9.14.2011

Stamping Out A Daughter's Shame

No one should have stand on a scale and cry at the number it reads. Especially if that person is ten-years-old. And as much as I wish I could say I've shielded my daughter from my own lifetime of shame and hate for my body, I can't. That would be a lie. She's seen me diet to lose weight countless times. She's seen me drink special shakes and eat salads while everyone else was eating a normal dinner. She's overheard conversations between her father and me about weight loss. She's seen me cheer at lost pounds. She's seen me struggle to maintain my composure in dressing rooms. Hell, I think I even took her to a few Weight Watchers meetings and weigh-ins when I was still giving my money to those worthless assholes.

And that's not even including all the times she's seen the pretty, thin girls become the heroines in TV or movies, or fat people being ridiculed and used as examples of what not to do or how not to live. I'm sure her friends and other people at school have made fun of a few fat kids. I know that even if I hadn't been such a poor example of body acceptance her entire life, she might still have found reason to cry when she stepped on that scale and saw the number "103" glaring at her like a reprimand.

So I sat her down last night and I told her that the path I took at her age, the one where I noticed for the first time (with help from others) that I was "fat," was blocked. That she would not go the way I did. She wouldn't be the one searching desperately for a solution, no matter how destructive, to a problem that doesn't exist. A non-existent problem that only becomes a problem when we try to solve it. I told her that I would not allow her to be driven by shame and loathing, from herself or others.

I know that I have done this to her, and it is perhaps my greatest failure as a parent. But I didn't realize then the damage I was doing. That hating myself in front of her was teaching her to hate herself.

It's not too late to fix it, though. Of this, I am sure. My intelligent, generous, loving, artistic, funny, compassionate, animal-loving (and, yes, beautiful) daughter will know how very precious she is. I will teach her the habits I should have had at her age. That to live, love, sing, dance, run, swim, laugh, cry, and eat is all part of being a human, and that her long legs, her wide hips, the pooch of her belly -- however they may grow or change shape as she ages or bears children someday -- are a lovely vehicle in which to do all of those things, and she should cherish it and nurture it and love it. Not starve it or cut it or deny it or hate it.

I will love myself as much as I can, if only to be the example I have failed to be her entire life. Maybe we'll sit down and read these ten beautiful rules together so she can better understand the many nuances of this very important issue. I hope I'm not too late.

15 comments:

  1. You could also introduce your daughter to some type of physical activity like gymnastics, weight lifting, combat sports, rock climbing, etc. Just to name a handful of options. Any of these would be great for a person's health and self-esteem.

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  2. My daughter is an avid swimmer and we as a family do a lot of hiking, walking, and all sorts of physical activity. Your comment (whoever you are) assumes that she does not and, frankly, is not appreciated.

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  3. Ali this article was amazing! I seriously wish you had been around. I would not be so self concious when. I was growing up worrying about my small chest and how I felt it made me look like a girl. Any female should be able to relate to this blog. Its amazing and some of my friends have shared this already because it is so inspreational. This is just beautiful.

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  4. Great post, Allie. FA and HAES FTW!!

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  5. I loved this post, in a heartbreaking way.

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  6. Thanks, ladies. I hope every parent that reads this will make the decision to love themselves a little more, if not for their benefit, but for their kids. They are so very perceptive. And if your kids love you, they will make you their greatest role model, for better or worse.

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  7. Allison, Thank you so much for posting. Like you, I have a terrible self image, but like the first two commenters I was VERY active and tried to stress activity and nutrition and eating "right" to my children. I grew up feeling "fat" when I was a normal size that didn't fit the old line weight charts. Pictures from those days show that I was a big busted amazon lined WOMAN unlike the twiggy style girl that was and seems to be in style. My BMI probably would be healthy nowadays. Then, I always tested heavy because my body was in proportions for a Marilyn Monroe or similar from the age of 12 on up.

    My daughter has a similar problem, almost more dramatic than mine. And those LOVELY people who stress the exercise above don't seem to realize that jumping and running with a 34-J YES, J chest and hips to match with a SLIM waist that is trim leads to LOTS of bouncing from the age of 12 or 13 that has teachers and other men giving her unwanted attention. We have fought long and hard to keep her body image positive in a world of no breasted and hipped women as she heads into her teens.

    She does the physical activities her body can do as a woman with double sports and minimizer bras will allow and special equipment, but if you just saw her in jeans and a t-shirt, those moms of the gymnastics set would be giving her well meaning diet tips without ever thinking twice. Makes my blood boil. They have.

    You are a sensitive and beautiful woman. I too remember the tears when my daughter hit a number on a scale. It was 150, but then when you have that much going on, 150 is actually a pretty small number which those women don't seem to get. :D So I try to keep the humor going and keep her real about what she is in the "real" world, not the make believe one on the screen. We all are different and come into this world in different shapes and sizes and that is how we are meant to be. We are not One Size fits all and we were not stamped out on an assembly line. ;D

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  8. This was an amazing article. I wish my mother would be a bit more like you, because I have grown up my whole life hating my body and she did not help me feel beautiful. The fact that you are trying to teach your daughter these things, even if you may think it is too late, is an amazing thing. You should be so proud. Thanks!

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  9. If your daughter is ten weighing in at 103, all she needs to do is keep eating the same way she is now. And she will grow into it. In fact, unless she's under five feet tall, she'd be on the skinny side! As an educator, I've seen many "chubby" kids as preteens grow into normal sized, even slender adults.
    ALTHOUGH I'd like to add that the scale may not tell the whole story. I always weighed in 15-20 lbs overweight. My mother told me I carried my weight in my legs. I never really understood that (I got compliments on my legs quite a bit) until I was fifty and got a bone density test. Despite having broken my back in a fall, my bone density in my legs was 110% of a young adult's! My spine was still 95% of a young adult's. Had work/comp not been so bad, I had merely fractured my back in the accident, and with proper treatment would have healed with no Ill results. As it was I could have been paralyzed.
    All that is to say forget what you weigh! Use the tape measure! That extra weight really COULD be "big bones!
    Thank you for reminding us that our kids really do "mirror" or "echo" our actions, no matter how much the want to pretend they will NEVER do anything lime their parents!
    Keep up the good work!

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  10. Okay, that was supposed to be *they* and *like* their parents. I didn't proof this because the first time I did, I lost the entire post and had to start over!

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  11. I found this post in a round about way, I am not a regular follower so I only know about you what I have read here. I think that just as important as it is for you to teach her to love her body, it's important to make sure she has a healthy relationship with food and eating. While it is good for us to exercise, what we choose to put in our bodies is far more important than picking up a sport. I grew up very overweight and in my twenties have found a passion for nutrition and fitness. The biggest change for me has been putting health over weight loss. Now that I am concerned with eating clean to fuel my body, the weight comes off as it should. I finally feel free from food and diets. I encourage you to keep junk and processed food out of your house (no one needs it, not the kids, not you, not your husband), and involve her in creating healthy meals from quality ingredients.

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  12. I want to thank you all for your comments. Very supportive, and I appreciate that very much and welcome all the newcomers!

    Cali -- You pretty much echoed our lifestyle. I'm a passionate foodie and absolutely insist on high-quality ingredients. We've also recently opted for a largely plant-based diet.

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  13. Wow. This post really resonated with me. When I was 10, I weighed 100 pounds. I also had the same episode of stepping on the scale and crying. I was a little chubby then, but I was tall too. However, most of my friends were short and skinny. That was the same year I started my period. I was becoming a woman, but I thought I was just "fat." My mother and grandmother encouraged this idea, taking me to weight watchers, Jenny Craig, etc. Now, at 24, I weight 210 pounds and am 5'6". It's taken me awhile to realize the difference between being healthy and being skinny and the difference between a diet and a lifestyle, but I'm getting there. In the meantime, I love my fat, my body shape, and myself. It takes a great deal of effort and confidence to get others to see this, but it's worth it.

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