For as long as I can remember, self-criticism has been my constant companion. I grew up feeling, in many ways, like the “black sheep” of my family. I was always larger than my older sister, and my brothers continually compared us. One memory that has been burned into my brain is of my youngest brother grabbing each of our arms and holding them out in comparison, labeling hers “wimpy” and mine “hefty.” The food I ate at the dinner table was a continual conversation (and not in a good way), and I often felt like the odd man out due to my size.
I say all this because from the moment my baby girl was born, all I have wanted is for her to feel as loved, cherished, and “enough” as she is. That includes the way she thinks and feels about her body. While there’s no way for us to completely control our children’s body images as they grow, here are a few guidelines we’ve put in place in our home and that seem to work for our family.
- We do not force our children to keep eating when they’re not hungry or stop before they’re full.
- We do not shame anyone for the food they eat or for their general hunger level.
- We do not offer weight-based compliments, such as, “You’re so cute and skinny.”
- We do offer general compliments, such as “you’re so beautiful/handsome,” or “you always make the funniest jokes.”
- We make physical activity a family priority
- We do not discuss our weight or body insecurities around our children
- We talk about how great physical fitness and fruits and veggies make us feel
While we’re still learning – and will certainly never do this perfectly – it’s been a joy to see our children live freely in our home. While we can’t control outside sources, we can control the messages they hear within these walls, and we will do our best for them to say, over and over again, “you are enough.”