Here’s Christina Hendricks on her body and her mom:”I guess my mom raised me right. She was very celebratory of her body. I never heard her once say, “I feel fat.” Back when I was modeling, the first time I went to Italy I was having cappuccinos every day, and I gained 15 pounds. And I felt gorgeous! I would take my clothes off in front of the mirror and be like, Oh, I look like a woman. And I felt beautiful, and I never tried to lose it, ’cause I loved it.”
Don’t you hope your daughters will one day say something like that to Health magazine? Or to anyone? Despite being celebrated for her unusually (for television) womanly curves, Hendricks has a fantastic, and clearly healthy body that anyone would envy. But what she has that’s even more enviable is a fantastic and healthy attitude. She eats–or says she eats–like a real person: “It’s OK if I have avocado and olive oil and all these delicious things, you know? I don’t feel guilty about that.” She has her moments of insecurity, and says she remembers every mean comment about her bra cup size. But mostly, she seems supremely comfortable with herself–and even better, she credits her mom for it. Who out there isn’t asking “How can I do that for my daughters?”
As Paula Bernstein wrote about for Babble earlier this year,”distorted attitudes about food and body image are so prevalent, they’re pretty much the norm.” Most celebrities talk a good game, but one look at their picture in a bikini and you can assume they’re not really breakfasting on cupcakes unless they’re barfing them up later. Talk about fat and obesity and diet is rampant, and raising a girl who feels like Hendricks feels nearly impossible.
Unlike Paula, who suffered from an eating order herself, I’m pretty clean myself on food issues–and I give full credit to my mom, who never once demanded that I clean my plate, eat anything I didn’t want to eat or earn a rewarding dessert. Oddly, in my house, it was my dad who dieted–a phenomena that I observed with interest, in the early days of delivered meals, but somehow didn’t take to heart. It helps that I’ve never had issues surrounding my weight, and I know I’m lucky. Both of my daughters look to be lucky in that direction too–but at 4 and 6 years old, I’ve already heard them worry. “If you eat too many Oreos you gon’ get fat!” the youngest declared yesterday. Her sister has made similar comments. Whether they come from school, the babysitter or the playground, I have no idea. All I know is that they didn’t come from me–and they worry me. I don’t want my daughters to suffer from obesity or eating disorders–but I want more than that for them. I want them to be able to eat every food in moderation, and I want them to enjoy it.
I’ve spent too many meals listening to friends excuse their French fries, promise to eat only one bite of dessert or gaze over the menu muttering “oh, I shouldn’t.” I’ve been caught up in it myself, justifying food I’d order anyway when I’m with a dieting friend with comments about how hard I worked out that morning, or how little I’ve eaten all day, and I hate hearing myself do it. It’s our culture, and maybe it is inescapable. But my feeling is that salad and guacamole and Boston Cream Pie all have a place on the menu, and my hope is to teach and model moderation, not obsession. It’s hard to convey which foods are, as Cookie Monster so famously now says, “sometimes foods,” without demonizing (and therefore glorifying) those French fries. After all, too many Oreos will make you fat. I just don’t think it’s something my daughter needs to worry about.
So I took an Oreo myself, and handed her another one, and shrugged, and said so. “You eat plenty of healthy stuff,” I told her. “You don’t need to worry about getting fat.” And then I took a big bite. I’m not sure it’s what Christina Hendricks’ mom would have done, but I felt good about it, for now.
Image from Health Magazine and Brian Bowen Smith.