What do moms teach our daughters about weight, bodies and being female? Just about everything. In a moving essay in the weekend’s New York Times, Peggy Orenstein writes about her struggles with weight, body image and womanhood. Struggles she’s determined not to pass on to her own daughters.
Our renewed cultural focus on health, nutrition and exercise for kids might mean better health and slimmer waistlines for a lot of children. But for our daughters, there’s a dark side to all this attention on their weight. They’re being taught younger than ever, and from more directions than usual, that being thin is a reflection of your worth as a person.
There’s also a cross to bear for moms. Having a fat kid, especially a fat girl, is increasingly a sign of cultural failure. You need to educate yourself, the message goes. You need to water down their juice. You need to model healthy choices. Bottom line: if your daughter is fat, it’s somehow your fault.
I have two daughters, one thin as a beanpole and the other round as a melon. The round one is only two, and I have no doubt that when she grows up she’ll be as slender as her sister. They come from a family of skinny genes. I don’t worry about their weight any more than I worry about my own, which is basically not at all.
I do worry about passing on healthy life habits, though. I try to model eating healthy foods, and have pretty strict rules about what comes into our house. I’m totally one of Those Mothers. The ones who serve organic sugar-free carrot cake at a birthday party.
I make a point of exercising with my kids and in front of them. Unlike Ms. Orenstein, I don’t exercise because it feels good. I exercise because it helps me keep my moods stable and I want my body to be strong and energized. I kind of hate the actual exercising part. Often what motivates me to get out and do it is the thought of my girls’ watching. I want them to see exercise as a normal part of every day, like brushing your teeth. Maybe you don’t love it, but you do it.
How do you communicate with your girls about bodies, weight and being a girl? What do you teach them about food and exercise?
Photo: Ed Yourdon
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