Daughters/ Parenting/ Teens/ Tweens

A Conversation on Body Image: There is no Scale in our House

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!

For more information on Body Image and Eating Disorders check out:
The National Eating Disorder Association
Eating Disorder Hope
PBS Parents
Tolerance.Org Body Image Lesson Plan

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  • Reply
    Nancy Carol Brown Hardin
    March 18, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    I struggled with body image too, but in the opposite direction. You see, I was always a very scrawny girl. I used to joke and tell people (making fun of myself) that I was a perfect 36….12, 12 and 12! But one day when I had grown up, married and had children, I found my first-born daughter at the age of 11, sitting on her bed in tears. She was so depressed, because a boy she liked at school told her she was FAT. At 11 YEARS OLD!! It broke her heart, and she never forgot it. All her life she starved herself, didn’t eat right, and then she grew up, married and had her own children, 2 of whom were twins. Still convinced she was fat, she nearly worked herself to death on every detail of her house (OCD) to keep herself from eating. She became thin and drawn. Then she and her husband divorced. She found what she thought was love with another man, and they moved in together. He got her started on meth, and yes, she stayed skinny. So much so, that I feared she was dying and didn’t know what was wrong. That’s how badly a hurtful remark made by a careless kid can affect someone. Fortunately, today she is clean and healthy, watching her weight with a good healthy diet instead of harming herself. I am so grateful that she found herself before it was too late. This is a very timely article, well written. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope others pay attention to the message in this article.

    • Reply
      Mama Ally
      March 19, 2017 at 1:59 pm

      A simple single cruel comment can do so much damage. I am so happy to hear your daughter is healthy and working through everything now. Using drugs to stay thin is a very real thing. I have spoken to several women who have resorted to either illegal drugs or illegally using prescription drugs to lose weight. It is heartbreaking how far some will go to “feel” attractive.

  • Reply
    Alana - Burnished Chaos
    March 19, 2017 at 6:36 am

    It’s so scary how young the body-image issue raises its ugly head these days. Kids don’t seem to stay kids for long anymore. I always try to teach my kids about being healthy and active but we never talk about size or shape or weight and no foods are demonised. I don’t gunk I know a single woman who hasn’t dealt with body-image issues at some point, myself included. But I am trying hard not to let any of it show in front of my kids and I really hope that they will feel they can talk to me if they ever do have concerns. Bullies like those you experienced on Facebook really are the lowest of the low. You’re right, we are all beautiful and unique x

    • Reply
      Mama Ally
      March 19, 2017 at 2:04 pm

      I think you hit on one of the biggest things we can do as parents: not let our children see us agonizing over our body image. They see us in probably the best light anyone does, at least when they are young. So, telling them that parts of us aren’t good enough will make them wonder what parts of them aren’t good enough!

  • Reply
    March 19, 2017 at 10:37 am

    This is such an important message for young girls and women everywhere. I have taught and coached teenagers for decades and even though acknowledging eating disorders is no longer so taboo, they remain incredibly difficult to treat successfully. We have to stop thinking of women as objects. Throwing out the bathroom scale may help the cause.

    • Reply
      Mama Ally
      March 19, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      Sometimes, the tiny things can have a huge impact. Not having that scale for me to obsess over, or for her to see me obsess over is a step, one of so many needed.

  • Reply
    March 19, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Wow you’ve really got me thinking! I’m pretty obsessed with trying to lose weight and wanting to keep myself fit. When I was in school I hated the way I looked and also had an eating disorder. It made me feel good to be able to go over 10 days without eating a single thing and I would hate for my daughter to go through this too, so maybe when she’s older I will either get rid of our scales or just arm her as much as possible so she never feels the way too many of us have done
    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

    • Reply
      Mama Ally
      March 20, 2017 at 10:05 pm

      I think the big thing is now you are aware and will do your best to make sure she doesn’t go through what you did.

  • Reply
    Karen @BakingInATornado
    March 21, 2017 at 11:39 am

    It’s a heartbreaking issue, to look at yourself and feel ugly. I think society is slowly coming around as we see more fashionable clothing options in “normal people” sizes and more models who aren’t size zero. But we still have a long way to go.

  • Reply
    March 21, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    I’ve never felt thin enough. I’ve been obsessed with my weight and eating healthy. Although I never had an eating disorder, I realized the negativity of my obsession when my beautiful 8 year old daughter stopped eating because she thought she was too chubby. Wow! And here I was thinking I was focusing on healthy.

  • Reply
    Shari E
    March 21, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    It is so important to focus on being healthy rather than a certain weight. We talk a lot about that with our kids.

  • Reply
    April 1, 2017 at 5:17 am

    I think this is an important message for boys as well as girls. I want to raise my boys knowing that we all come in different shapes and sizes and that’s ok. I’ve struggled with my weight my whole adult life and especially since having children. I can’t believe how cruel your aquaintance was – how dare they pass judgement! It sounds like you have the right mindset in teaching your daughter and I wish you all the best. #KCACOLS
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  • Reply
    August 28, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    You’ve touched on an issue that’s close to my heart. I’ve dealt with body image issues all my life and heard all the mean girl (and guy) talk too. It made me all the more determined that my ow daughter would grow up feeling good about herself and not buying into the whole “you are what you weigh” mentality. I’m sharing this post in a roundup to be published on 9-2-17. Best to you and your lovely daughter!

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