When my first child was born, I promised her she wasn’t going to hate her body like I’d hated mine.
She was going to eat healthy, get loads of exercise, be slim and fit and feel great about herself. Everyone was going to know what a great job I was doing.
So I focused on veggies and limited junk/sugar/processed foods, praised her beauty and took a lot of time figuring out what was the healthiest food to feed her.
The problem was, I was completely unprepared for how badly all that would go.
Mealtimes would often digress into a battle of wills. Fights ensued. With stones falling in my heart, I’d see her going to town at birthday parties enjoying all the things we limited at home.
She had a chubby tummy that I’m embarrassed to say I felt ashamed of. And then ashamed at myself for feeling ashamed. And then embarrassed by how judged as being a bad parent I perceived myself to be every time someone else’s little darling ate the carrots and sugar-free muffins while mine steadfastly ignored hers and begged for more toast.
The harder I tried, the more frustrated I got. It was hideous.
The moment really came for me when I walked into the kitchen and found my whip smart girl at the cupboard shoving sweets into her mouth. The look of guilt and shame and fear on her face sent ice down my veins. On her face was everything I’d ever felt about my body and how I ate.
In that moment, I made a decision – this stops right here. I’m not going to let this divine creature go down the same body shame route that I had. I’m going to break the cycle. I’m going to do something different.
Problem was, I had no idea what to do instead.
So I went on a mission to find out.
What I found shocked me. The sheer volume of research in this area is astounding.
Then it angered me. Why is this info not filtering down from lofty research land to me and you and those of us that need it!
Then it liberated me. What I found changed everything.
I found that
- Weight and health are not nearly as linked as we’ve been led to believe
- That issues with food and our bodies are not caused by a psychological weakness or personal defect, they are a very normal response to certain environments.
From there I found profound recovery from my own struggles with food and body image. About a year down the track, my daughter came home from school and said “mum, there is a boy in my class telling everyone how much he hates his fat tummy. But I know his body is a good one, mum, because all bodies are good. I hope he learns how to respect his own body.”
Right then and there I knew. I’d made good on my promise.
In order to share what I’ve learned, I’ve boiled down all the research I’ve done into 10 Key Principles. I call them Body-Confidence Principles.
One: Reject diet mentality myths.
Understand the myths that underpin the majority of diet, weight and health info that makes us fear our bodies and what we eat. Understanding these myths empowers us to teach our kids to respect and appreciate their body.
Two: Compliment & greet the person not the body
Learn and practice everyday non-appearance-based greetings and compliments to help send that message that how we look is not the most important aspect of who we are.
Three: Master awkward conversations
Respond when someone says “I’m fat” or “ugly” or has been bullied by peers with confidence. Learn what to say to family, friends & professionals when they make body shaming or unhelpful comments.
Four: Practice Gratitude
Teach yourself and your child to notice what works well about your/their body, how to care for it and see how amazing it is. Teach yourself/your child to make this a habit that lasts a lifetime.
Five: Declutter Diet Mentality Messages
Get rid of marketing and media messages that perpetuate false expectations about our bodies from our homes and media feeds. Create a home and social environment where body acceptance can flourish.
Six: Spot Stereotypes
Notice the way different body sizes are stereotyped in media and marketing and teach your kids to do the same. You’ll start to see these messages everywhere and so will your kids. Once they see these stereotypes they are far less likely to buy into them.
Seven: Understand digital trickery
Learn how unreal most of the images we see are and start to notice how most marketing and media doesn’t accurately represent reality. This stops yourself and your kids buying into unrealistic aesthetic standards for yourselves.
Eight: Put nutrition and exercise in perspective
Learn where nutrition and exercise fit into the wider picture of long term health. Create a more holistic focus on all long term health determinants for your family.
Nine: Make peace with sugar
Learn to see sugar as just another part of a varied diet. Let go of fear and angst about you and your child eating sugar and aim to develop a healthy relationship with it.
Ten: Master body led nutrition
Learn the two approaches to feeding that result in long term peace with food and your body: Divisions of Responsibility and Intuitive Eating.
Putting the principles into practice
Knowing the above 10 principles is a fabulous first step in the process of creating a body confident world for you and your kids.
The next step is to put the principles into practice. That’s why I started the 10,000 Mothers Club. A club of like-minded mums who want these 10 Principles embedded into their lives. You can explore the Club here.
Together, we’ve got this.
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