Note from the editor: I’m so thankful for Jenny’s article on this topic! I don’t really watch talk shows but I remember stopping at one because a group of moms and daughters were embracing and crying. I caught the end of what was such an eye opening show. The talk show host brought in a group of girls who thought they were fat. Their ages ranged from kindergarten-high school. Each young girl talked about why they felt fat. Their were various influences but the most pivotal were the messages coming from home. Only one mom unknowingly made comments about her daughters body in a negative way. You won’t believe what came next, this was shocking to me! The rest of the girls in this group came up with their distorted body view from watching their mom’s eating habits and listening to how their mom talked about themselves. This was truly eye opening! Parents, teachers, student leaders, youth group leaders anyone who works with kids (boys too!) remember they are observing and developing their own ideas based on what we do, not what we say.
The Messages We Convey to Our Girls with Our Eating Habits
Contributor: Jenny Howell
I have to admit that there have been plenty of weeks where Jullian Michaels and I were living room workout friends. She would yell at me and somehow that motivated me to push myself and feel good about it at the same time!
Exercise is vital for physical and mental health. I could use a jog around the neighborhood or a visit to the gym this week. Exercise keeps us strong and clears the mind, adding peace to our day.
At some point though, moms tend to voice guilt about the condition of their body and eating habits.”I shouldn’t eat this…too many calories.” or “I need to make it to the gym everyday this week because I need to lose weight before ____..”
Fill in the blank and there is always something to get skinny for right?
Not to mention the diet, smoothie, shake, and supplement trends coming at us constantly. Everyone has the best plan with the highest success rate to help you eat less (or nothing at all) and get you on your way to perfect.
The balance has been lost and now we have a generation of young sons and daughters watching it all play out… and not for the better.
Any obsession seems to have its own set of consequences doesn’t it?
It’s healthy to take a step back and zoom in to the habits we are forming in front of our kids. Our girls and boys both young and old have a front row seat to what we value most.
They see us skip meals or prepare something totally different than what the family is eating and it seems harmless.
We blend shakes or nibble at food and they are watching. Most of the time we don’t think about our behavior affecting that little girl sitting at the table. “Momma, are you eating with us?”
The honest truth is that we pass on what is important to us both healthy and harmful by our example.
The danger comes when we comment on their body or eating in a way that provokes self doubt an insecurity.
We have to face the reality that our girls and even boys will not handle that well. The comparison temptation is already off the charts and they do not need added reasons to take up an eating disorder or manipulate their body to fit a mold on the alter of popularity.
Working with teen girls, I have seen this play out and end tragically. Sometimes moms have done everything they can to instill a healthy body image and pass on confidence and worth…and the sickness of not thin enough still consumes.
Other stories of eating disorders have the common thread of a mom or dad who put on the pressure to be skinny, eat less, workout more, and look the best in her prom dress of cheer uniform. There is never a day when they feel beautiful and it is heartbreaking to watch.
As the holidays approach, lets be women who look at our own habits and begin to care of ourselves better. Giving our daughters a strong and balanced eating and exercise perception will help them survive in a culture that demands conformity.
Here’s to a new year of passing down words of worth and truth to our kids… but first we must start speaking those words to ourselves. It begins with us.
Hi, I’m Jenny and I blog over at www.nighthowells.wordpress.com. I am happily Kris’ wife, Momma to 5, and a hopeful believer in Jesus. My heart beats for scenery, ministry, and parenting our tribe!