For as long as I can remember I have been fighting a battle with my body. To some that know me this might seem strange because I’m not exactly over weight. I am a size 10, an 8 on a very good day, I know that’s not big but staying that size is not something that comes naturally. I am just very good at dieting, my weight fluctuates by about 10lbs, I know this because I am an habitual visitor of the scales. I watch the scales, I wait and then as soon as the numbers start to creep up it starts again. When I put my mind to it, I am a gold medalist at dieting and maybe that’s what keeps me going back to it. I was a bit of a chubby kid at times not fat really, just a little bit chubby. It comes from a huge love of food. There is very little I dislike and that means the choice is endless and I wouldn’t change that for the world. As soon as I’ve finished a meal I am planning the next one and I adore eating out at restaurants, trying new things.
When I turned 16 I started to become more aware of my figure and compare it to those around me and that was the beginning of the end. The end of eating without any sense of guilt. I went to an all girls school so it was hard not to compare yourself to every single girl there and I felt that I was one of the larger girls and it bothered me. That is when the cycle of yoyo dieting began. Low fat alternatives, skipping meals, slim fast, weight watchers, slimming world, diet patches, laxatives and the list goes on. Getting on the scales every day, my mood being ruled by the numbers on the scales. If I could talk to my 18-year-old self I would say ‘you have the best figure of your life right now, enjoy it and stop worrying’.
Until I had a daughter I had been very selfish in my desire to be an unattainable size. However, since having her I’ve been forced to look at how my feelings towards my body image and what I do because of those feelings, could affect my little girl.
How do I bring her up to love the skin she’s in when I can’t do the same myself?
While we know that both mothers and fathers have a massive influence on daughters and sons, it seems that good relationships between mothers and daughters are especially important in helping girls grow up with good eating habits, self-esteem, and a positive body image. Researchers have claimed that mothers who diet are almost twice as likely to have daughters who suffer from an eating disorder. The idea that I could be damaging my daughter breaks my heart. I can try to teach her to love herself but if she sees me constantly punishing myself its bound have an effect on her. Right now she is a wonderful eater, ‘I am still hungry mummy’ is something I hear very often. She loves fruit and veg, will try new food (although she has a habit of just spitting it out if she doesn’t like it). She loves going out to restaurants, just like her mother. She is still at that blissful stage way before the guilt sets in. How do I keep that going because it’s very hard to get back to that stage once you leave it.
I don’t want to be one of those ‘do as I say not as I do’ parents, I know I need to lead by example. It’s so easy to blame the media, stick-thin celebrities and the fashion industry and of course they have a role to play in it but I think most of us need to start by looking much closer to home.
A study published in the Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that teenage girls’ desire to be thin or lose weight was based at least in part on their perception of what their mothers wanted for them. Looking back, growing up I had a mother who was often on some fad diet or another, she was never happy with the way she looked and really lacked in confidence. Such a shame when everyone always has and always will think of her as being an amazing woman. She never ever encouraged me to diet or commented on my eating but I guess without me realising, her feelings towards herself affected me. She didn’t know that what she was doing could affect me but if I don’t change, knowing full well my influence on my daughter, well that makes me a bad parent.
I watch my daughter try on my high heels, pretend to put make up on and copy things I say, so it stands to reason that she will also try on my behaviour and most importantly my relationship with food. It is critical that the environment our children grow up in is nurturing and accepting. Children need parents that make them feel loved and accepted whatever size they are but they also need to show their children that they love and respect themselves. The emphasis should be on keeping active, walking as much as possible and running around exploring.
I’ve found it so hard to finish this post, because while I think I know the answers it’s putting them into practice that’s the hard bit. I must love my body, build a healthy relationship between me and food and in helping myself, I will help my daughter. I will ensure that my children are active (and when they’re active so am I). I know all this but can I do it? Am I strong enough? Yes I believe I am!