Should We Take a Cue from Michelle Obama and De-Emphasize Weight with Kids?Bethany Sanders
In a recent interview with Ladies Home Journal, Michelle Obama said that she never talks about weight — hers or theirs — with her daughters, Sasha, nine, and Malia, 12.
“Well, I never talk about weight with my girls. I try not to even talk about my weight. Because you’re right, it is a sensitive issue. My girls are preteens and they’re seeing their bodies in a whole different way. We have conversations around health, food, and activity. I tell them sports are something I want them to engage in because it’s good for them. It’s good to practice teamwork, to understand what it means to suffer a loss, to win with grace. It has nothing to do with weight, it has everything to do with being a well-rounded person.”
Her comments are refreshing turnaround from those she and President Obama made earlier this year during the launch of her Let’s Move campaign. Then, President Obama was remembering when Malia was getting “a little chubby” and Michelle Obama talked about changes in her family’s eating habits after their pediatrician suggested the girls’ were gaining too much weight. Both the President and the First Lady caught a lot of flack for being so openly honest about their girls’ bodies.
Unlike the First Dad, Michelle Obama seems to be a little more sensitive about what it means to be a girl growing up in America today, where you can’t even be a four-year-old in a pair of swimming trunks without the entire country going into cardiac arrest.
Like Obama, I’ve never discussed weight as something that can be good or bad with my girls either. They’ve never heard me call myself fat or disparage any part of my body. I’ve even cheerfully tried on swim suits with them watching on (even if inside I was vowing to do 1,000 situps a day from that moment on.) We have frequent conversations about healthy choices, about staying active, and about how taking care of our bodies is a form of self-loving. But we also talk, too, about how people’s bodies are just different — size included.
Avoiding body image issues in today’s America isn’t easy for pre-teen and teen girls, but my hope is that by de-emphasizing it at home, we can help our girls build enough confidence to fend off those unhealthy messages as they get older.
Do you discuss weight with your kids?
Photo: Alex Johnson, Flickr