Talking To Your Daughter About Her Body

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A friend of mine emailed me an article on what to be mindful of when you talk to your daughter about her body. analgesic pills. I found the article insightful and helpful and I thought the readers of this magazine would benefit from it.

The article has been republished in the Huffington Post and I’m sharing it below:

How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.

Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.

If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:

“You look so healthy!” is a great one.

Or how about, “You’re looking so strong.”

“I can see how happy you are — you’re glowing.”

Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.

Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say, “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.

Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.

Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.

Teach your daughter how to cook kale.

Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.”–Sarah Koppelkam, Hope Ave Blog

I absolutely agree with this post, and I can also say that I have followed the advice in it, pretty much to a “t.”  I have deliberately not discussed or commented on my girls’ body parts, neither in a negative nor a positive way. Rather than complimenting my daughters on their looks I have focused on their health and their achievements, their art and singing voices and their ability to do whatever it is they do in volleyball…spike, block, dig.

Several years ago I received a compliment from a nursery school owner on my older daughter. She told me that girls that pretty are usually stuck up and it’s refreshing to find someone who doesn’t have that going on. (Well, it was my intention to steer my daughter so that she focused on what she can accomplish rather than on what she looks like…if even for a short time before her peers and the media made an impact.)

However, I do want to add something that’s missing in this article that I feel is extremely important–and that’s educating your children on what constitutes good nutrition, and why. Because if she is not healthy, she will not be able to do all those things she wants to do.

My girls eat differently than many of their peers, in fact both of my daughters (ages 15 and 18) cook real food and often make vegetables. I took my 15-yr old to a farmer’s market around Thanksgiving and gave her $10 to spend on whatever she wanted. She bought herself brussel sprouts, grapes and hummus with the money I gave her. That’s what she wanted.

But my girls were taught from early on what to eat and what they should stay away from, not because it might pack on the pounds but because it was simply not healthy.

My interest in nutrition was sparked many years ago when I noticed weird symptoms like itchy skin when I was about 12 years old. At that time I remember becoming suspicious of drinking cow’s milk, and over a dozen years later an MD who was ahead of her time regarding medical nutrition confirmed my sensitivity to dairy.

Another big thing that propelled my interest in nutrition was the ADHD-like symptoms I experienced when I went away to college. Of course I did not know about ADHD at the time, in fact I just recently, like last month recently, connected the dots. But back then I just knew I had these incidents where I could not sit still and concentrate on my studies; I was fidgety, my mind raced and I experienced the uncomfortable jitters of low blood sugar. I ate a lot of grains and whole grains then, they were the “health foods” of the late seventies/early eighties, and cheap to boot. But they wreaked havoc on my blood sugar, and my life, for years. I wish I’d known then what I know now…

I did not give my children food choices and I wasn’t their short-order cook. They ate what I prepared and I explained to them why that was important. Things got a little tough around 4th or 5th grade, the early middle school years when it’s so important to fit in with your peers. My girls came home complaining why couldn’t they have “normal” yogurt from Safeway for lunch; why did they have to take full fat Stoneyfield Farms yogurt from Whole Foods to school? But I explained why and now, they eat mostly foods that I would consider healthy (lately, they’re into kale), they’re fit and lean and muscular, and my older one is looking into majoring in nutrition in college.

The truth is, without a healthy and optimally functioning body your soul cannot express itself to the fullest extent possible. It’s not an either/or situation, it’s both/and; we must take care of both our psyche and our body.

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  1. Keri Dominguez says:

    Great article Christine! Reminds me of this wonderful quote……

    One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
    ~Virginia Woolf

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