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Body Image and Our Children

Random things on my mind during the last week of ‘official’ pregnancy:

1- What if I drop the baby while walking down the stairs?!

2- Is it a boy or a girl?

3- I wonder if the baby will have hair (I was bald for a long, long time).  I also wonder if the baby will be a redhead like my husband (I’m voting for redheadness, the Husband is voting no).

4- Is it a boy or a girl?

5- Do I need to buy a breast pump in advance? Can you buy a used one or is that gross?

6- I really want to go into labor… and then I think about the fact that this baby has to come out of my vagina. Oh my God…

7- Is it a boy or a girl?

8- If it is a boy, what the heck are we going to name him?! We are STILL torn between three names.  Fun fact: The Husband didn’t have a name for the first six weeks of his life.  His parents just called him ‘the baby.’  His mom wanted to name him Joshua, and his dad wanted to name him Kristien.  They couldn’t agree and literally argued about it while standing in line at the registrar’s office (in England, they had six weeks to name; I don’t think they let you leave the hospital in America without a name).  His dad ultimately won the argument.

And last, but not least, here is random thought #8 that’s been on my mind lately… 

First, some background:  In addition to writing Healthy Tipping Point, I have another blog called Operation Beautiful. Operation Beautiful started in June 2009; I was having a really bad day and feeling very down about my job, so I wrote, “You are beautiful” on a sheet of paper and stuck it to a public mirror.  I took a photo of my note and asked my blog readers to participate.  Much to my surprise, they did.  Since I started the movement, I’ve received about 10,000 notes from women and men of all ages from all over the world.  A note has even been posted on the South Pole!  Every day, I post new notes on OperationBeautiful.com that people have left in public places for strangers to find.

Although I posted the first note in a moment of emotional self-doubt, Operation Beautiful has really become about developing a positive body image.  Since I started the site, I’ve written two books about Operation Beautiful, one for adults (Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-It Note at a Time) and an upcoming one for tweens (Operation Beautiful: One Note at a Time).  You can learn more about both books on my Book Page.

Obviously, issues like developing a healthy sense of self-worth and positive body image are very, very important to me.  As I wrote in the first Operation Beautiful book, I struggled a lot with self-esteem issues as a teenager, including depression and cutting.  One of my biggest concerns for my baby is that I want them to grow up happy and confident.  I want to do EVERYTHING in my power to help them see that they deserve respect from others and deserve to feel confident, even if they aren’t ‘perfect’ (and, anyway, our society has a pretty screwed up definition of perfection). And I think a large part of that is having a balanced view of their appearance.

The issue that I’ve been pondering a lot lately is how to set a good example for my baby, regardless of whether baby is a girl or a boy (body image issues are certainly not limited to girls, and even if my boy is confident about his own body, I don’t want him to have a warped view of women).

Of course, I plan to do things that I can, like leading by example, showing them that healthy eating and exercise can be fun, never trash talking other people’s appearances, enjoying ‘treats’ in moderation and not expressing guilt about it, telling them they are wonderful for both inner and outer qualities, and encouraging them to challenge messaging on TV shows and in magazines about beauty. But…. so many of the women that will be involved in the baby’s life talk all the time about their current crazy restrictive diet, how they can’t eat the dessert I made because they need to lose weight, how horrible they are going to look in a bathing suit this weekend, etc.  The negative self-talk is extremely pervasive.  It always makes me so uncomfortable, and I never know what to say back…

To read about my plans for positively influencing my child’s body image, as well over 200 wonderful comments from readers on how their parents impacted their own views, head over to Healthy Tipping Point.

Read more from Caitlin on Healthy Tipping Point and Operation Beautiful.  Follow all her Babble posts here!

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