Being a [Step] Mom: Conversations about Body Image

My kids are all athletes.  My husband and I were athletes.  I still work out and run regularly.  Fitness is a big part of our lives, our values.  It’s natural then that food is also a big part of our lives.  I’ve said before the kitchen is the heart of our home.  Fitness and food, and conversations about these topics are two things that have helped me develop my role in my step kid’s lives.  Because these are things I’m confident in, things that come naturally to me.  And, in our house, we use this as an opportunity to also teach our kids an important lesson about body image.

We don’t actually talk about body image though.  Actually, we don’t really talk about it intentionally at all.  What we do talk about is how you are what you eat.  My kid’s play sports that they choose.   Therefore, their love of these sports is intrinsic.  When we talk about goals, the conversation is more relevant because they are about the sports that they love.  And, so then when we talk about food we talk about it in terms of how it’s going to help them achieve their goals.

Good Food.  High Performance.

By doing this, they understand it more.  Sure, they don’t feel the effects of eating garbage for a day like I do in my 31-year-old body.  But they absolutely get what making a poor food choice before a game or practice does to their performance.

And to be clear, at this stage in their lives my expectation of their performance is 110% effort.  Everything I talk about when it comes to food centers around that.  Think about it?  Ever been hangry?  It’s horrible.  You can’t think straight.  Never mind being active.  So, do you really think a 7 or 9-year-old can focus on their homework, or reading or their basketball practice having eaten like shit all day?

I once looked out the back window to find my son beating the shit out of a tree with a wiffle ball bat.  To be fair this wasn’t that out of the norm for him, but it was a little extreme.  There was a lot of vigor in his swing.  I was startled to put it lightly.  When we asked what the hell he was doing, he honestly didn’t know.  Then eventually he was like, “I think I’m really hungry?”  And that was his first experience being hangry.

Conversations about Body Image

But, I can’t shelter my kids.  Obviously, conversations about body image have come up.  Between school and television and good lord you-tube, they’ve encountered the topic.  Last year I chaperoned a field trip for my twin’s grade.  I was sitting next to this girl who looked down at her legs and goes “my friends tell me, I’m fat.”  She was wearing shorts and she looked at my daughter, also in shorts, and said: “my legs are so much fatter than hers.”  I was absolutely heartbroken.

Why are 9-year-old girls body shaming one another?  Why does anybody?!  I immediately said, “That must make you feel bad, but listen everyone’s body is different.  You are not fat.  You’re beautiful.”  I also told her a friend’s job is, sure, to be honest, but before all else, friends should build you up.  And to my daughter’s credit, she said to the girl, “Yea, you should be friends with me.”

We can’t shield our kids from everything.  I really don’t want to.  Because when they encounter stuff like this I don’t want them to be awe-struck and have nothing productive to say.  I also don’t want words like “fat” to be so taboo that they can’t talk about it.  But, I also make a point to never make bad comments about myself in terms of body image.

I struggled for years with poor body image mostly because my mother just didn’t know how to talk about it.  It’s not that I thought I was fat or ugly.  I just never thought I was beautiful.  Something, I strive to make sure never happens to my kids.

It’s All Beautiful

Let’s be real, I love the feel of perfectly fitting jeans.  I love to get a bit done-up sometimes. (Mascara and some blush is “done-up” for me in case you’re wondering).  And I love to tell other women, and men really, when I think they look awesome.  Or I love an article of clothing.  Or I think their hair is awesome.  And I’m often drawn to women’s nails polish, I love it apparently.  I do this because I think it’s all beautiful.

I’m proud of this; putting that good out into the world.  I’m proud of my body and I feel beautiful even on my worst days.  And I’m proud that this is something I know with such certainty that this area of my life has helped me navigate motherhood.  Because I know that I work hard to do good to my body.  I eat food that I love and that’s good for me.  And I work out and push myself.  I’m proud of all of that.  And I know that during the periods where maybe I haven’t eaten so well or I haven’t worked out, I’m still beautiful.  And I know that the more I live that.  The more I make our conversations about how good food equals the freedom to reach goals.  The more my kids will develop a healthy body image for themselves.  And maybe, more importantly, they’ll be the kids building up other kids.

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