How Can We Achieve a Positive Attitude to Body Image?
A few nights ago I was flicking through the TV channels. I was looking for something easy-watching, which wouldn’t take too much focus or investment, because my evenings are punctuated by my baby requiring a feed. (I’m sure she shouldn’t still be waking so frequently, but there it is.) I landed on a show about body image and decided it fit the bill – and it sparked an idea, which has led to this post…so much for easy-watching! I got to wondering – what percentage of people have been on a diet, and how can we achieve a positive attitude to body image? Because at some point, almost everyone I know has spoken to me about their body in a negative way. Isn’t that sad?
I decided it would be really fascinating to look at the opinions of those who have never dieted.
I want to tackle the subject of dieting and body image with a fresh perspective: through the voices of those who have never been on a diet, to see what, if anything, we can learn from them. I turned to the fantastic 450 strong parent blogging community I have the privilege of being a part of. I posted a question in the Facebook group asking for the opinions of only those who’ve never embarked on a diet. Here’s my exact wording:
And then I waited…
How many responses do you suppose I got over the course of the next few hours? Put it this way: I was pleasantly surprised.
What Percentage of People Have Never Been on a Diet?
I genuinely believed this post would end with me lamenting the woeful state of our society with regards to body image and weight issues. Not so. But, whilst the number of responses I got (15) is encouraging, when expressed as a percentage of those asked – at a little over 3% it’s still disappointingly low.
If this were not my blog, ie. my (hypocritical) rules, I shouldn’t be allowed a voice here – because I absolutely have dieted in the past. I like to think I finally have a relatively healthy attitude to food and body image: my diet is far from perfect but – crucially – I’m aware of that fact.
In the past I’ve been skinny, and I’ve been fat, and right now I’m a slim somewhere-in-between. I’m about 10lb heavier than when I was breastfeeding Pixie, and about 4lb heavier than when I fell pregnant with Elfin. But I’m content and I’m not overweight. In fact, I’m probably a very healthy size now.
I don’t fixate on my weight and I’m fine as I am; having said that I still wouldn’t mind fitting into my old clothes for the summer! I know all it would take is to clean up my diet or do some exercise, but right now while I’m dairy-free and subsisting on an average of five hours broken sleep per night, my fatty, sugary snacks are what keep me going. I will sort my life out when I’m getting more zzz’s and I have a little more time, but for now my lifestyle is my coping mechanism! It’s crazy to think about how much of a gym bunny I once was, but I’ll get back there in due course.
Yet I’m very aware that my relaxed attitude comes from a place of complacency: it’s because I’m not overweight, that I have nothing to fret about. I know without question that if I were still carrying a lot of extra pounds – as I have in the past – my mindset would be very different. I’m not proud of that hypocrisy, and I’m actually very relieved that my weight is no longer an issue for me, mostly for this profound reason:
I’m determined to instil a healthy body image in my girls.
Which means demonstrating one myself – something I’m not sure I’d be so capable of if I were still struggling with my own demons.
How Can We Achieve a Positive Attitude to Body Image?
I’m careful never to mention my body in a negative way around Pixie, and I’ll carry that forward with Elfin when she’s older too. In fact I don’t talk about it much at all – it’s simply the vessel in which I reside. I let her know it’s my responsibility to keep it healthy, and I should respect it and be grateful to it for all the good and fun things it enables me to do, such as chasing my babies around the park, dancing with them and their daddy to crap music in the kitchen, and – of course – for growing some wonderful humans.
My hope is that by modelling this mindset my girls will naturally gravitate towards enjoying their food and enjoying not necessarily exercise and all its negative connotations – but moving their bodies and playing games, and all the fun that can be derived from sport, dance; and yes, one day – sex*.
*Cringing as I write that; but, much though we may not like to think about it, it’s a normal and healthy part of life, and is just as much a part of what our babies deserve from their bodies when they grow up as any other activity they choose to partake in.
I’d like to end today with a quote from Emily Leery, prominent food blogger at A Mummy Too, who echoes my own values about body image:
I think becoming a parent was the main change. Suddenly I had an example to set and children I KNEW were beautiful, no matter what their shape or size. Suddenly what mattered most was health, mine and theirs. Also, I’m a food blogger so I’m pretty passionate about balance rather than fad diets!
I couldn’t agree more.
The non-sleep-deprived among you may have noticed that I’ve missed out all of the other blogger’s opinions on how to achieve a positive attitude to body image. Basically, my intro turned into such a ramble I decided to split the post in two. You can check out the second post here.