A Conversation on Body Image: There is no scale in our house
Body image has been a concern for me as a Mama, since Harper was a baby. Of course body image isn’t a concern for a baby, but I knew that it would be a concern I would have to face, or more honestly put, that Harper would face as she got older. My family has a history with poor body image and with eating disorders, but even if we didn’t I know how mean girls can be. I know the pressure young girls face, even at a way to early age (I’m not sure what is an appropriate age to start worrying about our looks and obsessing over our weight, but I am sure that elementary school is too darned early).
But, it happens, too often and too early; 40% to 60% of girls ages 6 to 12 have concerns about their weight and/or shape. (For more information on stats on this epidemic facing our kids check out here and here.) You can blame the media and magazines. You can blame celebrities. You can blame other girls. You can blame all you want. The fact is our girls are obsessing about their body image too young and too much.
There is no scale in our house. When Harper was about 4 she really wanted one, mostly because she liked playing with it and watching it spin. I considered it for a moment, but in the end we didn’t get one. I won’t be getting one anytime soon, or ever. When I was a kid we didn’t have a scale in our house. I never questioned it, I just assumed it was normal. The reasons behind my Mama’s scale-free home policy was something I learned later in life.
My sister is several years younger than me. She was a disgustingly adorable kid, and a cute teen. She was all the girly girl I was not. I was always tall and scrawny, the classic beanpole. She was shorter and a little thicker. SHE WAS NOT FAT. She was active, she did figure skating, played sports, and participated in gymnastics and cheerleading. (seriously my exact opposite in high school) She was popular, cool, had friends, and had the high school experience I wished I had.
I looked at my baby sister and was jealous of all she was and all she had. At the time I was a newly divorced Mama. My life was my son and figuring out how to raise him on my own. I didn’t see what was going on behind scenes with my little sister. She didn’t see how awesome her life was. How awesome she was. I remember my Mama telling me she had gotten a scale for her bedroom. I remember her losing weight. I can look back at pictures now and see what I couldn’t see then. My sister had developed an eating disorder. I want to tell you I was there for her, that I helped her get through it. Truth is my Mama was the one that helped her beat her eating disorder. I didn’t even know how bad it was until years later.
Mama helped her because she understood. Come to find out the reason we never had a scale growing up was because my Mama had battled an eating disorder when she was a teen. I have seen so many pictures of my Mama when she was young, she was beautiful. How could someone so pretty, and frankly naturally thin, not see how beautiful she was? Fast forward many years. After Harper was born I couldn’t shake the baby weight. At first, it didn’t bother me, much. Bacon Beer Hubby told me, often, I was beautiful. Sure I wasn’t dead sexy, but I could look in the mirror and see someone who was cute and even pretty at times.
Obviously my self image wasn’t as strong as I thought. An acquaintance and a few of her friends began commenting online about how fat I was. They sent texts saying I looked like a man. That I was fat and ugly, and that there is no way my Hubby could be attracted to me. It ate at me. On the outside I was angry or I laughed it off. Inside, it set off something in me I never knew was there.
At the time I was having issues with acid reflux. I was on a series of medications, but they weren’t really helping. Often, I would end up throwing up from the reflux. And then, I started letting myself throw up, or maybe even throwing up on purpose. We didn’t have a scale but my Grandma did. And since I was there almost daily to check on her I started weighing myself every time I was there. I became obsessed with my weight.
I lost a bit of the weight, but I knew this what was going on was not a good thing. As I became more obsessed with my weight I opened up to my husband and my Mama. I went to therapy. I worked on losing weight in a healthy manner. I won’t lie those taunts still haunt me, they still hurt. Years later, and I am still hurt and angry, but, I am okay with how I look. But there will never be a scale in our house. I am so afraid that someday this big bad judgmental world will step up and rear its ugly head. I am afraid that someday my daughter will look in the mirror and hate the girl she sees staring back at her.
There is no scale in our house. I want Harper to learn she is more than her weight, whether she is skinny, athletic, thick, or whatever. I want her to know that as long as she is healthy that her true beauty comes from within. It is not a number on a scale. I hope I raise her to be strong and self assured. I hope she grows up knowing there is no scale to measure true beauty. There is no scale that measures the value of a person. I know I can’t shield Harper, but I will build her up. I will tell her that no matter what she is kind, smart, funny, quirky, and a beautiful soul. I will do all I can to build her confidence so that no one can break her down. And I will tell her why there will never be a scale in this house, so that maybe she will avoid falling into the painful trap the women in her family failed to avoid.
So, to young Harper and all the little girls growing up in this not so nice world, right now you are so confident and so unaware of the million ways others will attempt to weigh and measure your beauty and your worth. Never lose that self confidence. Never stop being so fierce. Each of you are beautiful in your own unique way, don’t ever let anyone make you doubt that.
What say you Mamas? Have you struggled with body image in your life? Do you worry about your daughters (and sons, boys deal with this too)? Let’s talk!