Body Image Workshop Part 2: The Women They See

In Part 1 of the Body Image Workshop we talked about how to start off on the right foot with body image and our littlest kids, so that positive body image is a habit, a way of life, and not something we introduce later on down the road.

One of the tips we gave was to image proof your home. Marci suggested clearing out the negative messages and replacing them with positive ones. It’s a pretty simple exercise actually, just look around your house for magazines, books, posters or anything that promotes the unrealistic images of beauty that surround us today. Even though, kids this young aren’t reading yet, they are soaking in everything they see around them and we need to make sure that what they see is helpful and not harmful.

I went around my house last week and snapped photos of all of the images of women that Amelia (and Benny) would see around our home. With the exception of a couple of wedding photos and some baby photos, these are all of the images of women in our home. 

Study the images of women that my children are growing up with. *We do not have fashion magazines or catalogs or celebrity gossip magazines in our home.*

What messages do you think they are getting?
What are they seeing about body size, different types of skin color, different types of beauty, different version of femininity? What messages are they getting about the things in life that you can do with your body?

Is the focus of these photos looking beautiful, or feeling beautiful?

Body Image Workshop: Part 1

Today begins a new series on our blog: The Body Image Workshop.

Last month I had a little piece of my heart break when I received two emails in the same day, one from the mom of a preschooler who had already developed body image issues, and the other from a pregnant mom, scared for her unborn daughter’s future body image issues. My head was spinning. Both moms needed info and resources and I sent some their way, but I had a hard time putting my head around the fear of an unborn girl’s body image. I had a hard time putting my head around why that is such a legitimate fear. Because it is.

I called my friend and colleague Marci Warhaft-Nadler, a certified fitness instructor and body image consultant, and asked if she would help me. I needed someone who would help me dig deep, really push the issue, unpack the numbers, and get underneath this massive rock of body image that sits on top of our daughters. Marci and I are both raising sons, and boys will be included in this series as well. But when you look at the numbers that reflect what is going on in with our girls, it is enough to make you want to scream. Or cry. Or both.

We MUST create a meaningful change. And we must do it now.

Hopefully this isn’t affecting your family, these posts will get low viewership, and Marci and I can focus our efforts elsewhere. Something tells me that is not going to be the case.

Marci and I care deeply about all of our kids. We’re going to be honest. We’re going to really dig into this issue. We’re not going to pull our punches. We’re going to give you the tools and resources you need. We might say things that sting, we might say things you disagree with. We’re going to pull in medical and nutrion experts. We’ll talk to authors and psychologists. We’re going to give you printouts and talking points. Not generics, but specific go-try-this-today info. We’re going to give you the chance to be the expert bloggers and give us tips on what you do in your homes. We’re going to give you the chance to ask questions and talk to experts directly. For free.

You have no idea how much energy Marci and I have on this subject. We’re going to get this thing done. And we’re going to do it right here.

 

Buckle up, here comes Part 1: A Parent’s Guide To Talking About Body Image – Age 0-3

by: Marci Warhaft-Nadler

The facts are beyond disturbing.

Recent studies show that boys and girls as young as 5-years-old are struggling with body image. Day after day, they are bombarded with messages from the media, society, peers as well as a number of other sources, telling them that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, attractive enough and certainly not THIN enough. As a result, more and more kids are putting their health and lives at risk by engaging in dangerous behaviors to attain what they THINK is the ideal physique.

The scary truth:

80% of 10 year olds HATE their bodies

25% of 7 year olds have already tried dieting

Eating Disorders in kids under 12 years old rose 119% over the last 9 years

42% of 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders want to be thinner by the time a girl is 17 years old, she’s seen approximately 250, 00o messages from the media telling her what she’s supposed to look like.

Gaining weight is the #1 FEAR of teenage girls, over losing their parents or getting cancer.

In 1970, the average age a woman started dieting was 14 years old, by 1990 the average age was 8 years old.

As parents, we want to protect our children from the superficial and often judgemental world that awaits them, but it’s a task that can feel somewhat overwhelming. Here’s the good news: There is A LOT we can do, starting from the minute we bring our babies home, to empower them with strong, healthy self-esteem and to help them grow up with the self-confidence they deserve.

How do we get started?

0-3 years old:

When our kids are this young, we are pretty much in control of their environment. We control what they see and hear, and this definitely works to our advantage. Here are a few suggestions to help create the kind of environment that will help our kids grow up loving who they are, instead of judging who they think they’re not:

1)  ROLE MODELLING

I cannot say this strongly enough. Little girls learn SO MUCH about how to treat themselves by watching their moms (and sisters and grandmas and aunts). It is crucial that daughters see their mothers being kind and accepting of themselves. This can take work, because it’s become almost second nature to criticize our jiggly arms or round tummies and we don’t realize that these seemingly harmless comments are anything but harmless. As silly as it may feel sometimes, make a point of complimenting yourself, out loud, on a daily basis. Challenge yourself to do so in creative ways. For example: Feel free to look in the mirror and proudly say, “I LOVE my arms because I use them to lift and hug my baby, to roll out cookie dough and maybe even do a few push ups!” and, “I LOVE my thighs because I use them to dance with my baby and walk through the park!”

{Melissa adds: Say to baby:  “Oh! Look at your strong legs climb the steps!”  or “Let’s wash those busy arms and feet!”  or “Does it feel good to have a tummy full of healthy food?”  or  “Big girl! Look how much you’ve grown since Christmas!”   or  “Can your strong arms help me clean up the toys/rake the leaves/walk the dog?”.  Your little ones won’t understand the concept of ‘healthy food’ or how much time has passed since Christmas, but they will understand your tone of voice and attitude as you set a framework for how your family will view body image.}

By doing this, your daughter will grow up loving her body for what it can DO, not judging it for how it looks.

The BEST part of this exercise, is that by committing to just a few seconds of self-appreciation every day, you’ll see your OWN self-esteem increase as well!

  

2) IMAGE-PROOF your home

We’ve all heard of Baby-proofing our homes, the act of removing any potential dangers our babies may come into contact with; we plug electrical outlets, soften sharp table edges and lock cupboard doors. Well, now we can also Image-Proof our homes by clearing out the negative messages and replacing them with positive ones. It’s a pretty simple exercise actually, just look around your house for magazines, books, posters or anything that promotes the unrealistic images of beauty that surround us today. Even though, kids this young aren’t reading yet, they are soaking in everything they see around them and we need to make sure that what they see is helpful and not harmful.

Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting that we can put blinders on our kids and keep them from ever seeing the evils of the beauty obsessed world we live in; but the fact is, if we can show our kids examples of beauty in all shapes, sizes and forms from the time that they are very little, they will be better armed to deal with the superficial and critical messages that start coming their way as they get older. A big part of the body image problem, is that kids see impossibly perfect models on TV and in magazines and then compare themselves to these images and walk  away feeling inadequate, like they just don’t measure up. However, if they have already seen beauty in a variety of forms, it will be easier to understand that the problems aren’t with their own bodies, but with the ones they are seeing on TV.

{Melissa adds: Use family photos of past and present to decorate your home…like where that stack of fashion magazines used to be. Teach your children that beauty is passed down through families, not by marketers and Photoshop.}

3) Make your home FAT TALK – FREE

We already know how important it is to avoid criticizing ourselves in front of our kids, but we need to extend that to guests in our homes as well. Kids hear everything, they take it in, process it and then, oftentimes, repeat it. Make sure that people who visit your home understand that any kind of fat or diet talk is not appreciated. It sounds strange, but there are a lot of people, who can’t go one full day without mentioning the calorie content of something they’ve eaten or making reference to their desire to lose weight.

{Melissa adds: The number one offender that I hear about all of the time is Grandma. We’ll have a post on this coming up.}

Remember, our  focus should be on function over esthetics. We need to teach our kids to love WHO they are, because if they grow up liking and respecting themselves, they will make better choices in all aspects of their lives.

The negative messages our children get from the media and society are strong, but that just means that our positive messages as parents, have to be even STRONGER.

Self-Worth should not be measured in pounds!

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Melissa here: See? That was easy and painless. Three sure-fire steps you can take with your itty bitty to get your family started on the right foot. Are your kids older? Still works! And? You can start doing this today. Right now! Go! Go pitch that Victoria Secret catalog and Vogue. Chuck it. Go find a photo of your grandma when she was 24. She was gorgeous. Your daughter has her eyes. Focus on that. Define beauty for yourself.

We can do this. Together.

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Marci Warhaft-Nadler is a certified fitness instructor and body image consultant. After overcoming her own body image and eating disorder issues, Marci created her Fit vs Fiction program to tear down the dangerous myths related to beauty and fitness and empower kids with the self-esteem they need to tune out negative messages and be proud of who they are instead of judging themselves for who they think they’re not. 

Self-Worth should NOT be measured in pounds!

www.fitvsfiction.com

facebook.com/visitfitvsfiction

fitvsfiction.wordpress.com

marciwarhaft@rogers.com

 

Pretty in Pink at Costco: A Set of Princesses, A Bookish Boy, and An Invisible

Image from clker.com, Rolera LLC

A Guest Post by Lori Day:

I never want to be accused of considering Costco a microcosm of the real world because I’d like to have less despair than that, but maybe there is something to be gained by cautiously extrapolating from that surreal environment to something essentially true about the culture we live in.

One day, in order to take a break from the crowds of people forming around the free food samples and the incredibly long lines snaking through the electronics aisle, I decided to indulge in a slice of cheese pizza and a diet Coke at the snack area. I sat at a table at the back, and soon noticed that there were three tables occupied by mothers with two or three daughters each. There were no dads and no sons on this particular day.

 When you eat lunch alone, it’s amazing what you see and hear and notice about your fellow human beings who do not know you are quietly people-watching them.  The first thing I observed was the way the girls were looking at each other. The mothers had not yet acknowledged each other, but the daughters were making friendly cross-table eye contact. Soon, the mothers noticed that the girls were around the same age and were interested in each other, and everyone exchanged pleasantries and it was really nice, and very different than the usual vibe of competitive drag racing with shopping carts that we had all just survived. I find even basic human decency moving when I encounter it at Costco.

I got up to get some extra napkins, and when I returned all of the mothers and daughters were engaged with each other. You know what? That was really cool. I was totally smiling. Then I suddenly noticed something that for no explicable reason (other than complete desensitization) I had previously failed to notice…that all eight girls of these three mothers were dressed head-to-toe in pink. I don’t mean that some of them had on jeans and a pink sweatshirt. Or a pink top and off-white skirt. I mean what I said—literally every girl wore no item of clothing that was not light pink, medium pink, dark pink, fuchsia or magenta, in some combination, with zero items of clothing in any other shade or hue. (Not on a hit-and-run anti-pink rant here, just articulating the phenomenal amount of that color that was present.)

Then, I realized what the mothers and daughters were all talking about…who was pretty, who looked “just like a princess,” who had the most beautiful hair, whose fingernail polish was the most gorgeous shade of pink, whose pink hair accessories were the loveliest, whose sparkly pink shoes were fanciest and like you’d wear to a ball, etc.

Honestly, this went on for longer than one could possibly imagine.  I had long since finished my meal and remained sitting there, sipping my soda, transfixed. Mothers were almost competing to out-compliment the beauty of each other’s girls. This is sweet and caring, isn’t it? Yes, for sure, but it is something else as well, and it became something else very quickly.

The youngest of all the girls, perhaps three or four, stood up. She was wearing a pink tulle skirt, like a tutu, but longer and able to flow and twirl. She smiled coyly at one of the other mothers, twirled around a few times holding the hem of her skirt, and then posed. I thought she was going to courtesy, but instead she put her hand n her hip and pushed her pelvis forward…waiting. Her own mother beamed as one of the other mothers exclaimed, “My, aren’t you the belle of the ball?”

Soon, all of the girls—that is, except one—got up and casually wandered between the tables, visiting each other, showing off their pink dresses and the Disney costumes a couple of them had worn that day, since Disney costumes are now just regular attire. They were sashaying, flipping their hair, pretending they were models, striking poses, giggling, and drinking in all of the mirth and effusive praise of the mothers, who were utterly delighted by the whole show. Costco’s warehouse lunch area had been transformed into a cement-floored catwalk for an impromptu Toddlers & Tiaras audition. The girls were having a wonderful time.

Except one. This girl was around seven or eight, and of a quieter, more introverted disposition. She had a book and was reading. I could not see the title, but it was fairly thick, and the girl seemed like she was very absorbed in it and probably a pretty good reader. She glanced up repeatedly from her book to watch the other girls—some older, some younger, one her sister—strutting, preening, and lapping up every “How beautiful!” Slowly, she pushed her book to the edge of the table where she was sitting and looked around. No one noticed. She whispered something to her mother, and her mother whispered something back.

Eventually, the girl slid the book back across her table, away from where the other girls were roaming the aisles between the tables. Now here’s where I wished I had a video camera. I will not have the words to describe this girl’s face. Crestfallen? Glum? Hurt? None of these work. Maybe…invisible. She looked like she felt invisible. She looked down at her clothes and up at the clothes of the other girls and back down at her own again. They were pink but not frilly. I realized they were what I would call play clothes, not dress-up clothes. She kept looking at the other girls getting all the attention with their swirling and twirling, knowing her own clothes would not do that.

She was ignored by all of the other girls and other mothers except her own. Apparently, her lack of proper attention to her own femininity was a tragedy for everyone else — innocent bystanders were being robbed in broad daylight of their God-given right to observe her in pink tulle, primping and sashaying in some big-box fashion show of this decade’s new essential girlwear.

I wanted to hug that girl, who is so much like my own daughter, and like I was as a child, and say, “Wow, that’s quite a book you’ve got there! What are you reading?”

Just at that moment the girl’s father came over, along with a boy who was clearly her brother. The boy had a Harry Potter book under his arm—that much was obvious. The father said to his wife, “I got a good spot out front. Are you ready to go?” The mother nodded and started to clean up the paper plates and soda cups on the table. The girl with the book got up and walked towards her dad. One of the other mothers said to her brother, “Wow, you’re a smart boy reading Harry Potter!”

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A big thank you to Lori Day for sharing her insightful experience with the Redefine Girly blog.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2!

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Lori Day

 

Lori Day is an educational psychologist and consultant with Lori Day Consulting in Concord, MA, having worked previously in the field of education for over 25 years in public schools, private schools, and at the college level. She writes and blogs about parenting, education, children, gender, media, and pop culture. You can connect with Lori on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

 

Book Review: Abby’s Adventures “Picture Day and the Missing Tooth”

"Picture Day...and the Missing Tooth!" by Suzanne Ridolfi

Meet Abby. She is the newest character to come out of Eifrig Publishing, an independent book publisher with a reputation for being a great place to find books that build up a girl’s self-esteem and positive body image. Abby wants kids to know, “It’s okay to be me!”.

Author Suzanne Ridolfi created the Abby’s Adventures series, which can help your kids counteract the effects of the media, build resilience and self-acceptance, and start each day feeling good about themselves!

Abby is a first grade girl with a creative mind and good heart, she just sometimes needs help along the way her way through some of childhood’s difficult moments. There are four stories in the Abby series, each one leaving you and your kids with positive lesson to reflect back on. The illustrations are adorable, and really bring Abby and her friends to life.

My family received “Picture Day…and the Missing Tooth!” right before our kindergartner Amelia was set to take her school picture. Amelia had lost three front teeth over the summer, while many of her friends had still not lost their first tooth. She was a little nervous about taking her picture, but her dad and I assured her, the more holes the better. In “Picture Day”, Abby feels the same way so her mom shares with her the baby album that shows Abby how much she has changed over the years, and how awesome it is to enjoy the different stages of growing up. Abby learns that true beauty comes from within.

Don’t miss the new Christmas book in the Abby series: “Christmas Carol…and Little Miss Scrooge”.

Abby shows kids how to be full of awesome!

Wear Your Awesome On Your Sleeve

New Full of Awesome tee, twisty design.

So…I wrote this little blog post a few weeks back, just something simple one morning after my muse, my daughter, gave me a little inspiration. I just thought that girl was full of awesome. To date it has well over 400,00 views. That amazes me, but not as much as the powerful comments (500+) that have been left.

Awesome is something you choose. Our kids do it naturally, they can’t help themselves. It is the choice to hold your face up to the world, knowing you are beautiful inside and out, and feel the light that shines out of you. Somewhere along the way, some people stop looking, stop choosing to be awesome. It doesn’t matter what your story is, if it is happy or painful…the time to be awesome is now.

Make that choice for yourself. Tell your demons to shut it. If you can’t remember feeling awesome, then make new memories. Start today. Start now.

I read a lot of comments of scaring stories from people describing their awesome being taken. Put your trust in me when I say from my own story, I understand that. Put your trust in me further when I say, by God, take it back. Choose awesome. Choose the power of you over the power of your story. Your history does not define you, your choices do. Go on and get your awesome.

For those who have their awesome, for those building it up, for those who need to start from scratch, and for those with amazing little people in their life who know nothing but awesome, Pigtail Pals created three new tshirts for you.

Choose your design, choose from ten colors, choose from sizes infants through adult. Just please, please choose to be full of awesome.

You can buy a tee HERE. Each tee will come with a special gift, one for you, and one to share the awesome with someone else.

Three new Full of Awesome tees from Pigtail Pals.