Smart moms don't merely manage weight issues. Smart moms actively push back against them. Smart moms acknowledge the pressure put on kids to be thin, healthy, and perfect and then rally against these self-esteem stealing thieves. If you're a smart mom and have ideas on how to be a renegade when to comes to preserving our kids' body confidence, please share them. Please speak loudly and please don't stop! In the meantime, here's what I got...
Get Rid of the Scale
Weighing myself always feels a little like putting my self-esteem up to a guillotine. Even though I haven't dieted in years, a number on a scale still has the power to send a wave of self-judgement, fear, and shame straight to my soul. Sound dramatic? Can't relate? Even if you don't have a decades long dieting history, consider this: Whenever we put our attention on something, we inadvertently send the message to our kids that it matters. If you're weighing yourself on-the-regular (even minus the all the emotion), then you're sending the message to your kids that it matters. It really matters. If it didn't, why would you be doing it anyway?
PS. If you've gone all Midge Maisel and started documenting your circumference(s), then I'd recommend ditching the measuring tape too.
Designate "Weight" as a Dirty Word
When researchers looked at the ways that parents talk to kids about foods and eating, they found that those that talk about weight raise kids who are significantly more likely to have disordered eating habits. Specifically, their kids are more likely to restrict foods and binge, two behaviors that are risk factors for full-blown eating disorders. Think you're in the clear because you never pressure your kids to lose weight? Nope. Parents who talk about eating a certain way to maintain weight or to avoid gaining weight had children who fell in to that high risk group too.
Even if you're not preaching weight loss, you might be surprised how often 'weight' comes up in conversation. If nothing else, get curious and listen more closely. A few months back I caught myself declining a dessert with the excuse, "No thanks, I'm watching my weight!" Blah! And the extra sad thing is this: I wasn't watching my weight. I'm a true lover of dessert. (My husband will be the first one to crack a joke about how many pit-stops per week I make at our neighborhood bakery.) I just blurted out that I was watching my weight because I'd found that it'd been a more easily accepted explanation for declining desserts than the truth, which is that I have celiac disease. Yup! Wanting to lose weight is met with much less side-eye, criticism, and questioning than explaining that I have a a digestive disease that requires avoiding gluten.
Ditch Diets for Good
In one long-term study, teenage girls who had moms who were actively dieting were significantly more likely to be pursuing a thin ideal themselves 20 years later. That means there's a chance your desire to slim down could leave a TWO-DECADES-LONG impression on your daughter! And those findings were regardless of where the teenagers fell on the weight spectrum, meaning underweight, 'normal' weight, and overweight (measured by BMI) girls were all impacted equally. By rejecting your own body, you're sending girls who adore you the message that they should reject theirs too. Personally, the thought of my daughters wasting precious time obsessing about thinness makes me want to rage,. If you feel the same, don't just ditch your own diet. Ask other other influential women in their lives to ditch theirs too.
Stop Giving Compliments
When it comes to women's bodies, stop talking about them. Even well-meaning comments can be a zinger. When you tell another woman how 'great' they look, how thin or or 'in shape' they look, you've just told her she's better now than she was before. And you can bet that if your daughter's within earshot, then you just told her you'd value her more if she embodied that look too. If you want to give a compliment, comment on how much you admire someone's courage, conversation skills. how hard they're working, their dedication, their honesty, thoughtfulness, kindness, willingness to speak out, their beautiful taste in clothes, anything... but... their... body. Another reason to nix body comments: You have no idea where someone's coming from. While privileged women are more likely to seek a slim body ideal, not everyone's thinness may be something their proud about never mind have control over. Lots of kids I work with struggle hard to put on a couple pounds, for instance, so the fact that they're meeting YOUR slim ideal likely isn't something their proud of at all.
Protect Kids from the Well-Meaning Pediatrician
Ah, thatâs a strong statement and is tough to write. I love pediatricians, I work them, I trust them and, of course, I regularly take my own kids see to them. That said, sometimes even the most accomplished, respected, and well-meaning pediatrician may not be savvy about recommended approaches for discussing topics such as weight, diet, and health. If a trusted pediatrician makes a misstep in this area, it can have a nasty impact your child's self-worth. Protect kids by telling your provider head of time that you'd prefer any discussion about your child's BMI or weight be done in private (aka without your child in the room). Make it clear that you're open to their encouragements to adopt healthy habits (such as getting enough sleep, limiting social media, being active, and eating mindfully), but you do not want the discussion to focus on your child's weight. When talking to kids yourself, always focus on habits that boost (not zap) energy, generate (not drain) self-confidence, or preserve (not diminish) self-esteem.
What are YOUR bigger, better ideas for pushing back against diet culture so it doesn't destroy our daughters' self-esteem, pleasure, and potential? Please SHARE! I'd love your help and insight in raising my own girls as well as in supporting the amazing parents I meet.