“Mom, am I skinny or fat?” My six-year-old daughter asked just before we stepped out of the car for her first soccer game this weekend.
Six. Years. Old.
“You’re healthy,” I replied, stammering, still in shock from her comment— spoken innocently from my slender, sports-driven child—the child who’d opt for a strawberry over a cookie any day of the week.
Where is a six-year-old being fed these thoughts—in kindergarten? I have a healthy perspective when it comes to food and the body so I doubt she’s heard me complaining or worrying. (Thanks be to God.)
But it hasn’t always been this way and if you’re a woman, I’m guessing you can relate…
I’ve cycled through just about every attitude about my weight and body image.
To rattle off the list for you: I’ve obsessively weighed myself, gorged to feed emotions, I became addicted to running for over a ten year span and have deprived myself of food in order to lose weight. I’ve counted calories and assessed fat grams. I can easily list the top five healthiest foods. I know all about portion control, good fats vs. bad fats…etc.
In other words…I’ve been there and done that when it comes to a warped way—even an obsessive way of viewing my body. It didn’t help in my prepubescent to early teen years I listened to an older sister as she berated me, high on her drug of choice, daily yelling at me how fat I was. It carried more impact when she spit out four letter words with her insults.
Our culture splashes around enough lies about body image without my needing to get more lies crammed into my brain. So many lies out there.
For too long I believed the lies.
But I delight in food now and in exercise. I enjoy both. I don’t deprive and I don’t gorge. I no longer fall into the same traps I did over a dozen years ago. In my late high school/ college years I weighed twenty pounds more than I do now. Those were some of the most confusing years for me when it came to eating and exercise. That time period marked the beginning of my obsession with running, resulting in little body/weight change for years because of an undetected thyroid disease.
I know where the seeds of weak body image got planted in my thoughts. I wish I could identify what sprouted that question in my daughter’s brain. After discussing it with her she explained she doesn’t even know where the question came from.
So many lies and confusing messages out there.
It’s my prayer she’ll learn sooner than I did how to treat her body with respect, how to treat it as the temple it is. And at the same time, I hope that in viewing her body as a temple, she’ll also come to understand as I have, the body is merely a shell, a vessel…Who we are pulses from our Spirit.
Have you ever believed any of the lies out there about body image?
*photos by flickr