A middle school girl was sitting with her “friends” at lunch. As she started to eat her lunch, her friend told her she really shouldn’t eat her food because it will only make her fat and she could stand to lose a few extra pounds. That girl ended up not eating her lunch and fell into tears when she got home.
Someone recently shared this story with me and it broke my heart. It broke my heart for the little girl. It broke my heart for all little girls. It broke my heart for how mean girls can be to one another. It broke my heart to think that my little girl will be in middle school next year. It broke my heart to think how this will be engrained in the little girls mind for the rest of her life. It broke my heart to think of all the body image issues that are out there, young and old.
As I was growing up, I remember hearing a number of people, both relatives and friends, refer to themselves as fat. They hated their bodies. They hated their thighs. They constantly put themselves down. I must have had some intuition because it made me feel sad for them. It made me feel like it just wasn’t right to put yourself down like that and this was at a very young age, as young as I can remember. It’s almost like I just had this preconceived notion that we should love, take care of and accept our own bodies. Now I’m not saying I was perfect. I did my fair share of stupid things that definitely were not good for my body. I had instances where I felt down on myself. There was even a small window of time in college where I had a very unhealthy image of my body, but it didn’t last long. I knew my mind was playing tricks on me and I refused to give in to it and steered myself back on the right path.
After I had children, I wanted to make it a point to let them know that when mommy exercises it’s because I want a healthy heart. It’s because I want to be around with them for a long time, to experience their milestones, to be a grandma eventually. It’s because it’s good for our bodies. It’s because I want to have the energy to run around and keep up with them. When Mom chooses healthier options to eat, it’s because I want to feed my heart, body, soul and mind the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and FAT it needs to stay sharp, clean and healthy. None of what I do is because “I don’t want to be fat.” That phrase will never leave my lips.
We need to shift the younger generation’s mindsets. We need to let them know why we eat certain things and why we don’t or shouldn’t eat certain things. We need to let them know that it’s okay to indulge every now and then. We need to keep “so we don’t get fat” or “you’ll get fat” out of the conversation. One of my favorite quotes is along the lines of every bite we take we need to think “am I feeding disease or am I fighting disease.” This is what should be taught to our children. Will that Twinkie, pizza, candy, soda give you the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need to thrive and grow or will that Twinkie potentially harm your insides, give you cavities and/or contribute to acne? There should be absolutely no talk of that Twinkie will go straight to your thighs. Do they even make Twinkies anymore?!
Gaining weight is a side effect or a symptom that someone isn’t eating what is necessary for their bodies to thrive at all stages and seasons in life. It comes as a side effect from diabetes type 2, heart disease and a handful of other conditions and this is a whole other topic. When we eat well, ideal weight and clear skin is a positive external side effect; it will just come eventually and naturally. (Stay tuned for my personal experience and battle with clear skin.)
So are you with me? Will you help me in the movement to shift the mindset of our youth and in raising healthy, mindful little girls who possess a positive body image no matter what might be said to them? It’s our job to provide them with the armor they need to get through such a wonderful, but sometimes hurtful life. We have one life on this earth in this body we were given. Our bodies are magnificent, beautiful microbiomes of complete, complicated miracles in all shapes and sizes. Given half the chance, our bodies can do what they were meant to do without even thinking about it. (Food is medicine, but it can also be complete poison.) We just have to fuel our body with what it deserves and it will possess it’s beauty in it’s most natural state as it was meant to be.