Body Issues Are Learned by Melissa Rosella

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“She’s perfect, until we teach her otherwise. Flabby arms. Podgy tummy. Double-chin. Puffy eyes. Wispy hair. All the traits we love in her little body, we hate when we see in the mirror. Why? No really, ask yourself why? The truth is body issues are unnatural. They’re learned. We teach them to our daughters, reinforce them with our girlfriends and punish ourselves with them – every day. But there is good news. Because what’s learned can be unlearned. Take the pledge to end the vicious cycle – for her sake and for yours.”

As a mom, I have a personal responsibility to teach & model healthy eating choices that are rich in veggies, fruit, and proteins.

I’m super aware of the words I use when speaking about myself in front of my children. I never want them to be overly  critical of their bodies. I talk about making healthy eating choices and limiting sugar intake, due to mood swings or choosing to eat a piece of cake to simply celebrate that it is Friday. We talk about healthy choices and food being fuel for our bodies and that if we get too much sugar in our bodies, we become angry and sugar bugs take over our teeth and try to set up camp there and we certainly don’t want those sugar bugs becoming permanent members of our mouths.

I don’t weigh myself in front of our children. I don’t talk about my weight or my soft belly or my gravity-ridden boobs or my cellulite or my jiggy thighs and arms. I don’t want our children to ever think they are less than because they do not look like the people featured on the billboards, in the movies, on TV shows, in magazines, or in commercials. My biggest fear is for Hope or James to ever feel shame. I want them to embrace who they are, wholeheartedly- to embrace the bodies they’ve been blessed with. Their bodies will  change and their weight will inevitably fluctuate. I want them to accept their entire selves as imperfectly perfect.

Yesterday, I went grocery shopping and they had our favorite cookies, pumpkin chocolate chip. I scooped those right up, without a single thought. Hope and I ate them for breakfast the other morning. I asked her if she’d like another cookie and she said:

“I can’t eat that, I’m on a diet.”

I stopped dead in my tracks and felt my stomach do somersaults. I knew for certain she had not learned those words from me. I don’t use the word ‘diet.’ I don’t  like the word. I hated the word even more when it came out of my impressionable 5-year-old. Where did she learn such a word? I’ve never said I’m on a diet. I’m not on a diet.

I asked, “Where did you hear that?” After asking her a couple times, she mentioned she saw it on “Sofia the First.” She watched it at Grandma’s house. I let Hope watch that show all the time, but I don’t think I’ll be allowing it any longer.

I’m angry that this particular topic was discussed on a show written specifically for young impressionable children. How do I reverse this, friends? Why on Earth is my freshly turned  5-year-old saying she can’t eat something because she’s on a diet? A stupid show taught her that phrase, a dumb phrase that absolutely is not meant for the ears of my 5-year-old waif of a daughter. Hope is the size of a stick of gum-my husband’s words.

Pump the brakes. I didn’t teach her those words. We monitor what she watches. I’ve banned the shows that include characters that speak as if they are snobs or better than or greater than others. You know what I’m talking about, the shows that feature gals that do nothing all day except shop and lounge and hang with their friends. I’m certain not a single woman on the planet just lounges around all day and shops. What message are these shows teaching our impressionable youth? My women friends are: licensed therapists, gynecologists, oncologists, social workers, nurses, attorneys, doctors, art teachers, nannies, CEO’s, stay at home moms, business owners, and the list goes on. How about they create shows that feature successful, brave, strong, smart, caring, and vulnerable women making their mark on the world by changing people’s lives on a daily basis? My children are not allowed to watch: Barbie, Sponge Bob Squarepants, My Little Pony, Shimmer and Shine, and the list continues. These shows don’t teach good morals or promote positive role models.

Every single show I watch features characters  they are overly slender. All my daughter’s favorite movies are Disney and all of them feature a beautiful girl of some sort and they are all stick thin: Ariel, Belle, Aurora, Rapunzel, and the list continues. What message is this image sending to my children? Beauty is not one size fits all. One can be beautiful in a million and one ways. How about we feauture more than one body type?

Barbies Hope owns are all stick thin and perfectly complexioned and none of them have scars or disabilities or hang ups. That is not realistic. Writers of shows do carry a responsibility to represent beauty in many different ways. For example, how about you make a Barbie available that is a plus size? How about portraying a girl who has lost a limb, one that is gravely ill, or one that has acne prone skin & call those dolls beautiful, too. Our children need to see all types of woman being represented. Diversity makes the whole world go round.

Steps have been taken in the Mattel world. I’ve seen a couple of Barbie’s that are heavier than the stick thin variety. I’ve seen a breast cancer survivor Barbie and she did not have any hair. I want my kids to experience entertainment that is eclectic and features a multitude of people who are unique and special in their own individual way. I want programs featured that make the supposed flaws of the characters the very things that make them  beautiful and special. True beauty radiates through the character’s vulnerability, bravery, strength, and courage in the face of adversity.

Daniel Tiger gets watched quite a bit in my house. There is a little girl with a physical handicap. She walks with crutches. The show always has a message that is positive and the jingles are always memorable and applicable. My favorite, “When you’re feeling frustrated, take a step back, & ask for help.” These little jingles are easy to remember and are effective for my kids. Bravo, Daniel Tiger. Thank you for the inspiration, Mr. Rogers. You are helping us raise: kind, caring, generous, and empathetic children.

We have a responsiblity to be mindful and careful with the words we choose to use with our children. Our kids will pick up on our words, the tone, and there intention.

We focus on making healthy food choices and indulging with moderation. We stay active through walking, playing soccer, riding bikes, and playing.

I pray my kids always love their bodies for the miracle machines they are. I pray they always know that their worth is not wrapped up in a silly number on a scale, the size of their jeans, or if they have a thigh gap or not. I will model healthy eating choices and exercise habits. I will not use words such as: skinny, thin, fat, big-boned, diet, weight, overweight, jiggy, and cellulite. I will model acceptance of the imperfect and miraculous body I have and emphasize that food is fuel and energy. We’ll discuss foods that accelerate our energy and foods that deplete it, foods that make us feel icky and  foods that  make us feel happy. We’ll discuss the way we  feel is often a result of what we’ve chosen to ingest. We have choices to make every single day that determine how we will feel later. We shall make the best choices for ourselves to be our best selves.

I will love myself from where I am and aim to make healthy choices when possible. Confession time. I don’t eat organic, carbs are my favorite thing on planet earth, baking has become a new hobby, and extra cheese makes everything in life more bearable. I indulge when I want to. I drink the occasional Coke, lick the vanilla cake batter off of my mixer, eat a few extra pieces of turkey bacon, order extra-large fries, and I do so with pride. There is no shame in what I put into my body. My kids are always watching. Am I the healthiest cook for my kids? No. Do I go to Chik-Fil-a at least once a week? Yes. Do I feed my kids store-bought Dino nuggets? Yep. Do I sometimes give James more than 24 ounces of milk per day via bottle? Yes. Does this drive my husband crazy? Yes. Is the milk I always buy organic? No. Do I buy produce that is organic? Not always. Do my kids eat popsicles? Yes. Do we sometimes have cookies, pancakes, or donuts for breakfast? Yes. Do my kids eat more dairy than necessary? Yes. Do we eat out more than we should? Yes. Do I drink 3 iced teas and 1 coffee any given day of the week? Yes. Do I put extra butter on my warm, soft, and just toasted bagel? Yes. Is my bacon and salami nitrate and nitrite free? Not always.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about food, lately:

“I can’t believe you gave our kids Pirate Booty, the first ingredient is corn meal-cows eat corn meal.”

“We don’t eat Goldfish crackers in my house.”

“My kids do not know what soda is.”

“Is the milk you put into that bottle organic?”

“We’ve actually never ever eaten at Chik-fil-a, so our playdate with you guys there should be interesting?”

“Oh my gosh, no, I’m not picking up McDonald’s for the kids for dinner. That place is horrible.”

“I can’t believe you took your kids to McDonald’s. Yuck.”

Everyone has their own view on food. I choose to focus on other things in my life. If my kids eat, I’m happy. No, I will not talk about my weight, what I used to weigh,  my before baby body, or my postpartum body in front of my children. I will embrace this body of mine. I will love myself more. I will be true to who I am.

I will work towards accepting my arms that still wave a little longer after I’m done waving. I’ll embrace that I finally have put my super-duper daisy duke jean shorts in the donation bag, as there are certain things that shouldn’t be worn when on the brink of 39. I’m ok with not being the size or shape that I once was. I’ll admit that I hate jeans with a capital “H.” I’ll sport my stretchy jeggings, leggings, and yoga pants until the day I die. I’ll wear my smile, knowing that it never ever goes out of style, ages, or changes. I’ll love with my whole heart and encourage my kids to do the same. I’ll encourage my children to make healthy choices by providing them with full fridge access to healthy groceries, whole foods, and energizing foods.


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