I used to hate my body. I have been a thin woman most of my adult life. But I honestly didn’t think I was “thin” enough. The society version of thin was extremely important to me. I worked out, dieted and did everything I could do look like the next Jennifer Aniston. I would measure myself compared to what society expected me to “look” like, the perfection that I could never attain.
Then I became pregnant with my first child. My body was changing and honestly, I loved it. I ate whatever I wanted, didn’t exercise and gained a whopping forty pounds, which on my small frame was a lot. I delivered Maddie with some complications which left additional water weight coming home from the hospital. I remember to this day, sitting with my newborn daughter, in our dining room, balling my eyes out. I looked at my husband and said, “I am never going to be thin again. I am going to be this way forever.” I continued to cry and felt sorry for myself. My husband looked at me and said very directly and clearly “ You are not going to do this, you are not going to make your issues Maddie’s issues.” I know that might seem harsh to say to a new mother but honestly, it needed to be discussed.
I had to become okay with my new body regardless of how it turned out. My expectations were to be THIN not healthy. We went on to have a very important discussion about how we wanted to raise Maddie to love her body and in order to love her body, I needed to love my body. This was six days after I gave birth. That’s when I started the process of loving my body. I would love to say, I am good at it everyday but I’m not. But most days, I feel strong, healthy and love my body. Maddie, Bella and I talk about how we love our bodies.
I use the quote from The Help ” You is Kind, You is smart, You is important” everyday with my girls. I want them to know that their value is not from how you look or your size but on how you were made and who you were created by. Everyday, they hear, that they are kind, smart and important because we as women are all of those things.
I have always found my wife attractive; her cuteness is what caught my eye, shallow maybe, but it’s true. Through our first few years of dating and marriage, while making many mistakes, one thing I always did was tell her how beautiful and attractive she is and I meant it every time. But no matter how, when or where I said it, my wife always had a negative view of her body.
Over time society has tried to define for us what we men should find attractive. Small waste, big chested women is what we are supposed to be attracted to. Look at any magazine, TV show, billboards, Hollywood, the majority of those women fit that mold so they gain our attention. Women pay attention and are convinced, unless they fit that mold as well, they are not good enough. Thus creating a negative image about their body, no matter how beautiful they are. Could I have acted in a way where she knew that I found that image more attractive than her?
Fast forward to the birth of our first daughter. As a parent, your child will learn, mimic and have similar behaviors as their parents. My wife is a great person, but I was not going to let her constant negative attitude of her body be passed on to our daughters. So we sat down and had a talk. There have been few things I have stood firm on in our marriage, but I flat out told her that this has to stop and was not going to stand for it. To her credit, she has done a complete 180 and is a great influence on our daughters in regards to her body image. But, I had to change a few things about myself as well. I have to show my daughters that my wife, their mom is the only person I have eyes for. No more gazing at magazine covers, no more backhanded remarks, no more idolizing celebrities because of how they look. I have to show them, the mold that society has, does not matter to me. I had to show my wife and my daughters first hand that I think they are beautiful no matter what they are wearing, time of day or how they think they look.
We have 2 daughters ages 3 and 18 months, so it’s hard to tell if what we are doing will work, or society will win over. But I am confident that what we are doing with them will win over the battle of body image in the long run and will help them with their kids. Yes that’s right, the actions you are taking now, will make up who they are as a person and effect how your kids teach their kids, your grandkids. We believe that if we pass on negative views of body imagine then it will passed on to future generations. This is why it is so important to make changes now, so that from the beginning, your kids will pick up on more of your positive traits and pass those traits on down the tree.
Here are a few things we have put in practice in our house.
- I read a book by Mark Driscoll recently, called Real Marriage. One of the many things I took away from this book was this. Your standard of beauty is your spouse. What you find attractive is your spouse. You and your spouse will change over time, as that happens, so will your standard of beauty. My wife knows that I find her and only her alone attractive. She is my spouse, so she is what my ideal woman looks like. All other women on the earth fall short of her in my eyes.
- I tell Jen and my girls they are beautiful. Not just when their hair is done, and they are all dressed up. But first thing in the morning with bed head, morning breath baggy pajamas and all. I make sure they know that they are beautiful inside and out no matter how dressed up they are.
- We have to practice what we preach. Our kids will learn from our every action and word. If we don’t say one thing and do another , our kids will catch on and act the same way. Our words and actions have to match. If tell them to love their bodies and yet we don’t as adults, then how can they?
- Be comfortable with your body. Embrace your body. Love your body. Pass those traits on.
Teaching our kids how to have positive thoughts on their body starts early in their life. As Michael Jackson sang, it all starts with the Man in the Mirror!