How to Model Body Positivity for your Child (hint: it's more than what you say)

Rebecca Hill

I have always been a big girl. Not fat (initially,) just big. My older sister was petite, small boned, and slender. My broad shoulders and thick wrists made me an excellent swimmer, but not dainty or popular with the ballet teacher or the boys in our small town. I distinctly remember the unhappy realization, when stepping on the scale at fourteen (having lost 20 pounds by living off of diet shakes and melba toast), that I was still a big girl. “Like a linebacker,” my father would volunteer, not unkindly, but not particularly sensitively either.

That was in the early eighties, when you couldn’t be too rich or too thin. Today we are all about body positivity and we are oh so careful the messages we give our kids. We never say things about their weight or appearance. We try not to complain about our own weight or our size or say we are dieting in front of them—especially our girls, that is a no-no—we don’t leave fashion magazines lying about the house, we praise them for their brains and bravery and creativity!

Our kids watch us though. That is the thing. They notice what we do, not what we say. So if I never, ever wear a bathing suit when we go to the beach? Yeah. If I don’t eat that cake, if I am always on a diet, if deep down I know I could be a better person if I just lost ten pounds, that message is in the air, and my children are getting it loud and clear. When my child sees me weigh myself every morning, because I’m trying yet another diet or exercising constantly because I “just want to be healthy,” but the frenetic energy behind it tells another story, the message is clear. There is no substitute for the example of self love. I cannot tell my children one thing and live another. They are smarter than that.

I have largely healed from the body shame of my adolescence, thanks to therapy and a husband who made no secret that he adored my rolls and dimples. My body and metabolism still live with the aftermath of years of dieting and restriction, and that is too bad; but my children have hopefully gotten the message that beauty is about celebrating who we are and not living up to some weird ass standard created by someone we’ve never even met. Life is too short for that shit, and good people are drawn to us because we love ourselves. Rolls, dimples, broad shoulders and all.

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