Sunday morning I sat in our church and listened to the Pastor talk about fake news, not in the political sense but about how we are all bombarded with sources of fake news every day and how it influences our thoughts and our actions.
As he spoke about specific examples, he touched on one example that really hit home for me and I think it will for many of you as well. Body Image. How we see ourselves and our worth based on our size.
He went on to say “The average woman in America sees about 3,000 ads a day, many of which send messages about what the ideal female body should look like, but 98% of American women are not as thin as the fashion models who supposedly have the right body type”
Think about that for a minute. We are constantly being fed this message that we should all look like the models we see, yet the majority or women look nothing like that in real life. Why does our culture accept this as normal? Why do we constantly try extreme diets and weight loss products that make us miserable?
So when I got home from church yesterday, this subject was weighing heavily on my mind. I decided to look up some of the statistics he had mentioned myself. Here are a few of the most shocking:
- 91% of all women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting
- 80% say the images of women in the media make them feel insecure
- 58% of college-aged girls feel pressured to be a certain weight
- 42% of girls in 1st-3rd grade want to be thinner
- 81% of ten-year olds are afraid of being fat
- 90% of 15-17 year old girls want to change at least one part of their physical appearance
- 53% of teenage girls think they should be on a diet
Just take all that in for a moment……… Basically the message we are receiving and the message we are teaching our kids is that we should be focusing on being a certain weight or a certain size and that we should always be “dieting” for fear of being too fat. This is just sad. In what world should a 10-year-old little girl be more worried about being fat than just having fun and being a kid. I don’t know about you but I would be happy to have the youth-full appearance I had in high school. And yet 90% of 15-17 year old girls want to change something about their appearance. 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner? Really? This is what these sweet little girls are worried about? They should not have a care in the world at that age much less be concerned about being thin.
I don’t have girls, instead I was blessed with three boys but hearing these statistics break my heart. It also make me stop and question why they feel this way? Where are they getting these messages? Is it advertising? Of course. Is it social media? Probably. Movies and TV? Most likely.
But could it also be the message we are sending them as parents? Do they hear us talk about how we need to go on a diet and loose X amount of pounds before we can wear a swimsuit? Do they see our obsession with stepping on the scale? Do they see us eating foods labeled “diet” and “low-fat”? Do they hear us sigh and make negative comments when trying on clothes? Think about it. I know I am guilty of a few of these, and I absolutely feel that as a boy-mom, I have the responsibility of teaching my boys that there is not an “ideal” size for a girl (or a boy) and that appearance does not determine our value. We need to change the conversation from the words “thin, diet, skinny, and low-fat” to words like “healthy” and “strong”
Part of being healthy is being happy and satisfied in life, if we are constantly having negative thoughts about our body, how can we be completely healthy? If we are always on these weight-loss diets, where the food tastes horrible and leaves us feeling unsatisfied after meal-time, how can we be happy?
As each new fad diet comes along, most of us don’t realize the negatives associated with them — from a lack of nutritional value to food restrictions that are hard to live with. This idea that cutting out certain foods results in rapid weight loss plays into popular beliefs. The problem is many of these diets require elimination of one or multiple food groups which often restrict nutrient dense foods that our bodies need. Then you have “diet” foods such as diet soda which encourage us to continue drinking a beverage with no nutritional value whatsoever, instead of focusing on reducing the overall amount of sugary drinks we consume. Not to mention, recent studies have shown sugar-free sodas and products can actually be really harmful to our health and you are better off drinking/eating the real thing occasionally rather than just switching to diet and sugar-free versions.
One of the reasons I wanted to become a health coach was to get people off of the diet and low-fat bandwagon, so that they could stop worrying about counting calories and fat grams, stop weighing themselves constantly, and instead learn how to eat and enjoy foods that are nourishing and that make them feel good. This is the message we should be sending our children. We need to teach them to eat well for health, energy, and strength and we need to start by setting that example ourselves.
In my early twenties after I had my first child, I was a size 4 and weighed around 125 pounds. Yet at that time I thought I was fat, I really did! The funny thing is that was the thinnest I have ever been as an adult. Looking back, I can say without a doubt that I am ten times healthier today than I ever was back then.
At that time in my life, I used to drink a soda almost every day, pour non-dairy, sugary creamers in my coffee and I was constantly eating candy and other sweets. I had chips with my sandwich every day at lunch or if I was “dieting” I had the baked chips (which are not any better for you). I cooked with unhealthy cooking oils, baked with refined flour and sugar and purchased plenty of processed snacks for my toddler and myself. I never worked out or exercised. Seriously, I would say I was going to start working out and then do it maybe twice before quitting.
Nothing about that part of my life was healthy, and I can still remember feeling tired and worn out all the time and like I didn’t have enough energy to keep up with my son. This was back when my husband (also in his twenties) was taking FIVE prescription medications daily, for everything from high cholesterol to acid reflux.
Now, about 9 years later I feel better than I ever have, but I am not thinner and I don’t weigh less than I did then. I will probably never have a flat stomach or a “bikini body” but I no longer care about that. I work out everyday and I feel great. My husband no longer takes any medications at all! We eat healthy, nourishing foods and we don’t count anything!
I still enjoy foods like pizza and ice cream in moderation, but the overall focus of my diet is to eat well so that we can live well, not so that I can be a certain size. I want to be healthy, not skinny! I want to be able to keep up with my three busy boys and still have the energy to keep up with my home and my business. Most of all, I want to prevent chronic illness and disease in myself, my husband and my children. I want to teach them by example that it is important to make healthy choices to feel good and to perform their best in academics and sports or anything else they choose.
We need to change the conversation.
If you have been on fad diets, constantly counting calories, and weighing in and you are just sick of it all then we should find some time to talk, because that is no way to live.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2