My Troubled Body Image Must Change For My Daughterâ€™s Sake
Every girl has that “girls body image” moment. Mine was in high school when I lost four pounds over a week of summer charity work and when I returned, my envious school friends said I looked â€œreally skinny.â€ For my sister, it was in the fifth grade, when she developed early and was bullied for her looks by an adult yard monitor. I wonder and worry what my daughterâ€™s moment will be, the first moment she realizes her body is on display to the world.
I spoke with Drury University Professor of Spanish and Chair of the Department of Languages, Dr. Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols. Nichols, who is raising a confident 14-year-old daughter, says her main strategy to address body image issues is that she has kept an ongoing dialogue with her daughter throughout childhood, focusing on health over appearance. Sheâ€™s also a very involved parent: she has helped her daughter join in with cooking via stepstool since she was very little, and they now do yoga togetherâ€”but the focus isnâ€™t just on physical fitness.
â€œShe sees, I think, that yoga helps with mental and emotional health,â€ Nichols explains. â€œI was helping her fill out an application for something not long ago, and one of the questions was â€˜how do you deal with stress?â€™ She wrote, â€˜yoga breathing.â€™ This made me very happy.â€
I bring baby to my apartmentâ€™s fitness center a couple times a week while I lift weights and dream of the day when sheâ€™s old enough to join me. But as for cooking together, Iâ€™ll have to make a serious effort to educate my daughter about food and provide a healthy variety for her. Itâ€™s not that we eat a lot of junk food, but I tend to stagger between extremes — eating no sugar and a gazillion greens one week to eating obscene amounts of dessert the next. I donâ€™t want to blame my mother for these habits, but growing up she was the Paula Deen type, thinking a balanced meal meant mostly carbs and a meat dish (and a little, or a lot, of dessert never hurt anyone).
And I do remember my mother trash-talking her figure, something she still does. I donâ€™t get it. I always thought she was beautiful with her long red hair, freckles and petite frame. But sheâ€™s a 1950â€™s housewife reincarnate, replete with an hour-and-a-half beauty routine in the morning even on days when my dad is the only person she sees.