"I am getting fat"
"Yeah, you are."
"I'm not going to eat lunch today."
"We aren't eating lunch anymore either."
According to my daughter these girls were very thin, all the girls, even the one who was "getting fat."
Conversation from a group of mothers in a pizza place overheard by myself:
"I lost 10lbs 6oz! I'm not really eating a lot."
"I haven't eaten a pizza in 6 months."
the talk went on from there with words like, "fat, skinny, dieting, fat, skinny, skinny." These women were also very thin. They had small children, little girls, who were playing... and listening.
Blaming the media for a nation of skinny obsessed tweens and teens isn't totally fair. As mothers, we are way more influential than you might think. As Peggy O'Mara says "The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice." Not just the way we talk to them, but the way we talk around them, and about ourselves. It tells them what we think is important, what we value most. They hear that skinny is a quality that must be achieved at all cost. Even if it means a feeling of churning and growling in your stomach. Even if it means vomitting after you failed to resist the temptation of cake. Maybe the media poisoned our generation with images photoshopped to perfection, but we are grown ups. We know what is real and true and we should be able to stop caring what a magazine cover says we should look like.
We cannot quickly change the message of the media, but we can in one instant change the message that our daughters get from us. If you are feeling fat, keep your mouth shut. I don't mean do not eat, I mean do not verbalize it. I feel very strongly that excersize and eating healthy are important. I discuss with my children what large amounts sugar and junk food can do to their bodies, not in terms of "you will get fat" but instead I talk about diabetes and how daily insulin shots can become a reality if you don't take care of your bodies. The choices they make, to have that cookie, or not, shouldn't come from a fear of being fat but instead from a desire to have a healthy life and feel good. (Also, sometimes you should eat a cookie... because they are delicious!) I also talk to my children about how food is our fuel. Our brains can think better when we have filled up our tank. Skipping a meal, usually breakfast, is sometimes attempted in my house and I am quick to remind them how food is a neccesary part of living.
Another thing I did was find before and after photoshop images on the internet and looked at them with my daughter. We talked about how drastic the changes were. Some women you can barely recognize. We played a game of spot-the-photoshop and it was a lot like those hidden picture puzzles in the Highlights magazine that I used to love. It was fun, and an engaging way to show her the truth. I encourage anyone with young girls in your life to start some positive conversations and help these girls start eating again.