healthy body image - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 23 Old 12-30-2001, 04:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This is an off shoot of the Barbie thread....

What do you think are the best ways to help our DDs grow up with a healthy body image? I like to take my DDs to girls sports. I think watching a little bit of highschool track, valleyball, etc. is good for them and gives them a different image than they usually see. Neither my DH or I are the least bit atheltic, but we want our DDs to be involved in sports. I've read that girls who are have better body images.

What other kinds of things do you think help?
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#2 of 23 Old 12-30-2001, 06:11 AM
 
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I agree with sports. I also got my daughter started on riding lessons (which she sort of gave up, but she is still young and I dont want to push), and now she has a bicycle.

I also try not to make food an issue, and I pretty much give her free rein in what she wants to wear. I think this helps because she learns to make decisions about her body and how it looks.

I also make sure I compliment her brains as well as how good she looks or something like that. . .make sure she knows she is seen as a whole person.
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#3 of 23 Old 12-30-2001, 10:23 AM
 
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Let food be food, not a reward or a punishment. I really believe that if we get over our guilt feelings about eating, obesity wouldn't be such a huge problem in this country. (I realize there are many other factors contributing to obesity--mainly our dependence on cars.)

Don't talk about certain foods making you fat, even if you're not specifically warning your dd, she'll hear you and start to worry.

Don't fuss about your own weight in front of your children. This is something I really struggle with. I became chubby at the age of 15 and my father was always harping on me about it. I played a sport in college and lost the weight, but I still cringe if he makes any comments related to my appearance, even compliments.

If you notice that your daughter has become somewhat overweight, you don't need to point it out to her. She knows, believe me!

Encourage an active life, starting in early childhood, before they start to feel self-conscious. We often walk places rather than drive, which I'm hoping will teach my children that they don't need to be conveyed everywhere in a car.
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#4 of 23 Old 12-30-2001, 10:44 AM
 
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I agree, be careful the attitude you project about "being fat" If you are always dieting, or saying stuff like"These pants make me look fat" they really do pick up on that.
Setting a good example to me is the best way to go. If they see you eatung healthy foods, enjoying activities like biking or tennis, etc. and feeling comfortable in your own skin this says volumes more than any"talking" you do .

peggy
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#5 of 23 Old 12-30-2001, 01:05 PM
 
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Let your kids go outside a lot and talk about eating right. I grew up with a very good body image that has carried over into adulthood. Even when I was sort of heavy I still felt like I looked good. And I played with Barbies....

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#6 of 23 Old 12-30-2001, 01:38 PM
 
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I think the most important thing we can do to foster a healthy self image in our children (boys and girls), is to love ourselves. To love and accept our body for what it is and treat it with kindness.
I never diet and I never talk about dieting although I am several pounds above my healthiest weight. If I want to take a long walk it's because I want to be healthy, not thin. Although getting thinner is an added bonus because I feel better when I am a little lighter than I currently am. I never ask anyone if I look fat. I don't talk about my daughter's body at all. Unless I am telling her how flexible she is or how strong or beautiful. (Note, I am not equating beauty with thinness. I think the human body is beautiful.)
I do not talk about actors being thin, unless they look unhealthy and then I am likely to be saying that they could gain a few punds. I make a point of showing people that I find beutiful that are not stereotypically beautiful.
A trip to an art museum is a great way to showcase beauties of all shapes and sizes. Renoir's Bathers have folds in their tummies and are quite gorgeous!
I try to limit the main stream toys she plays with. And if I am not allowing something, I explain WHY. I explain why I find Barbie dolls offensive. I show her what is wrong with Barbies body and how she would topple over if she were real.
I encouraged her to take gymnastic lessons. I will continue encouraging them as long as she is having fun with them. If ever a day comes when a coach tries to tell her that she should be thinner to be a good gymnast then he will have me to reckon with.
She also plays softball. I encourage her to have fun with it, I never make it seem competitive.
If I get a bat and glove for my eight year old brother, she gets one too. And no Barbie ball and bat. A regular one, the same I would get any ball player.
I expect her to be able to do anything my Brother does. I treat them the same when it comes to sports.
I am careful. I have to be. I don't think we can underestimate how much we have been influenced through the years by society. I think before I speak. I think about and censor what my daughter views on TV.
And always we talk, talk, talk. About everything.

~Jennifer
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#7 of 23 Old 12-30-2001, 04:12 PM
 
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I think one major thing is not having TV and not watching the teeny-bopper movies. We don't have TV but I have watched some of the movies and even I walk away from them feeling like crap about my body. I know my 14 y/o SIL is the same. How can you constantly be bombarded with all the images of these "perfect" girls and NOT feel bad about yourself? I think you can encourage all you want but if they are at the same time seeing these images as the way to be then it will not help.

Shawna, married to Michael, mommy to Elijah 1/18/01, Olivia 11/9/02, and Eliana 1/22/06
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#8 of 23 Old 12-30-2001, 04:16 PM
 
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Something I've noticed in my work with women with eating dissorders is that they compare how they want to look with the stereotype of women, I know that isn't big news!!! But what I took from it is that it is useful for girls and women to notice what their genetic link to other women in their family is, and to get an idea of what they might look like from that. I talk about being born with a 'height potential' and also a 'body size' potential. If our relationship with food is troublesome then our body size can be altered, large or small, but essentialy our body will go for where it is genetically programed. The problem for most of us is that it is probably not the fashionable size, and that is the bit many women find hard to live with.
So! talking about how the women in our family can be might be useful. The women in my family are powerful, strong- and about a foot to short to be in fashion Conversations about why follow fashion are useful too
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#9 of 23 Old 01-05-2002, 04:58 PM
 
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My mother is a wonderful woman and was a great mom. She taught me to be independent and self-assured, and all that girl power stuff.

BUT - she often commented on her weight or was on some sort of a diet. She cautioned me that certain clothes made my butt look big, etc., from the time I was 12 or 13 (and I was NOT fat). My father even made comments about how I shouldn't eat so many cookies if I didn't want to get chunky, etc.

I spent my teen years being very athletic and weighing less than 120 pounds. Looking back now, I was in terrific shape and looked fabulous, yet I always thought I would look okay if I could be just a little thinner. I always felt a bit chunkier than I'd like. I was never happy with the fact that I am only 5'3" and have a naturally curvy figure (or as my mom would term it, a "big butt").

I still struggle with this some, but since birthing my child, I have a much more positive body image. It's finally occurring to me what my body (breasts, hips, etc.) is for, and it is NOT for show. I still sometimes wish I were perfectly thin and fit, but I do feel good about my body the vast majority of the time.

I hope to avoid any such repeats with my daughter. I think telling a child she shouldn't eat too many cookies because it isn't healthy is fine, or encouraging her to exercise and participate in sports because she will be healthier and feel happier and more fit. Or even saying that the style of an outfit doesn't really suit a teenager who wants to look nice, and helping them find an outfit that does look really good on them. I hope I can always remember to approach things in terms of health and well-being, rather than conveying society's misplaced sense of "beauty" and unnatural thinness.

Carol
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#10 of 23 Old 01-05-2002, 10:13 PM
 
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Well, I am going to come at this from a different perspective. First of all, I have never struggled with my weight. I eat a healthy diet. I exercise daily. I don't talk about weight. But I have a 17 yo dd that is heavy. She is over 50 lbs. above what would be considered a normal weight for her height. She has always been on the chubby side but did not become really overweight until she was 13. I have never been able to get her to eat healthy food. She eats way too many carbs (pasta, bread) and not enough veggies or fruits. She gags easily and hates the texture of a lot of foods (particularly veggies). She has had a role model (me) who has encouraged activity and healthful eating from the start as well as someone who rarely watches TV.

I tried the sports route with her (I've always been an athlete), but she just wasn't interested. More interested in writing, reading and her music (she is a great tenor sax player).

She does have a fairly good body image, though, even though she is heavy. I just wish she wouldn't try to dress like she is skinny! We go round and round about what clothes she chooses to wear! She is very well-endowed and likes those skimpy tank tops.

I accept her as she is but I know she needs to lose weight for health reasons. I have tried so many times to help her but it just has to be her committment to be healthy that will finally make it work.

I just told her about an Oprah show this last week with a man who wrote a book called, Get With the Program. Its not a diet. She did check out the Oprah website and asked me if I would buy her the book. She also has worked out every other day since Jan. 1. I hope she will decide to change her eating habits, too.

You can model good eating habits, healthful living all you want, but sometimes, it just doesn't work out the way you think with your children.
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#11 of 23 Old 01-06-2002, 01:42 AM
 
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I think that limiting mainstream media images is extrememly important to a healthy body image. I absolutely DO NOT buy mainstream magazines anymore. Even ones that are supposed to be about home decorating and stuff still seem to sneak in things like the latest diet. Looking at these magazines is depressing and shows unrealistic body images. I also watch little to no TV (although that comes and goes).

Definitely agree with encouraging a healthy/active lifestyle, and with not talking about your own weight in front of your daughter.


Jenoline

PS This might be a new thread, but have any of you read Reviving Ophelia? Have not read it myslef, but it was strongly recommended to me. It's about raising girls and self esteem issues (I think...something like that).
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#12 of 23 Old 01-06-2002, 03:05 PM
 
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I don't have any daughters, and I don't know if I'll ever have any, but I'd like to address this issue from a different point of view. You all have been saying that you have very healthy body images, even though some of you are overweight. I have been trying for years to improve my image of myself, but it's so hard for me. I've been bulimic for about 5 years off and on. I thought that once I had a baby I would feel better, but now that he's a year old and I'm beginning to wean him I've found myself eating as much as I can and then vomitiing it up. I've lost all of my pregnancy weight and then some, but all I can think about is getting down to that size 0. I know that a lot of you say that big is beautiful, but I find fat utterly disgusting and a sign of weakness, not to offend anyone because I'm fine with other people being fat, but not myself. I finally told my husband and he said that if I don't stop throwing up my food, I'll have to wean my son right away and go on birth control so that I don't get pregnant. I didn't throw up while I was pregnant last time, except when I was sick, but my bulimia has gotten a lot worse since Thanksgiving when my brother and dad made fun of me for being fat.

I really don't think it's possible for you to shield your daughters from eating disorders because you can get rid of the TV and magazines, Barbies, etc, but unless you keep them locked up in the house all day long, they will see other girls, popular girls, gorgeous girls who weigh 100 lbs. and somehow society will tell them that skinny is ideal. I'm very athletic, but I still find myself throwing up my food...
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#13 of 23 Old 01-06-2002, 06:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Amy W,

I don't know any thing about eating disorders, but I think what you need to throw up is your dad and your brother. WHAT PIGS! I can't help but wonder if part of the problem is having PIGS for family members, and having had to grow up listening to them.

Linda
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#14 of 23 Old 01-07-2002, 08:53 PM
 
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Yeah, that could be part of it. Not to mention my mom and dad have been on different diets for as long as I can remember and they used to MAKE us exercise and keep track of our progress and heart rates, etc and if we didn't improve we'd be grounded. Oh yeah, and hearing about what big hips I have my whole life could be part of my problem. Sorry, had to vent. I guess they thought that what they were doing was for our benefit, but it wasn't. So, I think that instead of worrying about Barbies giving girls bad body images, parents, especially mothers, should worry about what messages they're sending through their own actions and words.
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#15 of 23 Old 01-07-2002, 11:11 PM
 
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This is a major concern of mine! Here are my strategies for now and the future:

Let her control her own eating

Give her lots of physical affection

Make sure she participates in some kind of athletic activity, so she appreciates what her body can do, not just how it looks

Never criticize my own body in front of her

Point out the beauty in all women, i.e., "Shawna has the most beautiful laugh!"

Steer her towards media images of healthy girls, and away from pop culture crap that makes appearance and attractiveness to boys the most important thing

When she does encounter stereotypes (she's already discovered barbie, yikes!), discuss them ("I don't know any real women with such a tiny waist, do you?")

Celebrate her first period! I've been reading about these ceremonies, and they are just beautiful!!!!

Lots of these ideas came from my head but many are from a book called "Growing A Girl" by Barbara Mackoff. Highly recommended reading for parents of girls!

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#16 of 23 Old 01-08-2002, 01:33 AM
 
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I cannot add a whole lot more to what she said, but I am never at a loss for words, and so I will.

It is important to emphasize healthy eating and physical activity, but you also need to realize that not all people are interested in sports (I never was) and that you can be overweight & still healthy.

When I was sixteen, because I lived within a few miles of school, I walked to & from school every day. I also hiked over a pretty large campus, and because I was paranoid about getting to class on time, I walked quickly. With all this exercise, and good eating habits, I weighed 160. "Ideal" weight for my height is between 124 (according to most height/weight charts) & 140 (according to Navy standards, which I know about through Bobby). So at best, I was 20 pounds overweight.

Right now, I'm 244. Part of this is baby, yes. But I also have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Shortly before I was diagnosed with this, I weighed about 200 pounds, perhaps 220. By the time I got pregnant, I weighed 252 pounds. PCOS makes you gain weight. I also have had a weak back my whole life, which prevents me from exercising as much as I would like. But...I proved to myself today from necessity that I can still walk three miles. I am still healthy enough to do what I did sixty pounds ago. My back hurt like hell at the end of the walk, but then, when I was 16 I often had the same problem.

So when I hear people assigning obesity to eating, it makes me angry. Anyone who knows me can tell you I don't eat a lot. So the media & "healthcare industry" telling me that if I simply ate less & exercised more I'd lose weight really pisses me off. It is simply not true for me, and every single woman I know who is significantly overweight is overweight for a medical cause & not from stuffing her face.

That said, I have an excellent body image. I always have. I intend to emphasize to my daughter(s) the same things I thought of as a child. God made my body the way He wanted it. The human body is a miracle, the fact that everything links together and does what I want it to is a fact which has always held me in awe. I've got a cousin who's a size two on a good day, and she's healthy & beautiful. I've got a cousin who's a size 18, & she's healthy & beautiful. The best thing I can possibly do is to have my children around beautiful, healthy women of a variety of sizes. I will also give her early on an interest in nature & the outdoors, as I was given, because I have found hiking to be wonderful exercise, and the solitude fits my personality just fine. I will continue to remark (as I do now to my husband) in supermarkets the idiocy of magazines like Woman's Day, which either have a huge picture of a chocolate cake and a bright headline on their latest diet, or a picture of a woman who's just lost 50 pounds (& more often than not is still ugly, but that's another subject ) and a bright headline about desserts to make for your family.

Sabra: Mama to Bobbie (3/02), Linda (1/04), Esther (10/05), Marie (11/10), & Douglas (11/12)

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#17 of 23 Old 01-08-2002, 01:04 PM
 
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I don't have daughters, but have 2 sons, and think that a healthy body image is just as important in boys as it is in girls.

We start the day everyday with a great big hug, and we always exclaim "I LOOOOOVE MYSELF!" (if you've ever heard the Raspberry Jamboree book on tape, it's to be said like they say Razzamatazberry!)

I think that loving yourself NO MATTER WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE is THE most important step in a healthy body image. Knowing that it's okay to love yourself if you're 10 lbs underweight for your body (as my son naturally is) or 10 or 20 or 30 lbs OVERweight. To love yourself UNCONDITIONALLY and not fretting about your outside appearance, bc IT IS ALWAYS PERFECT FOR YOU!

Other than that, I just talk about how beautfiul EVERYBODY is, or how NICE everybody is, or how SPECIAL everybody is that we see or meet. By my directely saying positive things about heavier people, handicapped people, colored people, blond people, freckled people, people wiith glasses, people in wheel chairs (and on and on and on) my children absorb that information and retain it for later in live to know that NO MATTER WHAT, EVERYBODY IS PERFECT!!!

Who knew how important our own views of the world would be in raising children, huh?

Love,
Emily

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#18 of 23 Old 01-08-2002, 01:22 PM
 
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That's a good point Sabra made about not everybody being interested in sports. I hated sports as a child. My Mother signed me up for dancing lessons and the first day I went there, I wouldn't even walk through the door. I was terribly shy. I hated gym class all through all of my years of school. I hated organized sports and games, still do.
All that is true, but when I look back on it there were some things that I did like. I loved to walk. I used to walk miles with my (young) Grandmother and never complain at all. Same thing with bike riding, I loved it and could go for miles and miles.
So while I was not into typical childhood sports, there were physical activities that did bring me joy and made me feel good.
I think the important thing to do is find something that you love and run with it. Walking, skipping, jumping rope, hopping on a pogo stick, whatever.
Just so happens that my daughter is very athletic and loves so many different things which makes encouraging her to be physically fit very easy.

~Jennifer
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#19 of 23 Old 01-08-2002, 06:15 PM
 
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I don't have a girl, but the fact that this thread exists makes me sad. I wish society were different. I wish all girls and women (and boys and men, too!) could just live with the belief that they are beautiful, unique people and that life is a lot more than just how one looks. Sigh. I remember going through this when *I* was a teenager. And I remember thinking when I found out my baby was a boy that at least I wouldn't have to deal with body image issues with this one...

Kristine
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#20 of 23 Old 01-08-2002, 08:03 PM
 
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Kristine, I understand how you feel. Having a daughter seems just a bit more challenging because of these issues. All those books like "Reviving Ophelia" scare me!

On the other hand, keep in mind that boys have body image issues, too, but they tend to manifest themselves in other ways. Think of athletes on steroids, scrawny kids who buy those "bulking up" pills sold in vitamin stores, and so on. Not that I'm saying you need to worry about this with your ds, but it can be dangerous to believe that just because a child is male that he cannot fall victim to eating disorders or other body image-related problems.

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#21 of 23 Old 01-08-2002, 08:34 PM
 
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UGH...my sister and I both read "Reviving Ophelia" and loved it but sadly it reminded us of growing up and the eating disorders/dieting regimes both of us went through. I recommend it highly, though!!

When I was in college, my BF at the time said I was like a gorilla because I weighed 5 pounds more than him (I was about 160 and 5' 9")...in reality he was the wimp but hey...who's judging! Anyway, I went on a diet, which took on a life of its own. At first I ate 1000-1200 calories per day, but then I wanted to lose weight faster, so it shrunk eventually to about 500-700 calories per day. I lost my period, but BOY was I skinny ~ 125 pounds!!! One day I finally looked in the mirror and saw my sunken collarbones and was shocked beyond belief. All I can say is THANK GOD I noticed otherwise I might have been hospitalized for anorexia. I still struggle with the concept of dieting today for fear that will take over and happen again. My therapist said probably not, but I'm afraid to take a chance. I rearranged my thinking and now I only concentrate on eating healthy, organic if I can, and as much as I want. I am much more satisfied with my body image, even with a few pounds on me...such is life!

Gotta run to get DD dinner...!

Cheers...Robyn
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#22 of 23 Old 01-08-2002, 11:38 PM
 
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Ways to develop a healthy body image... I am speaking from the efforts and work I have had to do for myself. I have battled eating disorders since in my teens. I grew up very involved in dance- a beautiful art, a great discipline, but a place where girls are often taught that thin is best, and are pushed to be very thin- at any cost: starving, throwing up, over-exercising, etc... My mom also focused on her weight a lot. She'd always be on some diet or fast, she'd exercise for hours, run, bike, skip rope, she'd make comments about food and weight, and even when I was young and didn't fully comprehend why, I think it made an impression on me- I observed her behaviors and attitudes and learned them.
So, what I've done to help myself, to get further from body-image enslavement...
I try to avoid watching many Hollywood movies, or watching TV, or looking at "womens magazines"...
I exercise, but try to think of how it is strengthening my heart and lungs, how it helps me have good energy, etc. NOT how I'm burning 400, 500 calories, NOT "this will help me get skinny"...
I try to eat frequent, small meals- so I don't feel deprived and my blood sugar stays stable... I don't restrict myself from foods I love. I try to choose organic, but if I want chocolate or ice cream, I have it. I try to eat reasonable serving amounts, so I don't feel "guilty", but I don't focus on it too much.
I participate in activities that are fulfilling to me- it helps me feel satisfied and helps me have a strong self-esteem...
I don't think it's wrong for you to introduce your kids to sports, but sports aren't for everyone... I have always been a dancer, but I never enjoyed ather sports. Pressure to be athletic could be harmful. I'd say to encourage them to find things they love to do and find satisfaction doing- wether it be sports, martial arts, cooking, writing, drawing, acting, science, etc...and you have to project an attitude of love and respect for your body, so they can learn similar behavior.
Good Luck!
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#23 of 23 Old 01-09-2002, 10:04 AM
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If I end up writing a chapter in a book I apologize in advance.

I guess I need to go back to my mom or grandmom to create a context. My maternal grandmom was rather small. She naturally ate small portions (she was Irish and they seemed to eat less) My mother remembers being shocked when she became an older teenager and started going to resteraunts and seeing the huge portions. When she started dating my dad he ate tons of food and was thin and she, at first, couldn't keep up but eventually did.

After my brother (her thrid child) she didn't lose that last 5 or 10 lbs and my dad started giving her grief. She thought she was fat and we thought she was fat but looking at the photos she was slightly pudgey but nowhere near fat. She tried going on diets and would lose weight and gain it back plus a few more pounds to boot. She's now about 50-75lbs overweight with a heart condition.

My sister is aneroxic (my dad teased her for being pudgey when she was at that normal preadolecent stage whereupon girls tend to put on a few pounds to prepare the body for puberty) I was thin but always *felt* fat. I look at my teenaged pictures and cry thinking of how I always felt fat but was thin and healthy. Part of the problem is I'm tall for someone my age 5'8" and was comparing my weight and dress size to much shorter girls. I would ask some of them how they stayed so thin and they generally told me about speed (I being too afraid to take drugs, thank goodness)

After my fifth child I started putting on weight. I got quite overweight and after my last child (my eighth) I was about 180 lbs and was quite fat.

I started exercising and gently dieting. I lost 25lbs and have been maintaining my weight for the past year. (I'm 155)

DH and I went to a black tie function recently and I was shopping for a dress. I went with one of my older daughters and we couldn't choose between two dresses and purchased both and I took them home and tried them on for DH. He made a snotty comment about wearing a girdle because of my stomach (Jennifer said I looked terrific in the dress and she's honest) I was really upset and all the bad messages from my youth were revisited upon me. My oldest daughter just announced her engagement and my response was "I need to lose 15lbs before her wedding so I don't embarass her". (isn't that aweful?)

I realize that I repeated the cycle of my mother (but with some gumption not to get obese)

Part of the problem is my dh. He hates fat. He has a negative attitude against fat people. He's naturally thin (Note: he doesn't watch his diet, eats like a horse, doesn't exercise or participate in sports or physically work in his career he simply has inhereted his mother's hyper matabolism) He makes negative comments about fat people especially fat women.

Here's the bottom line...I have tried to focus upon healthy diet and being active. My children are all healthy sized (My son is more like me physically and dh tends to be negative about it but I give him grief and he isn't free to open his mouth and opine upon his negativity but even Jon is well within the healthy height and weight guidelines!) They are all active and healthy.

My daughters have especially good eating and activity. They are all vegetarians. They all eat as much as they want and never diet. They are on the thin side (likely a watered down version of their dad's metabolism) I don't think the cycle of poor body image has been passed down to them but I know I need to ease up on my own self crisicism or they may not have positive images of themselves when they have children and their bodies, ahem, soften.

Sorry for the novel.

Debra Baker
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