She Looks Just Like Me

I watch my daughter closely as she watches herself in the mirror.

She looks just like me.

I watch her as she looks at her dark eyebrows. Her front tooth with a groove on the bottom edge. She studies the mole on her arm she says looks like the state of Texas. She makes faces and watches her expressions change. She examines her arms, her legs, her belly.

I watch as she pats her belly proudly. As she mouths the words to a silent song and pumps her arms in the air. I watch she gives her reflection a sly smile and a thumbs up.  As she turns around and shakes her bottom in a weird little dance, tapping her foot to a beat I can’t hear.

I watch her and it is like watching  a child me. An eight year old me.

How powerful are the mirrors in your life?

How powerful are the mirrors in your life?

My mom often calls her by my name, her eyes playing a trick on her even though the child before her is a generation away from the other dark haired girl she raised. The trick succeeds because she looks just like me.

We run into friends and they comment on my daughter being my mini-me. When I lose her in the museum I ask if people have seen a little girl, “about this tall, she looks just like me”. People see her at school events or around town and recognize her immediately as my daughter. She looks just like me.

So when she sees me looking at myself in the mirror she sees me smile. She sees self love. She hears positive comments from my lips. She sees me smooth my hair or check my outfit but doesn’t see me flatten my tummy or sigh at my bottom or the tired skin around my eyes.

She watches me as I appreciate all of my parts. She’ll never see or hear me pick myself apart.

Because she looks just like me. When she sees me love myself, she grows up with the permission to love herself. As she is. Just as she should be.

 

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Do you see flaws? Or the perfectly imperfect?
Do you see what you don’t have? Or all of the amazing things that you do?
Do you have a part you prefer to hide? Or do you love to show off your amazing parts?
Do you see age or scars as something to escape? Or a road map of the years you’ve lived well?

Do you see the version of beauty that is sold to you? Or the version you have defined for  yourself?

Photo credit.

 

 

Establishing Healthy Body Image in Young Girls: Start Early

There are two very powerful influences in the lives of young children that impact their body image: the media and their family. This can start as early as AGE THREE.

Are you prepared? Is your home a space where positive body image is upheld?

Think about your role as you read these statistics and take responsibility for your child developing a healthy body image:

~ According to a study from the University of Central Florida, nearly 50% of girls aged three to six were already concerned about their weight.
~ 42% of 1st through 3rd grade girls say they wish they were thinner.
~ 81% of ten-year-old girls experience a fear of being fat.
~ Roughly one half of girls in 4th grade are on diets. More than half of nine and ten-year-old girls admitted that they felt better about themselves when dieting.

What are some things that you can do?
1. Demonstrate self love and being kind to your body.
2. No “fat talk” allowed, about yourself or other people.
3. Focus on nutritious, mindful eating + activity = health, as opposed to dieting and using exercise as a punishment.
4. Seek balanced media with responsible depictions of girls/women’s bodies.
5. Create spaces for discussions while watching media or shopping that allow for critical thinking about body image messages being sent.
6. Define beauty for your family on your OWN terms.
7. Teach her that what she can DO with her body is far more important than what it LOOKS like.
8. Make sure she sees you enjoying your body — race down the slide, kick the soccer ball, bring her to yoga class, go for a bike ride or walk the dog.
9. I’m not kidding, knock off the Fat Talk.
10. Turn off the screens in the house and go outside and play!

Focus on what her body can DO, not what it LOOKS like.

Focus on what her body can DO, not what it LOOKS like.

Here are more statistics on body image in women and girls.

Girl Scouts of America has conducted excellent research in this area.

Lying for The Scale: To Hell With That

Image via Fit Vs Fiction.

Image via Fit Vs Fiction.

Yesterday my friend and colleague Carrie Goldman (author, “Bullied”) tagged me in this post she wrote about her 10 year old daughter, K:

“My 4th grade daughter told me that yesterday the kids each stepped on a scale in class as part of an exercise to calculate how much they would weigh on Jupiter. Of course, the kids began telling each other how much they weighed. My daughter told me “I was afraid people would think I was F-A-T, so I said a lower number.”
 
So young, yet already worried about body size as a reflection of value. My daughter said she weighed a full fifteen pounds less than she does. We then had a very good discussion about our bodies, what they do, what they mean, why we look the way we do, and more. I’m so glad she told me about her concerns so we could talk.”
 

This was my reply to Carrie:

“It is so funny that you tagged me on this because I was reading the top half of the paragraph and my head was exploding. Tell K that I think if her peers were S-M-A-R-T they would have thought she was T-A-L-L or S-T-R-O-N-G when she said her number. That is 15 pounds of muscle and brains she may have just short changed herself. No way, Baby! She is too intelligent to give away some of those brains and has worked too hard in swim earning those muscles!
Also, you can tell her that her good buddy Melissa was at the doctor today and I’m 5’7″ and weigh 188 pounds. <— And I didn’t fudge that number. My brain is super heavy. So’s my funny bone. And my sense of adventure. And my dancing feet. xoxo to K!” 
 

Further in the thread, Carrie said this: “I have kids on both ends of the bell curve. My 10-year-old is bigger than 95% of her peers, and my 6 and 3 year-olds are smaller than 95% of their peers. We talk a lot about how bodies come in all shapes and sizes, especially within our own family, and it’s what we do with our bodies that matters. They allow us to make our mark on the world!”

It is time we take very seriously the job of teaching our girls how to love their bodies. This body shame takes root far too young, in FAR too many girls. We have to work together to stop this.

We also need to remember our boys are not far behind. 

Why and how do even our youngest girls learn to be ashamed of their amazing bodies?

Why and how do even our youngest girls learn to be ashamed of their amazing bodies?

Later in the day someone messaged me to say I was “so brave” to put my weight out there for the world. Is that really brave? I mean, isn’t brave more like fighting fires, teaching a difficult student population, staring down cancer, searching for the lost in a landslide, providing medical aid in a war zone…..I get the point but at the same time, I’m proud of my athletic frame and I guarantee you that telling the public my weight is the by far not the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

Me and Dr. Jen Hartstein behind the scenes at the Today Show.

The ironic thing is, Carrie had just messaged me a few days prior to say that she thought I looked great when I was on the TODAY show the week before but also that she could tell I had dropped a lot of weight and wanted to make sure that I was losing weight safely. I did lose a lot of weight and I am under a doctor’s care (thyroid issues are FUN!) and I thanked my dear friend for being invested in my health and well being.

188. I’d never cheat myself out of any part of my body. I work hard for my muscles. I’ve spent years making my brain smart. I think my funny bone is hilarious. My tummy is squishy because I carried and birthed two children I was told I would never be able to have. Like I’m going to give ANY of that up so I can fit some superficial definition of beautiful? Of worthy? To hell with that.

And that’s what I wrote in my note to K when I sent her a gift in the mail yesterday, so in the 4th grade she hears her mom and her dad and her buddy Melissa tell her that she is great and she is worthy just as she is.

 

Need help with talking about body image with your kids?

I cover that topic in my book: “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween”

Marci Warhaft-Nadler’s book is also great: “The Body Image Survival Guide For Parents”

Bonding Over Beauty Isn’t So Pretty

Do you bond with your girl over beauty and the process to achieve it?

Shouldn’t we be bonding with our girls over applying Band Aids to skinned knees, wiping dirt or finger paint off faces, fixing lopsided pigtails messed from running around all day, unhooking a dress caught in the branches mid-climb of a tree, and shaking dirt out of softball or soccer uniforms? How did our generation of moms get this so, so wrong?

Some occasional play make up or a night of pedicures never hurt a girl, but is that all we limit it to? Or are we drinking the Kool Aid and sharing the glass with our daughters? How much of your daughter’s toys, clothing, books, and screen media focuses on prettiness?

A preschool teacher told me that yesterday she heard one four year old ask another four year old if she wanted to come over after school for a make over. As a one-time event, this is probably no big deal. But what if “beauty” is all the girls ever played together? What else are they missing out on? What stories, adventures, and skill building are they rushing right past?

Could something that seems harmless now, day after day after day lead girls to obsess and despair over their looks? Hate their amazing, healthy bodies during what should be one of the most carefree times of their life? Strive for beauty so greatly they pay to have their sexual organs butchered to achieve a false ideal in order to attract and keep boys’ sexual attention?

It sounds extreme, but as my colleague Soraya Chemaly points out in her post on the subject, girls as young as three years old are changing their eating habits to avoid becoming “fat”. Three. Years. Old.

Girls need the time and space to be little kids. As parents, it should be our goal to allow them this space.

When does innocent fun stop being innocent and become a major problem?

When does innocent fun stop being innocent and become a major problem?

Must read post on this subject: http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2014-01-do-you-bond-with-your-daughter-over-beauty-products

How to Talk to Kids About the Viral Adobe Photoshop Video

Image from Adobe Photoshop video. Smoke and mirrors!

There is a video making the rounds that shows the transformation of a normal looking woman into a supernatural looking model via Photoshop. I see a ton of people posting it, but not a lot of discussion on how to break it down for our kids. Thank you, Dorothy, for your question because it is a great reminder that sometimes parents know they have a teaching tool in their hands but are unsure of how to deliver the lesson.

Question: I want to share this video with my 8 1/2 yo daughter, but I’m not sure what to say. My gut reaction is “Eww, the “finished” girl is actually creepy-looking.” But that’s not constructive. Any advice? -PPBB Community Member Dorothy

Answer: Good instincts to share this with your daughter, I think she is at the right age to see it and think critically about it. I would start by talking about how the media (tv, movies, magazines, commercials) try to sell us an image we aspire to in order to buy their stuff. It is a trick that actually makes us feel bad about ourselves, especially because as an industry they use a lot of magic tricks to make the people we see in ads be beautiful in a way that isn’t really true. I would show the video to her as an example of what you are trying to teach her, and then ask her some open ended questions when it is over.

Some good ones to start are:
~ “I think the woman at the start of the video looked like a lot of the women we know in our life. But what about when it was over, do we know anyone who looks like that?”

~ “Were you able to count all of the different changes they made to the model before we saw the finished “person”? Should we watch it again to count?”

~ “What things about the finished girl are not real? Meaning, what was change from real life by a computer program?”

~ “Do you think the company that uses this image to sell a product is being truthful or deceitful? Does it make you want to give them your money?”

~ “Can you think of other times or places you might have seen images like this that have been altered to play tricks on people that companies want money from?”

~ “If your friends saw this video, do you think they would still consider themselves Full of Awesome and beautiful, or do you think they would want to look like the finished product and feel like they don’t measure up?”

~ “Why do you think companies create a fake sense of beauty? What might they trying to be tricking us to do?”

~ “Let’s talk about the ways the women in our family are beautiful. What are some traits and things our family shares that make us beautiful?”

~ “Sometimes when I see things like this my tummy hurts. It hurts in a flip-flop kind of way because I think about girls who watch this who don’t have parents who talk to them to teach them how fake it is. If these girls think this is how they are supposed to look, they might never feel good about themselves. What would you want to say to those girls?”

Listen to her answers, and build from there. Answer additional questions she has in an informative and succinct manner. Ask a lot of “What do you think about that?” questions after you give her a piece of information, like how advertising negatively affects kids’ body image and leaves very young girls feeling insecure and not beautiful. If she starts to get really passionate about what she is discussing, encourage her to write a Letter to the Editor of your local paper or a teen magazine or a guest post for our blog. And finish up with, “Anytime you want to talk about this stuff or see images like that and you want to talk about it, just let me know. I like talking to you about smart stuff like this.”

I just asked my 7.5 year old all of these questions and she breezed through the answers. Don’t underestimate how quickly your kids pick up media literacy if you treat it like a puzzle for them to solve. Kids love to be on the inside of a secret and call out a marketer every time they see bogus advertising.

The sooner we teach our kids this is a smoke and mirrors show, the sooner the magic loses its effect.