Children learn what they see
If you were raised in a family where you watched the people around you struggle with food and weight issues, you learned to be critical of your body and mistrustful of yourself around food. As moms, we can’t help but pass down our fears and weaknesses to our daughters. To help your daughter change her relationship with food and her body, you’ve got to first address your own challenges surrounding those issues. I'd like to share a bit of my story.
Why I Stopped My 10 Year Old Daughter from Dieting
Back in 2006, when my daughter, Cara was ten years old, (she's 20 now), I made the radical decision to stop dieting. I did it for her as well as for me to protect her from making the same mistakes I did.
I was put on my first diet when I was 10 years old, and my takeaway from that experience was years of pain and shame, feeling like something was wrong with me and that my body would never measure up. I didn’t want to watch my Cara go down the same road as me. I knew that I had to break the 3 generation cycle of shame in our family.
How utterly helpless I felt when I noticed her steadily gaining weight and recognized the telltale signs of her struggling with emotional eating. All those candy wrappers stuffed into the bathroom trash, and the look of shock and fear in her eyes when I would walk into the room and catch her eating something fattening.
I knew this was a problem that I couldn’t ignore. I wanted to help my daughter. So I took her to the doctor because I was worried about her.
The doctor was horrified to discover that Cara had gained 25 pounds in less than a year. As she went on a rant about the benefits of dieting, I could feel my heart sink. I had so many misgivings about restricting the foods Cara loved.
On the drive home, I was painfully aware of my mixed emotions. I felt guilt, shame, hurt and anger.
Trying to ignore the tsunami of feelings welling up inside of me, I got all tough love and began to lecture Cara in the car, imploring that she begin dieting. She cried all the way home.
The next day we went to Target to buy her a bathing suit. With an armload of suits, we walked into the fitting room. I sat down on the bench as she undressed down to her underwear and began trying on the suits we had chosen.
I watched her sad eyes as she struggled to pull the swimsuit over her little tummy. Not wanting to interfere, I stayed silent, and waited for her to ask me for help. Suddenly she turned to me with tears running down her cheeks, sobbing, “Mommy, I wish I could just cut off my stomach” I stood, feeling helpless as I watched her cry, grabbing a chunk of the side of her stomach and screaming, “I’m fat.”
In that moment, it had become crystal clear to me that my legacy of body shame had been passed down to my daughter.
Shocked and speechless with grief, I sat with tears rolling down my cheeks. I reached out to hug her and held her close. After our sobs subsided, she got dressed, and we drove home in silence.
When I got home, the realization hit me like a ton of bricks. My distorted body image was destroying my daughter’s self-esteem.
Are you struggling with your own version of body hating and worried about its affect on your kids? Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post for more solutions to end the sadness, shame and the struggles.