Love Your Body

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As my friend looked down at her perfect little 5 year old daughter, she noticed she was squeezing her thighs. She looked up with concern in her eyes. “Mummy” she said “I’m worried that I’m going to get fat. I don’t want my thighs to get any bigger and I think my tummy is a bit fat too”. So just to remind you, when my friend’s daughter said this, she was 5 years old. 5.

My friend recalled the sick feeling she felt and how suddenly her heart started to beat hard. Whilst, this may have just been a flippant, passing comment, it filled her and me in turn, with dread and sadness. My three biggest fears I have for my daughter? Her safety, being bullied and eating disorders.

Why at 5 years old should a girl’s body shape be of concern to her? Why is she already thinking negatively about her body? And where has she got this attitude from?

In 2011, a report showed that out of 2,000 children treated for eating disorders, 98 were aged between 5-7 years (99 were aged between 8-9 years, 400 aged between 10-12 years and 1,500 aged between 13-15 years). There is as could be predicted, a larger number of girls affected than boys. Nine times as many girls were admitted than boys. The increase of children admitted to hospital with eating disorders from 2003 to 2013 was 172%. More than 90% of them were young girls. This isn’t reflective of what is truly going on as most people with eating disorders are treated in outpatient or private clinics and of course, some people aren’t treated at all. Therefore, the number of children with eating disorders is greater than what we see in reports.

So, this begs the question, what has caused this and what can we do about the disturbing increase of eating disorders in young women and children?

This article in the Guardian, suggests it is children’s exposure to the body images of celebrities. Dr Colin Michie, the chairman of the nutrition committee at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, blamed the constant availability of these images to children has increased eating disorders in them.

Social media can also be blamed. Young people are frequently posting images of themselves on social media for people to “like”. This constant need for the approval of their physical self can create an obsession with their body image, that in some cases could lead to eating disorders.

In 2015, the BBC reported that there was a sharp increase of schoolgirls at risk of emotional problems (where as boys’ risk remained stable). The Scientists behind the study reported that one of the reasons behind this is “a drive to achieve unrealistic body images perpetuated by social media and an increasing sexualisation of young women.” 

The only positive aspect to the increase in cases reported is that maybe either more people are seeking help for their disorder or doctors are quicker or better at diagnosing it.

As a child, I never thought about my body shape. I was never concerned with the size of my stomach or shape of my legs. As a teenager, whilst I was obviously more conscious of my body and it’s never-ending changes (and now in my 40s, it’s still changing!), I never gave much thought to my body shape and certainly nothing ever came between me and my love for food (and here I am 20 odd years later and still food is seemingly my top priority. After my daughter of course. Maybe).

So, what was the key factor in my attitude towards my own body as child and teenager? The obvious answer could be, as mentioned above, that there was no social media in my youth and less obsession with celebrities’ bodies. Whilst there was some discourse surrounding famous women’s bodies, it was never at the disturbing levels we see today. I don’t ever remember articles in my Mum’s magazines shaming women about their bodies.

However, I firmly believe the main reason I had a healthy body image was because of my own Mother. I don’t ever remember her complaining about her body or putting herself down. The word “diet’ was never uttered by her. I only remember her once mentioning wanting to exercise more. I also never remember her comparing her body to other women’s bodies or even complimenting other women’s bodies. In fact, once on holiday I remember my brother and I teasing my Mum about her ‘spare tyre’ and my Mum just shrugging and laughing it off. I know, we sounded like such lovely & charming children. The point is my Mum was so outwardly comfortable in her own skin and at ease with her body shape, we could crack these kind of jokes around her. It’s worth noting that my Mother equally encouraged me to clear my dinner plate as much as my brother was and I was congratulated when I did so.

Also, I  remember my Mum telling me that she loved her stretch marks on her stomach as they were a reminder of her children and what her marvellous had body achieved.

This is a solid point. Women’s bodies should be celebrated and not shamed. Why are people more willing to do the latter than the former? Whether it’s with regards to other people’s bodies or their own? Why don’t we hear of more New Year’s resolutions about accepting and loving our bodies rather than depriving or punishing them?

From reading and researching various articles on eating disorders in young children and through my own personal experiences, I’ve compiled a list of possible ways to prevent eating disorders in young children.

1. Avoid talking about your own weight and dieting.  As mentioned above. It’s a non-brainer. What we vocalise in the home has a huge impact on young ears. Also, when we treat ourselves to a slice of cake, can we stop saying “ooh I know it’s naughty”. Cake is not naughty, it’s bloody delicious. Life is hard, eat the cake. Guilt free.

2. Don’t tease a girl about their body and/or weight. Up to 40% of girls are teased and this can double their risk of being overweight and causing eating disorders.

3. Have plenty of sit down family meals. This one is not always possible everyday, but it’s worth bearing in mind that as parents we are role models and our eating habits can influence our children’s. Personally, I fail doing this in the week, but Friday-Sunday, we always make this obligatory.

4. Explain that images of women in media are unrealistic. We should protect our children from society’s emphasis on body shape and weight. I adore the women on social media who portray their bodies realistically. The model Charli Howard who is the founder of the All Woman Project is a fantastic role model for young women. She describes herself as a body positive activist and her Instagram account features numerous realistic and untouched photos of her showing off her lumps, bumps and cellulite. She actively encourages women to learn to love all of their ‘squishy bits’ and how normal the imperfect body is. She openly talks about the misery that starving her body to be a size 6 brought her in the past and her All Woman Project works with schools running events and workshops for young girls. Another great role model for younger girls is the radio DJ Lilah Parson, who has a refreshing and healthy attitude towards her body and food. When asked recently if she was content with her body, she answered “Yes, I’m very content. I know what clothes work for my body and I’m happy and healthy. We don’t all have to look like Victoria’s Secret models. We put far too much pressure on ourselves” When she was asked what she liked about her body, she was easily able to list a few things. When she was asked to list what she didn’t like, she just answered that she tries not to be negative about her body. How wonderful to hear a young woman talk confidently about her body and with absolutely no shame. This is how it should be. In fact, women like Charli and Lilah aren’t just role models for young women, they’re role models for all women.

5. Never mention if you think a celebrity or person has a good body. This can encourage a child or young woman to compare their body with the so-called ideal body shape and it also compounds the idea that a woman’s body shape or weight is imperative to their self worth.

Recently, a documentary film has been made about women’s body called Embrace (more information about this film can be found here). This is the word I have always used in association with becoming happy with one’s body. We should all embrace our bodies for what they are. Whatever their shape, size, colour, abilities or disabilities are.

For all of us to try and achieve the homogenised “ideal” body shape is utterly ridiculous, a waste of time and energy and downright dangerous.

I know too many women that have suffered from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. I guarantee that if a woman hasn’t suffered from an eating disorder they will know more than one woman that has. And now, we are witnessing an increase in eating disorders in children, this madness, this attitude towards are own bodies HAS to stop.

Love your body, it’s the only one you’ll ever get. Love your bumps, your lumps, its imperfections. Embrace your body, not just for yourself, but for our all the little girls who will grow up to be beautiful women, whatever their shape.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Charli Howard:

“This can be the year that you choose to kick old habits; this can be the year you embrace your true shape, stop giving a shit about dieting and calories and choose to be happy. Eat what you want, love your squishy bits, step away from the scales (and bad boys) and don’t let anyone or anything make you feel you’re less than perfect. I’m off to cook a hearty roast dinner with my family because I don’t give a fuck about my weight anymore and neither should you bad bitches”.

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Image courtesy of the All Woman Project

 

 

 

48 comments

  1. Ritu · April 24

    I have seen the effect that these throw away comments can have on children tot he extent of a 6 year old nearly going anorexic because another mother in the class mentioned that she was chubby, (she actually wasn’t at all, not even puppy fat) and she was wearing tights in the height of summer as the same mother said she was hairy. The girl was distraught until we were able to work out what had happened, and reassured her that she was perfect. This same mother is now getting her 12 year old girl professionally made up for events… really~? at 12? No wonder kids develop these problems!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 24

      Oh Gosh Ritu, that is so worrying to hear. I can just imagine you witness the effects of this in your job. So glad you were able to talk to the girl and convince her that she is perfect just as she is. No child at that age should be worried about their bodies. Poor girl.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ritu · April 24

        I know. It made me so unset to hear of it, but yes, unfortunately since then I have heard of comments made to other children.. so unnecessary… and for an adult to say it, that is bullying of a different nature!

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 24

        It’s shocking and completely unacceptable for an adult to say it. Thank goodness for lovely teachers like you! x

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritu · April 24

        It’s why we are here, to nurture and teach… ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. alehouseaggie · April 24

    This is a very eye-opening article. It sad to see our young women and girls have to go through these body image problems. I blame societal attitudes and social media. Remember Marilyn Monroe? She wasn’t skinny. She was considered voluptuous. Now anyone like me or her, who are at least a size 14, are considered fat.. It sucks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 24

      It’s ridiculous, isn’t it that size 14 is considered to be big now? That women are literally killing themselves to be a size 6. Girls (and women) need to fall in love with food again. Food is bloody brilliant.

      Liked by 1 person

      • alehouseaggie · April 24

        Her her!!! I AGREE!!! Where are my sisters in food appreciation?! Food is the best! Pizza, Mac and Cheese, and chicken!!! And that is just to name a few! I would not look good as a size 6. Can you imagine being a size 0?! UGH!!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 24

        Mmmmm Mac & Cheese 👍🏻

        Liked by 1 person

  3. globalhousesitterX2 · April 30

    I am more personally concerned with a western society of very overweight people, more than a few with eating disorders. It’s sad to see so many people waddling down the road and creating a disability for themselves. See so many in the UK and America. NZ and Aust also have a problem with obesity. Interesting in that France does not. A different attitude to food?

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 30

      Yes I think obesity is obviously a very worrying issue too. My post relates more to how women are made to feel about their bodies & how their body shapes relate to their self worth. I think we need to find a balanced attitude towards food and our bodies. It’s also a personal thing that drove me to write this article too. I have personally been far more effected by loved ones with eating disorders than loved ones with obesity. Of course that doesn’t mean I am denying the issue surrounding obesity. As a Mother of a daughter I am also so very concerned of the issues young women face with regards to their body image & relationship with food. Thanks so much for reading & commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • globalhousesitterX2 · April 30

        Yes, I totally believe that we do need a healthier view on how we look. I have always had a fight to keep the kilos off. Though recognised eating disorders are more of a mental illness associated with more than food. A bit more complex to discuss on here. Our obestity rate outweighs skinny people. I have been in quite a few 1/2 marathons where there have been every size imaginable, so being fit and healthy outweighs [no pun intended] dress sizes 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 30

        Yes, it is a very complex issue indeed. I have no doubt obesity is a larger problem (likewise no pun intended ha), but there is space in this large blogging sphere to discuss both issues, no matter what the statistics are attached to them. Agree being healthy & fit is far more important than dress size. That’s a nice way to look at it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • globalhousesitterX2 · April 30

        Absolutely agree Hayley, that writing about different viewpoints is so important. Everyone has a different one based on experience etc

        Liked by 1 person

  4. lollowe · April 30

    Yes, yes to this! Having grown up with a weight obsessed mother has had a terrible impact on both mine and my sisters self image. I swore to myself that I would never talk about diet or negative body comments in front of my own daughter (who is now six) yet my Mother In Law constantly talks about her weight, say she’s skinny, she’ll be a supermodel etc.. I can’t bare it, as I trying to steer her away from the self obsession which is so rife in kids.

    Liked by 2 people

    • thebeasley · April 30

      Oh God, that’s horrific. I’ve had similar issues with family members too. It’s so hard to know how to handle that. Sounds like you’re personally doing a top job though 👍🏻

      Liked by 1 person

    • globalhousesitterX2 · April 30

      Isn’t the world a funny place, I came from a family of skinny people and I was the overweight one. Yes, I had some fun overcoming the chubby kid label. The difference between me and the other kids is that I lived to eat and they ate to live! Such a complex issue and with so many anxieties attached to it. Awesome that you and Harley recognise it and can give your girls a different viewpoint on it. Thumbs up 🙂

      Like

  5. Em Linthorpe · April 30

    Great article. As a mother of a tween I always have this worry on my mind, and although my daughter does make the odd comment about wanting “skinny thighs”, it’s almost in jest I feel…she has a healthy attitude to both food and exercise.
    Another tip I’ve heard about young girls having a happy relationship with their body is to encourage them to partake in physical activity, especially team sports, gymnastics, dancing, swimming or anything of that sort. It can help to be in tune with their bodies, learn what they are capable of, what they can acheive and of course increase their fitness too 😍😍

    Like

    • thebeasley · April 30

      Yes great advice re sport. I frequently talk about how amazing her body is & what it can achieve too. So pleasing to hear your daughter has a healthy attitude- well done you x

      Like

  6. josypheen · April 30

    Urgh. Excellent article.

    My mother was amazing about this so I had a lucky start, but I still struggled with feeling like a fatty when I was a teen, and in my early 20s. One of my neighbours was obsessed with counting calories when we were 13-14. She used to do 100-200 sit ups every day and she told me I should too (I was skinny, but she still made me feel fat.) The worst for me was an ex who told me I was fat at Uni. I ended up struggling with bulimia for about 5 years after his influence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 30

      Gosh, I’m so sorry to hear this love (tell me this ex’s name & address- I’ll go have a word with him!). Yes the external influences outside of the family home worry me more than anything. We can try & keep our attitudes nice and healthy here at home, but children’s & teen’s minds are such sponges and are so influnenced by their peers. I hope you’re happy & healthy now. Fuck that ex to the moon & back.

      Liked by 1 person

      • josypheen · April 30

        Yep, I am fine now. 🙂

        He was several years older, and I probably looked up to him and listened to him more than he deserved!! I bet he’d be shocked (and sad) if he found out that his influence made me sick for so long!!

        It did take a looong time to get better. I was very good at hiding it.

        I am honestly not sure what you can do as a mother except be there for your daughter. It’s really tough.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 30

        So pleased to hear you’re better. Yes it’s scary how easy some people find it to hide it. Cheers love x

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Lisa Orchard · April 30

    Love this post! All women need to embrace this attitude!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Strength and Sunshine · April 30

    I’m 20 now, and my mom is in her 50s, I have to constantly tell her to STOP as she picks apart every part of her beautifully aged body :/

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 30

      Well done you. Bless your Mum, at least she’s got a nice daughter- putting her straight.

      Like

  9. lyssalouhoo · May 5

    Every woman in my family was constantly on a diet, complaining about they way they looked. ‘Look at these wrinkles, look at these stretch marks, I have this spare tire’ etc. and I think that may have had a lot to do with my thinking I was the ugliest, most disgusting little girl on the planet until I was about 16. I thought, I look just like you…if you’re ugly, so am I. Of course none of these moms mean to do that, but it puts seeds in the children’s heads. I wish society would put more emphasis on what someone’s body can DO, not what it looks like. I’ve been lucky enough to have never had a weight problem, but it’s just dumb luck. And being stick thin and beautiful are not the same thing. I know women who are 30 pounds heavier than I am, absolutely stunning, and can run circles around me and probably kick my butt without breaking a sweat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · May 5

      Yes, that’s it exactly. The planting of seeds is so dangerous. So glad you grew up to have a healthy attitude towards yourself. Totally agree that we need to be taught more about what our bodies can do rather than what they look like. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Niki · May 6

    I used to comment on the things I didn’t like about my body and one day my daughter told me how pretty I looked and she didn’t care if I was overweight. That made me realize I needed to be more careful with my words. I also realized I needed to be more kind to myself. I started doing yoga naked in the mornings in front of a mirror. I had to get comfortable with my body and learn to love it. I have been at this weight for over 5 years. If I never lose the weight, will I complain about it for the rest of my life? So I figured getting comfortable with myself was the best thing to do. Now I exercise to be good to my body and I don’t even think about the weight loss aspect. I’ve gone up and down here and there but at the end of the day I finally feel comfortable in my own skin thanks to my naked yoga in the mornings and being thankful for my healthy body that works. Thanks for sharing this important read. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · May 6

      Wow thanks so much for commenting. It brings me so much joy to hear you’re at peace with your body now. I’m also going the process of accepting my body & loving it for all its faults. There’s no such thing as a perfect body & my body has achieved amazing things (grown a human being inside of it etc) & what it can achieve (whatever that is) is far more important than what it happens to look like. Cheers x

      Liked by 1 person

      • Niki · May 6

        I agree! While I’d love to have my prebaby body back, the reality is most days I’d rather write than put the work in needed to get it back. So instead of lusting after results I’m not willing to work for, I just want to do my best to be healthy. So I eat better, walk at least two miles a day, drink lots of water, and write instead of exercise more 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · May 6

        Here here! Sounds perfect to me 👍🏻

        Liked by 1 person

      • Niki · May 6

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Phaytea's Pulse · May 6

    Oh my! Just look at those statistics…A lot of people are being pressured in pursuing body goals the wrong way. There is need to be mindful of what we say to people about their body. The media doesn’t help too.. There’s a lot of work to be done and we should talk about it more. You have listed helpful pointers

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · May 6

      Thanks so much. Yes the media holds a lot of responsibility. I still can’t believe some of the articles that are published about women’s bodies, especially in the tabloid newspapers. Cheers x

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Traci York · May 6

    Awesome quote and even more awesome suggestions! Unfortunately, I’ve never had a good relationship with my body (our FB status is, “It’s complicated” – LOL!), but I’ve been working on it, especially as I’ve seen our three kidlets (2 girls and a boy who are technically adultlets now) criticize their own over the years. Oh, and I want to get a tattoo of “Cake is not naughty, it’s bloody delicious. Life is hard, eat the cake. Guilt free.” 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · May 6

      Haha and just to prove my point, I’ve just had a slice of lemon cake & it was indeed bloody delicious. Your body is awesome, it’s produced 3 wonderful adultkids for starters 😘

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Phayview#4: Mind voices and body goals – Phaytea's Pulse
  14. kalliamanika · May 24

    As a plus size girl, that had to go through hell and back to be at a god place with herself, yes… EAT THE CAKE!! My niche is body image and I really enjoyed reading your post, you just gained a new follower!
    Kallia @ http://kalliaseverydaytalks.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · May 24

      That’s wonderful Kallia! So glad you love both my post & your wonderful body ❤️ I’ll check out your blog x

      Liked by 1 person

  15. miriamsmommy · May 25

    My post on my blog today is about my 7 year telling me she needed to lose her tummy, so I definitely understand your friend’s horrified, probably heartbroken feeling. I panicked.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · May 26

      It’s so worrying, isn’t & yes terribly heartbreaking. I’ll check out your blog

      Like

  16. This has honestly been the hardest thing I’ve ever struggled with and after reading this a pit was in my stomach because my daughter has watched me always be critical of myself. How can I help her now that I’ve created this already? I’m so worried. On top of it, how do I learn to love myself. I really struggle with this. It affects me every day. Thank you so much for this article. Great read. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · May 31

      Oh my gosh. Please, PLEASE don’t worry. We’ve ALL done it. The important thing is to try and make a concerted effort to not do it in the future. Yes loving yourself is not something one can suddenly do over night. It’s all about LEARNING to love yourself. And if your daughter sees you trying to do that, it WILL rub off on her. Thank you so much for your comment and your honesty. Please pop by again if you ever want a chat or feedback on your progress with things. Big love xxxx PS You are clearly already an amazing Mum otherwise you wouldn’t be worried or giving this any thought 😘

      Like

  17. jessicajenkinson · June 6

    love this so much! check out my first post on body image and the race with no finish line! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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