I have 3 beautiful girls. They are my best achievements in my life. As a parent, one of the biggest worries I have is making sure they grow up to have healthy body images. It's tough, as outside influences can sneak in through television, billboards, magazines, friends, books, etc.
We've always had some rules in our house that might seem a bit odd to other families. I feel for us, they were the right rules. One is that I'm never modest about my body with them. I don't shy away if they walk in on me in the bathroom. I never want them to think I'm ashamed of my body. I've answered their questions as honestly as possible. "Mommy, what are those lines and why is your stomach so lose?" and others. I don't get defensive and I let them know that they can always come to me with those questions.
So in the early stages of my changes I wanted to have some conversations with them about these things and I wanted to make sure that I handled it delicately. Here are some phrases that I never ever use at all:
"I'm too fat"
"I need to lose weight"
"I can't eat that, it's too fattening" (or insert any other word like sugar, 'bad for me', etc)
"I hate the way I look"
"this outfit makes me look fat"
Or pretty much any other thing that was self-deprecating. When I fielded questions about things I explained in a way that focused on what was healthy versus what isn't. I also focused on the idea that there are things that aren't healthy, that doesn't mean we can't ever eat them. It only means that we should not eat them everyday. There were exceptions to this, I explained, that I was going to follow for me. One being NO soda. The other was to cut out refined sweeteners, weaning down what we already had in our house and replacing them with natural versions. I also explained what it means to be a refined sweetener and processed food vs. a whole or clean food.
On the flip side, I often talk about feeling healthy and having energy and then silly things like feeling pretty.
"I feel great today!"
"I love that I had a healthy breakfast this morning, it makes me feel ready to tackle the day"
"Mommy feels really pretty in this sweater"
and sometimes teasingly
"Doesn't this apron make mommy look beautiful?"
I feel like taking the focus OFF the actual weight is the best thing in the long run. I have heard young girls as young as 6 or 7 making comments about mayo being too fattening and needing to be thin and it just breaks my heart.
Of course we have had some challenges. "Mommy, why are your pants so baggy"..
In that case, I explain that in my quest to be healthier with the foods I chose and the exercise I do, my body is changing as it lets go of some of the fat I don't need anymore; that I HAVE fat, but I am NOT fat. As I gain muscle from exercising, I am getting healthier and that muscle is healthier, but smaller. That has been more awkward to explain in a way that makes it sound like a 'healthy side effect'. So far though, they seem to get it. It helps that they seem to learn a lot about their bodies at school. So for example, they were both fully supportive of my accomplishments when I gave up soda because they had heard at school just how bad it is and how full of refined sugar it is.
I also make sure that I praise their healthy choices as well. When they chose to join me for walks, or chose fruit for a snack. Of course, I let them know that it's ok to have a treat sometimes as long as it's in small amounts every now and then. This is of course just the tip of the iceberg when raising healthy kids. I feel like I'm making a good start though.
The best part is that I have the greatest cheerleaders! I know that will enable me to be their biggest cheerleader in life also.