I will never forget the day I was with a group of girls and they declared my arm the “biggest” one of all. I was only a child, but those words stuck with me and forever changed my self-perception. What I had considered to be an average-size frame was now “big.” Even at my smallest size, I still felt “big.” It’s only been in the past three years that have I began to silence the inner critic and see myself with loving eyes.
My daughters are now at or near the age I was when my view of myself was forever altered. It’s tempting to resort to drastic measures in order to protect them from the pain that one negative comment caused me. It’s tempting to try and control every morsel they put in their mouths … to tell them what clothes look best on their bodies … or dictate how much exercise they get each day.
Encourage & Empower
I don’t want my children to be held captive to a number on the scale or a dress size as I was for so long. Instead, I choose to encourage and empower my children, and this is how I do it …
- Instead of analyzing what they eat in terms of calories, fat, and sugar, we talk about food as fuel and learn what foods are most useful and beneficial to the body. We talk about where food comes from, and I try to model healthy eating habits as often as I can.
- Instead of criticizing my soft thighs and weak arms, I engage my 41-year-old body as much as possible. I invite my children to exercise with me and we do things we enjoy like walking, biking, cartwheels, and dancing to our favorite music.
- Instead of endorsing society’s unrealistic and non-diverse standard of beauty, I point out “beautiful” in all forms, shapes, and sizes. I strive to emphasize beauty in a person’s actions and essence—rather than in appearance.
- Instead of using words like fat, bulge, cellulite, skinny, and thin, I use words like strong, capable, bright, and brave. I stress the importance of using our inner gifts to bring love and beauty to the world.
I wish I could go back to my nine-year-old self and tell her what those “big” arms would eventually go on to do. I would tell her that those arms would play complicated pieces on the violin … they would deliver a mean backhand in tennis at the collegiate level … they would support many special education students through years of teaching and encouraging.
But most importantly, those strong arms would eventually be the guiding force of unconditional love for two capable and extraordinary little girls who would go on to do great things with their own strong arms someday.
How do you encourage healthy life habits in your children? What are your biggest obstacles in doing so? What has worked most effectively?