This time last year, in an effort to promote the importance of positive body image, I took my daughter to a screening of the movie Embrace — a documentary that explores how poor body image has become a worldwide epidemic.

If you’re a woman, I’m sure this comes as no surprise. Research suggests that 91% of us are dissatisfied with our bodies, so chances are this topic resonates with you as much as it does with me. When are we going to get that true beauty emanates from self-love; not skin and bones?

The screening took place in the safe and sacred space that is my local yoga studio. I planned this date thinking it would be good for Anna. The morning of, I realized this film wasn’t just for her. It was for me.

I am not someone who most would consider overweight. I’m neither waif-like nor chubby. I’m somewhere in between. Somewhere that is good enough for others but not for me.

I have bounced from diet to diet in pursuit of a positive body image.

Over the last five years, I have lost 20 lbs through four separate endeavours. Four because I gained the 20 lbs right back following each endeavour. First, I followed the Primal Blueprint. Next, the Isagenix program. Next, the Isagenix program (again). And then, Weight Watchers.

Will there be a next? As of writing this, my hope is no. I’ve realized (not a moment too soon) how unhealthy my relationship with food is; not the food I eat but the labels I attribute to myself when I’m eating it.

If I’m eating a salad, I’m being good. If I’m eating cake, I’m being bad. For years now, I’ve been all or nothing when it comes to what I eat, which has left zero room for moderation. That’s what I’m all about now. Moderation. Getting back on track though …

While I believe I model a healthy lifestyle for my daughter in many ways (I do yoga regularly, walk frequently, and prepare health-conscious meals 95% of the time), I also model the very obsession this film is based on. Sure, I try telling Anna (and myself) that I’m counting calories because I want to be healthy, but the truth is, I don’t want to be fat. Or rather, I want to be thin.

When the screening was over, our host shared a reading with us.

How to talk to your daughter about her body.

The number one step, according to this article by Sarah Koppelkam, is “don’t talk to your daughter about her body.” As our host read this, I felt as if she were speaking directly to me. For years, I commended Anna on her shapely posterior as if that were some attribute she should be proud of. What was I thinking?

Our host continued reading. “Don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter.”  Too late for that. She’s seen me do it time and time again, always trying to talk a healthy talk while clearly walking a body-obsessed walk. And don’t say, “I’m not eating carbs right now.” I’ve blown that too, trying to justify why there’s pasta or rice on her plate but zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice on mine.

body image quote

It’s essential that we model a positive body image to our children – now

A 2015 study called Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image, undertaken by Common Sense Media, revealed these disturbing findings:

  • By age 6, children are aware of dieting and may have tried it;
  • 26 percent of 5-year-olds recommend dieting as a solution for a person who has gained weight;
  • by the time kids reach age 7, one in four has engaged in some kind of dieting behavior; and,
  • between 1999 and 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders among children below the age of 12 spiked 112 percent.

EmbraceSarah Koppelkam’s article and Common Sense Media’s research are all great food for thought. Here are five additional resources in and around the same subject that you may wish to explore:

  1. Promoting a Positive Body Image – Health Canada provides tips to help you do right by your child.
  2. A body image workshop kit for teachers of children 9 through 13 – Consider sharing this with a decision-maker at your child’s school as inspiration for a similar program.
  3. What is low body confidence? – As always, Dove addresses the issue head on with its self-esteem project.
  4. 10 Ways to Overcome Negative Body Image – The Underground Health Reporter shares tips on how to dial your body image obsession down.
  5. Join The Body Image Movement Help body image activist and Embrace storyteller create global change.

Here’s hoping for healthier, happier, perfectly imperfect generations ahead!

Viv for today xo

(Originally published in June, 2017)


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