Dove has a commercial that addresses female body image through a young girl being bombarded with TV commercials, billboards and magazines featuring stick-thin models. Then it shows her attending a feel-good Dove seminar with her mother where she states, "I am beautiful." Or something close to that.
For me, this is the most sobering commercial on television. Mainly because it hits close to home. One morning while waiting for her ride to school my nine-year-old had her foot up on the window seat cushion and was pushing the relaxed muscle of her calf. She said, "Look at all this fat." I showed her that it wasn't fat, just relaxed muscle tissue, but she didn't look like she believed me.
That wasn't the first time I've heard my youngest express the belief that she thinks she's fat. But what really worries me is, she's not overweight at all. Not by any stretch of the imagination. What's a mother to do?
I'd like to think that I'm very proactive in combatting unhealthy body image beliefs in my children. In all my weight loss efforts I've tried to talk about my goals as a means to improved health -- not a means to get skinny. There are no forbidden foods at our house. I've discussed the diseases of anorexia and bulimia with my kids too -- even pointed out a family member who has struggled with bulimia. We've discussed how people are built differently and how body shape is not just an outcome of how much you eat. I hope that it's all sinking in.
Despite all I know about keeping a positive body image, I have body image struggles of my own. Here are some things that I do to maintain my grasp on reality and find contentment in my own skin:
Chat with my mom. She's a woman who is large and in charge! We talk about overweight ancestors and laugh about what we can't change. I always come away feeling proud to be her daughter, no matter what my size.
Repeat the mantra, "Not everyone is a giraffe." God loves variety. How disappointed He'd be if a polar bear sighed all the time thinking, "Oh, if I could only have long thin legs like a giraffe." I can't be just like someone else. I'm me, and I'm one of God's precious creations.
Avoid magazines and shows that focus on style/celebrities/superficiality. Really, they're tools of the adversary. He loves it when we focus completely on our physical self to the exclusion of our emotional health and spirituality.
Make a point of acknowledging physical traits I like about myself. My nose. My haircolor. A wonderful spleen.
Put on a LARGE pair of earrings and a smile. No one will even notice my hips.
Go out in public as myself. Sans makeup, pre-shower. Hold my head up and cheerfully greet people who recognize me. I tell myself that they're going to feel so good about themselves in comparison to me. I am making their day!