So, how much do you weigh today? And how is this bikini looking on you? Oh! Are we not supposed to ask? Don’t we all struggle with thoughts about our bodies?
The majority of women have struggled with weight or body image at one time or another. Often, we are not very kind to ourselves. One thing for sure, you wish your daughter to learn to love herself, love her body, and grow up free of body shame and fully confident no matter her size and shape.
How to be a good role model for self-love?
You want your daughter to value herself for what she is, what she can do, how bright she can think and how fearless she can be. NOT for what she looks like. You want her to get out there and be strong, smart, loyal and funny, right? We all do!
It all starts with being comfortable in our own bodies. You, me, her…But how can you support your daughter to do that?
As a mom, your daughter looks up to you. You are her reference for almost everything! You have a lot of power, which means you have the chance to be an amazing role model.
3 things to avoid
- Don’t comment on people’s weight. Ever. Don’t comment on your weight, on her weight, on the neighbor’s weight, even to make a seemingly positive comment. Why?
- It puts pressure on your daughter to try to control something she often cannot control.
- It perpetuates a social norm of beauty that is unrealistic and essentially feeds an industry that maintains and grows on women insecurities.
- It denies the essence and personality of your daughter, by focusing on appearances instead of on “being”.
- It is neither useful nor helpful. It is stigmatizing.
- Don’t make associations between food and weight. Because it is not as simple as that.
- Your daughter should be encouraged to eat well. Eating well is important because it is a pleasurable way to take care of herself not to control her weight. The former emerges from self-love, the latter from self-inadequacy.
- The link between food intake and weight is far from simple or direct. Trying to control her weight by controlling her food intake may result in other risky behaviors (popping pills, smoking, fasting, dieting, or worse).
- Controlling her food intake to control her weight will suck the fun out of eating.
- Don’t make associations between weight and physical and mental health. Being thin is not a guarantee to be healthy, and being fat is not a sign of laziness.
- Thin people can have a fatty liver and type 2 diabetes
- Fat people can run marathons
- Thin people can be obsessed with their weight and body image
- Fat people can be hard-working, funny, and trustworthy
No matter our weights, improving our lifestyle and habits will improve our well-being.
Remember, it is not about being perfect. If you slip a comment or two here and there, just correct it. If you catch yourself saying things like “Wow! Lucie is going 2 times a week to the gym and look how much weight she’s lost. It’s awesome!”, then correct it while your daughter is still listening: “Well in fact, the result on her body weight is not important. I am proud of her for making the effort to go twice a week and taking care of her health. It’s not easy and it is really inspiring! What do you think?” THAT is leading by example not leading by perfection.
3 things to adopt
The best way to support your daughter’s evolving relationship with her body is to acknowledge and celebrate her capacities and talents. No matter the shape or form, her body is her vehicle to accomplish her goals.
- Teach her that she and her body can accomplish great things!
- Praise her efforts to accomplish her goals whether it be in school, sports or the arts
- Notice and express all the good she spreads around her
- Help her name her good qualities: funny, loyal, smart, creative, strong, open-minded, etc.
- Help her realize all her body can accomplish through her 5 senses: tasting chocolate, smelling flowers, touching a cat, cuddling her mom, seeing a snowflake, laughing with friends, rocking a baby, holding the hand of someone who needs it, or listening to her friends’ secrets.
- Show her that food has a lot to offer. It can be associated with pleasure and good times.
- Make it a goal to share meals and cooking with her. Don’t consider yourself a good cook? Take a class with her or suggest learning a new recipe on YouTube together.
- Challenge each other to try a new food or discover a great food blog.
- Don’t hesitate to express yourself when eating your favorite food and to respect yourself about the food you don’t like.
- Take care of your physical and mental health together. Focus on healthy habits. Achieving small, healthy goals is empowering! There are 4 habits that we suggest you start with:
- Eat vegetables and fruits every day. Too simple to be true? No. Just do it.
- Adopt an active lifestyle together. Walking is an easy, safe, and cheap way to get fit. A Experiment with other activities that get you both moving and that you enjoy.
- Sleep well. It’s often the difference between feeling strong or overwhelmed.
- Manage stress. Stay alert to any signs indicating your daughter feels anxious about her body image or weight (or anything else). If you sense she is struggling, don’t hesitate to ask for help of a health care professional.
You can download our self-love chart and fill it in with your daughter. Read it over on days where she needs a reminder of how worthy she is!
You are a role model
This is probably the most important point. Lead by example.
Nurture your own positive self-image. Apply all the advice above to yourself. Instead of dieting, focus on healthy eating. Ask for help if you need it. Take care of yourself. Put yourself first.
It might be difficult at first if this is a whole new way of thinking for you. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be surprising. Don’t worry. You are not alone.
We have all been impacted by the same weight loss industry. According to studies, up to 93 % of people try to control their weight one way or another, including trying to lose, maintain, or gain weight (1). About 73% of women want to lose weight, 50% of which are of normal weight (2). Hopefully we can do better by our daughters.
The social norm of thinness and beauty is rampant in our lives. To overcome, reject, and refuse to perpetuate it takes a good dose of self-education.
Don’t hesitate to reach for a health care professional if you need support. A psychologist or a registered dietitian would be a good start. And if you feel like your daughter is gaining too much weight, or is not happy with her own body weight, ask for help. You don’t have to do it alone.
 ASPQ. Habitudes des Québécoises et Québécois quant à la consommation de produits, services et moyens pour la gestion du poids (PSM-GP) Projet 15667-001. Sondage Léger 2017.
 Survey IPSOS REID (2008). Canadian Women’s Attitudes Towards Weight, Survey for Dairy Farmers of Canada.