we can do about it. Thanks for your comment. x

  2. Jennie

    Love your words and inspiration here Bren! Thank you!!! Such an important message for all of our community <3

    • Brenda Janschek

      Thank for stopping by Jennie. If we can start to make these changes in our homes, with ourselves and our children then it’s a start!

  3. Kirri @Kirri White Coaching

    As an eating disorder survivor and a mamma to three young girls, this is a topic that is close to my heart as well Bren. It’s a complex issue though isn’t it?

    I like the way you focus on body ‘function’ over form and just plain healthy living.

    My dad always liked his women voluptuous (chubby even) and as one of three girls, he was always trying to ‘fatten us up.

    • Brenda Janschek

      Yup, and it seeds for negative self-image are sown at such an impressionable age. We can change it!

  4. Monique (The Nourished Psychologist)

    Well said Bren! I couldn’t agree more.
    We also value healthy, strong bodies in our house as well as other attributes such as intelligence, kindness, caring and helpfulness. We talk about food that is healthy for our body and that makes our minds and bodies feel good.
    This kind of talk and attitude is helpful for boys too!
    xx

    • Brenda Janschek

      Great to hear that Monique! Now that I’ve scratched the itch that is this post, my attention is turning to boys. The feedback I have received about boys and their body image has been very interesting. Thannks so much for sharing. x

  5. Jedha @Good Food Eating

    Great post Brenda! I agree, body image is so important to happiness. I’m glad to say my 20 year old daughter has a healthy body image and we definitely play a direct part in their experience. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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