How I Am Teaching My Daughters To Love Their Bodies

photo credit: Jumping via photopin (license)

photo credit: Jumping via photopin (license)

As a kid, it was very common for me to hear other family members complain about their bodies. I can remember shopping with my mom and hearing, “I look so fat,” many times. I also can remember my grandmother eating pie and donuts often, and saying, “Well I’m fat anyway,” if someone commented that she ate too many sweets.

I was always an average sized kid. I never watched what I ate or even thought twice about what I put into my mouth until I was about 15-years-old. My sister joined a gym in high school and started monitoring everything she ate. Then my close friends started eating everything with a “fat-free” label. Even when I babysat, the mom only had Diet Coke in her fridge. It seemed everyone was conscious about their body and what they ate or drank. They say behavior is contagious, and I guess it’s true. Because I too became aware of everything I ate.

Like my sister, I also joined a gym. We’d work out together after school and when we graduated high school, would meet at the gym after work. Always with one goal in mind: to burn fat; to fit into our jeans; to feel good about ourselves. I worked out every day of my life for years. I’d work out when I was sick, too tired, and didn’t have much time. It was probably a bit addictive… Actually, I still work out, but for an entirely different reason.

My body craves movement. I am not one to sit still for too long, and good thing, because my kids never let me anyway. But, after being pregnant twice, I have learned something about myself I never paid attention to before. If pregnancy taught me anything, it’s how to listen to your body. There are days I am tired to do anything other than laundry, and on those days I simply go for a walk or do no exercise at all. There are days when I have the urge to run a half marathon… and on those days I do some cardio or weights. There are days I don’t have time to exercise. And so I don’t. The difference now is, I truly enjoy exercising. And I enjoy it even more when my 4-year-old wants to participate. Like really participate. Sometimes she gets in the way. Sometimes she just watches. And sometimes she joins in (but always quits before it ends). And I know this is a good example for her.

If I ever hear her complain about her body, like when she can’t poop, or when she gets a boo-boo, I always remind her, “You only get one body, treat it kindly.” I wish someone would’ve told me that as a kid. I only remember hearing others complain about their bodies. But our bodies do the most important work for us. They carry our souls. They allow us to feel, to express ourselves. They give us mobility. How lucky we are if our body is healthy.

I will constantly remind my girls as they grow, to always respect their bodies. I think some people push themselves to the limit in terms of exercise, not eating enough or the right foods, and not getting enough sleep (which we can’t always control). And most of us know it’s wrong. We know we are sabotaging our bodies but do it anyway. In the long run, it doesn’t make us any healthier. It actually ages us.

I know if we listen to our bodies and treat them with TLC, they will always be happy and willing to carry us through our journey of life. As a mom, I feel it my duty to make sure my children love and respect themselves, their whole selves.