For years I pinched every part of my body that I could get even a pea size grasp on. Was there extra weight on my hips, my thighs, or the back of my arms? I obsessed over every bite that went into my mouth and constantly thought about the food that I wanted so bad, but refused to consume. When I found out I was pregnant with my first child at the age of twenty-eight, I was just beginning to really get comfortable with my body and food of all kinds.
As my body went through the myriad of changes that occur when you are pregnant there was one thought that kept me on track – I will not let my eating disorder affect my child. As a recovering anorexic and exercise addict I feared that I would unconsciously pass on some of these unhealthy habits. Four years later and expecting my second child I think we have done a pretty good job of teaching our daughter healthy habits and acceptance.
So, when I recently found my four-year-old daughter sitting in the middle of her bedroom floor with her shirt lifted and pinching her belly, I had to take a step back and breath before approaching the situation. After asking her why she was doing it I was sickened to hear that she was copying an image she saw on a billboard we had passed on the way home from the grocery store.
I instantly knew what billboard she was talking about — an ad for CoolSculpting body shaping that I had often found myself evaluating. A woman shown bare skinned from the rib cage down pinching at a slight bulge on her waist. A woman who honestly looks like she is at a healthy weight and had to really work to grab that little flap of mostly skin.
But, how to get a four-year-old to understand we don’t judge our bodies in that way and certainly not by comparing it to other people? Would you pinch a friend like that? No, well we shouldn’t treat our own bodies that way either. Think of your body as your closest friend, someone you care about and want to keep around for a very long time.
I may not be able to change the way brands present their messages and get people to pick apart each little part of their body, but I can help my daughter accept every muscle, bump, and curve of her own and love everything that her amazing little body is capable of.
I can praise her for her accomplishments and not what she looks like. When I see an example of a body positive woman in an ad I can be sure to point it out to her. And most of all, I can love my own body and let her see that acceptance and appreciation on a daily basis as I look in the mirror, as I enjoy my workout because it makes me feel strong, and as I hold my head high and work towards the things that are important to me on a creative, professional, and personal level. I can let her know that her body will change throughout her life, but it will always be hers and what she does with it is much more important than how it compares to the artificial image on a roadside billboard.