I have two daughters: one eleven, one sixteen.
Both of them have felt the pressure of having a "perfect body."
This began far younger than I would have liked, or expected; it did not come from me, from their father, or from any of their family members.
We love our girls just the way they are. We want them to be healthy and strong. We think they are perfect, and beautiful.
The most recent conversation about body image took place with my eleven-year-old, who is currently a fifth grade student in a suburban Maine middle school.
My lithe brown-eyed child told me she felt overweight. She said she was much bigger than some of her classmates, and this made her feel fat.
A tall child for her age (her father and I are also of above-average height), her weight is completely appropriate for her frame.
Her comments caused me no end of consternation. I, too, felt the stirring need to have a "perfect body" as a middle school child. I, too, was taller than many of my classmates.
For many years I struggled with eating, and food, and body image concerns.
As a result of this, I have gone out of my way to impress upon my children that they are normal, and healthy, despite how others their age might look. I've urged them to avoid comparisons. I've worked with them on having a well-balanced diet, attempting to withhold from negativity. I've asked them to listen to the hunger cues of their bodies, and provide themselves with adequate fuel.
I've tried to provide them with a positive example, based on my own experience.
But countered by the influence of their peers, I fear my words--and actions--do not always carry adequate weight.
Despite this, I will keep having these important conversations will my children--daughters and son alike.
There is nothing more important than helping our children understand that their value is not derived from how they might compare to others.
It is derived from how they make the best of whatever they have been given.
This lesson is one that I must reinforce in my own life, daily.
And many years older than eleven am I.
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