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"Mama," my 5-year-old's little voice pipes up from the
backseat, "We should go to McDonald's. We haven't been there in a long
I pause before telling her anything, knowing that what I say
next might set the stage for how she views her body and food.
I don't remember when I became aware of how I looked. But I do
know, from a young age, I always found something about my body to be critical of. Looking back at
pictures now, pictures that left me in tears in my 20s crying about how terrible
I looked, I'm stunned to see myself as a much healthier girl
than I remembered.
Why was my image of myself so distorted? How do we combat this
in the next generation with a world that feeds our children body-shaming and photoshopped images alongside cheap, processed foods promising comfort?
I've never mentioned weight or my body image in front of my daughter. I've gone
out of my way to do things outside my comfort zone over the years: swimsuits in
public, talking to her about why women look different after we have babies and
encouraging acceptance in others because everyone is different.
So this month, as I started Whole30 and cut out sugar,
processed foods and grains, I've been pondering how to explain these changes
to my little girl. I want her to know why we're doing this and why we plan on
making it a life change and here seven reasons why:
1. I want Bella to learn about self-control and to know that
she has it over her own body.
We talk often about how our bodies are ours and no
one should be touching them. Building slowly from there, as she gets older,
I want her to know that we have self control over what ads and food
corporations say will make us happy or popular.
I am fully aware that, at some point, my daughter
will as well. What I want is to give her the mental tools to see her
body from a realistic point of view. In the past two and a half years, I've lost three sons shortly after their
birth. My body had a hard time recovering. It hasn't
been easy to deal with a postpartum body and no baby in my arms as proof. But
I've tried to be gentle with myself until I felt ready to make a change.
I want my daughter to feel free from the emotional hold of food, dieting and negative body image. I want her to know that her weight doesn't define her and food doesn't need to control her.
3. Bella's health is her own when she leaves our home.
My job is
to provide choices for her that make her options a little wider and easier when
she leaves. She may eat ramen for a year, but I want her to know the
4. I see myself begin to change 11 days into this program.
While it's exciting for me, my hope is Bella sees it as more than "Mommy's
happy because she's thinner." Which is not the case at all. It's actually
because I remind myself daily with each meal that food isn't going to sabotage
my health, sleep or ability to be a good wife and mother, as it was
doing before this. Weight loss is a benefit, but nothing compares to the
difference I feel right now.
5. Two years of therapy has taught my husband and me the
importance of positive self-talk.
I'm not saying we go around muttering,
"You're so amazing" to ourselves, but we make a conscious effort to
stop negative words and feelings about our looks or food cravings. It's OK to
crave ice cream and also to make the choice to eat a bowl of it. But beating
yourself up after the fact starts a vicious cycle.
6. Right now, my choices are Bella's choices.
She doesn't buy
the food and, as hard as she can make a shopping trip when she wants something,
it's up to me. We don't buy all organic or blindly run through the frozen pizza
aisle. Maybe one day she'll
remember that and be able to think about purchasing food rationally, instead of
with feelings, as I've done before.
7. Most of all, I want my daughter to feel free from the
emotional hold of food, dieting and negative body image.
I want her to know
that her weight doesn't define her, and food doesn't need to control her. If I can
raise a child to look with a critical eye at a Photoshopped image, and a
"good for her eye" at everyone else, no matter how they loo? That
would be wonderful.