I have a beautiful, intelligent, caring, sensitive, perceptive 13 year old daughter. She just finished her first year of high school and thriving. She loves acting, singing and playing waterpolo. As her mom I have taught her a lot over the last thirteen years; how to cross the street, how to ride her bike, how to tie her shoes, table manners, conversation skills…the list goes on and as she continues to grow as she still has a lot to learn.
I have taught her about the benefits of physical activity, exercise and overall fitness. She has also learned about proper nutrition, what food fuels your body and how to make healthy choices. She is a smart kid. All this is easy to learn and if I hadn’t taught her she could read about it in a book. The parts that can’t be taught from a book or studied is where I worry that I will fail her.
At the top of my list of wants and successes for my daughter will be that she has a healthy positive body image and that she is confident and accepting of her body.
That her relationship with food remains a healthy one.
I don’t want my daughter’s happiness to depend on the number on the scale or the size of her jeans. As a women I know that this is easier said than done. In my career as a trainer I have worked with at least 100 women and I can say with certainty that only a very small percentage of my clients have been, in fact, happy with their bodies. Women with seemingly perfect lives have confided in me that the mood and tone to their entire day is based on what number reads on the scale in the morning. Sadly I can relate. Most of my life, starting at about 12 or 13 years, old I have spent too much time focusing on my weight, on what food I ate or how much I had exercised. I counted calories, tried different diets and weighed myself secretly numerous times a day. This is not something I want my daughter to endure as she grows up.
After a few decades of this struggle, my attitude towards my own appearance took a positive turn. I think having my own children and putting my priorities in perspective helped me see what really makes me happy and what matters most in my life. I rarely step on the scale, I now exercise and eat to better my health and fitness. To say that I always feel great and am completely satisfied with my body would be untrue, but I don’t let it dictate my overall happiness.
I know that for my daughter to feel good about her body, she shouldn’t hear me obsess about my own.
I try to pay attention to what I say and do around her. Hearing her mom complain about not feeling ready for the beach or the unwanted muffin top will likely lead to her needing to analyze and critique herself in the same way. My own mother was also very focused on her weight and was never truly happy in her own skin, always striving to lose a few more pounds. So how do I break the cycle? How do I have my daughter not measure her success on her size? How can I help her to feel truly happy with who she is and how she looks?
I have tried in the last few years to make everything about health. I tell her we exercise for our health, we eat balanced meals for our health, we get a good nights sleep for our health. I praise her for all the physical activities she does and tell her how good it is for her. I’ve taught her that women should strive to be strong physically. I’ve taught her that a good motto is “everything in moderation”, that deprivation usually leads to over indulging and that too much of something is not usually a good thing whether it be too much chocolate or too much exercise. I’ve tried to show her that confidence is really the key to being beautiful. She knows that she doesn’t get to choose how tall or short she is, how big her chest will be or even the color of her eyes.
You have to embrace what you’ve been given. Accept who you are and focus on all the positives. That no matter what she weighs, how tall she is or what her waist measures, she is a valuable person.
As a trainer I can show her how to do a proper push-up or squat and will always encourage her to be healthy but as her mom I will continue to reinforce in her how beautiful and intelligent she is and that her self-esteem should be based on everything she is on the inside and not out.