Negative Body Image: Are We Passing It Onto Our Children?
“I’M so fat,” I say as I try on a dress which won’t close.
“I’m on a detox now, trying to lose some weight,” I say in conversation with friends.
“My fat is sticking out over these,” I say as I try on a new pair of jeans.
These are phrases which have become a part of everyday conversation for Irish women. In our culture, it is considered completely natural to speak about your weight in such a negative light. I know I’m guilty of this form of behaviour. I have certainly passed many comments to my friends about my weight in my daughter’s presence without even thinking she could be listening and taking it all in. We speak in this tone and pass these phrases so casually today that it is very scary to think the effect it can have when little ears are listening.
As some of us venture into the world of motherhood, our issues with our weight are going to be even more prevalent. Most put on weight from pregnancy and it can be hard to lose but extra weight is not always something to fear, it is more important to look at the way we view our bodies and our body image. Our children look up to us and for this reason the way we view ourselves and our bodies is very important. In today’s world, we are bombarded with images of skinny celebrities in the media – every second article is about how to lose a stone over night or how to detox your way to a smaller dress size. As a society, we have been brainwashed to believe that being skinny makes you a better person.
Us Irish women are somewhat obsessed with talking negatively about our weight. If you are naturally a size 8 and can eat whatever you want without gaining weight, this can still apply to you. Whether you are carrying more weight than you would like to be or are just having one of those days, I can guarantee you have discussed dieting, talked about losing weight and referred to your weight negatively with your work colleagues, friends, family or partner.
There seems to be an inherited modesty or insecurity among us women. I don’t know any woman who will openly say she is completely happy with her body or her weight – that is a very scary thing. This is so damaging to our self image but it is even more damaging in motherhood. Can you imagine looking at the person you most admire and to hear them constantly talk about themselves so negatively? If the person you most admire – the person you look up to – feels this way about themselves, it isn’t going to make you feel so good about your figure, is it?
But this is exactly what happens when children hear us talking about our weight in such a way. We are put under so much pressure nowadays to be skinny but we shouldn’t be the enforcers of these ideologies for our children. Looking at magazines saying skinny is better and then hearing your female role models constantly talk about being skinny is not good for a child. A child going through puberty changes in a lot of ways and weight is the first major physical difference. For a girl or boy at this time, their whole lives are changing. It is scary to think that this weight change can be seen negatively, simply because our culture is obsessed with skinny.
We can’t change the way we view ourselves overnight and we certainly can’t change the media’s portrayal of body image for the better but what we can do is not think about ourselves as fat or overweight. All of these things are negative so instead of focusing on these, try to change your perspective. The next time you try on a dress or top and feel yourself wanting to pass those usual comments or thinking those nasty thoughts about being heavy, try to look at yourself through someone else’s eyes.
When your child looks at you, they do not see your weight – they see their mother. This is someone they love and someone they admire. If your child sees you being healthy and happy in your body, they will learn to have a very healthy body image. The media’s portrayal will influence them but when the most important person in their life has a healthy body image, perhaps it won’t influence them as much.
The next time you’re faced with a full-length mirror, cringing at your stretch marks or your cellulite, remember there is no airbrushing in real life, no camera tricks or professional makeup artist as this is what a real woman looks like. Never be ashamed of your body, it has been through a lot. Now its your job to teach body confidence and to lead by example.
Photos c/o styleable.co.uk, illawarramercury.com.au