Next week BlogHer is sponsoring its annual blogging conference next week in Chicago, and a few of my blogging friends MizFit and Roni (along with Heather from MAMAvision, Claire Mysko and Kate Harding) are hosting an afternoon session on Friday, July 24, called “Blogs & Body Image: What are we teaching our kids?”
For a synopsis and more information about this session, please click on this link to MizFit’s posting. Even if you cannot attend in person, you can participate through Twitter and through posting your own blog about this topic.
Lynn is asking now What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now?
She wrote this at Refuse to Regain a few weeks ago:
None of us can really know why lies underneath as we shed pounds. I was thin a few times when I was younger, but I was just that: younger. My skin was younger, my muscles were younger, my breasts and thighs and tummy were younger. Then they were introduced to gravity and cellulite, and as I got bigger and smaller and bigger again, my body got confused, and the things that bounced back before didn’t this time…
Years of such extreme weights has caused me to have such sad, flappy skin (and I) mourn the loss of elasticity that could have been mine if I’d taken better care of myself in the past. I just wish there was a way to get that message across to young women today. Alas, so many more people are obese now than ever.
And MizFit answered the questions this way:
For me, absolutely nothing. For me I think it took knowing the ‘pain’ (eating poorly, feeling bloated and **tired** and plain ole UNCOMFY in my skin. On all levels) to have the Ah Ha! moment of realizing I needed to change my ways to live longer and enjoy that life more.
But that’s just for me and to me.
I spend lots of time working with tween girls and what I try to convey to them is simple: We get one body, that’s it. Take care of it and keep it healthy and strong and it will serve you well. Sure we are amazingly resilient creatures (I rebounded nicely from my beer and pizza diet days) but why put yourself through that?
These women are older than me and even though they are speaking to tweens and teens in their mind I feel they are also talking to me, at my current age of 23. I feel like they are talking to my friends, who will skip meals just so they remain the same size. I feel like they are talking to the girls I spend my time with who constantly find fault in their expanding bodies because they don’t understand how poorly treating their body is related to the weight gain.
I agree that there is a fine line we walk when we contemplate discussing overweight/obesity prevention with young people, particularly females. Even with my positive attitude and healthy views on weight loss I still feel nervous discussing these topics. Everyone has to find their own way and their own particular moment where they realize that the path they are on isn’t the right one. They have to discover for themselves that treating their one and only body in a healthy way is the right thing to do.
I think many of us don’t reach that point for two reasons.
- Many never reach that point where we can say without any outside influence, “I’m worth this. I’m worth taking care of.” Obesity happens because we either forget or consciously push back the fact that our first responsibility is to ourselves. We focus on other people, we say we don’t deserve it, we pretend it isn’t important. Even with people telling you that taking care of your body is important, most of us won’t do it until we reach the point where we say “I deserve this and I want to take care of my body.” Some of us learn that as children, some of us don’t figure it out until we reach 255 lbs or more.
- Reaching that point means you have to be ready to fight. After you reach the decision that it is worth it, you have to be ready to defend that stance against EVERYTHING. Even with support from others you will still be fighting media images of bone thin women, pressures to lose the weight fast, to look perfect once you are thin, advertising for both weight loss products that don’t work and junk food that causes the problem to begin with. Once you decide to take care of yourself you will realize how many different attacks there will be on that mindset. You have to be ready to stick with that “I am beautiful, I deserve this, I am worth taking care of” mindset against all outside forces.
I hope more girls reach this point early in their lives and I’m glad these women are actively trying to make that happen. I hope girls don’t spend their high school years abusing their body like I did. I’m 23 now and my body hates what it has been through. Yet at the same time, without my journey I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the exercise I do or the healthy food I eat. Without knowing how bad I feel after eating days worth of fast food, I wouldn’t know how light and wonderful I feel after eating clean. Without knowing how painful it feels to weigh 255 lbs, I wouldn’t be satisfied with a goal weight (175) that most people consider fat. I would not think I keep getting more beautiful as I get older as opposed to the women who are already mourning the passing of their youth.
So what would I have done differently if I knew then what I know now?
When this question is asked I immediately think of my middle school years, which I hated thanks to a move to Tennessee and a brother that teased me mercilessly about being fat. It was the most miserably period of my life and did more to ruin my self-esteem than anything else I can think of. I want to say I have a magic answer for what I would do then.
Someone needed to tell me that my brother was wrong. Someone needed to counteract the message of “You’re fat and disgusting.” No one did. No one even came close. The closest message was still a twisted and tainted one of “You’d be so pretty if you lose weight.” Because no one gave me a positive message I started hating my body. Everything I heard told me it was a crappy body, so I started treating it like crap. Through high school I never heard a positive message about my body. I had to wait until that moment came where I reached my own turning point and couldn’t take it any more. I had to wait until I let my own voice buried deep down inside tell me that I needed to change and my body deserved better.
And how would I talk to a young woman (your children, friends’ children, etc.) today about your experiences with weight and body image?
If things could have been different when I was younger I would have hoped someone would have counteracted the voices of negativity in my life. As it was, none did. And now I realize that is because no one ever starts these conversations. Thank God for blogs which take away some of the pressure to discuss these topics. But in my life, I’ve rarely heard or had positive conversations about weight or body image. The conversations I’ve overheard and participated in were always about complaining, about wishing body parts were different, never about what we loved or how we really felt about our bodies.
All of those conversations were openers for someone to step in and have a meaningful conversation about weight and body image. But no one did. I would like to take those opportunities now to start these discussions. To tell a 14 year old that while she might hate that one part of her body, her whole is beautiful. To tell the depressed and lonely 16 year old obese girl that food will never solve a problem. That she doesn’t have to be thin to be happy, she just has to stop treating her body poorly.
I hope that any conversation I have with a woman on this subject, no matter what her age leaves her happier with her body. We need to tell each other we are beautiful. We need to talk about these things. Handing out backhanded comments like “You’d be pretty if..” doesn’t do anyone any good. Never complimenting other women doesn’t do any good. Maybe if we all were a little more loving toward each other we could reach that turning point where we love ourselves faster. We wouldn’t wait until obesity overruns our life and self-image.
So I’ve pondered the subject for a while. Let me know what you think.
What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now? And how would you talk to a young woman (your children, friends’ children, etc.) today about your experiences with weight and body image?