This week we welcome guest blogger, Amanda Stokes, an Educator with over 15 years experience working with young people in both the education and healthcare system, a qualified counsellor and mother to three. Amanda is the founder of the ‘Mirror Movement’ which aims to spread the message that healthy comes in all shapes and sizes and was created to help other Mums become more aware of the immeasurable impact they have on their daughters when it comes to healthy body image.
Positive body image starts in the home
As a mother to a 10 year old son and two daughters, aged eight and five years, it wasn’t until I began noticing my eldest daughter, who was six at the time, mirroring my behaviour in front of the mirror. Twisting and turning and scrutinising her body from all angles, it was at that moment I made the decision things needed to change.
I knew I needed to do something to stop her from hating her body the way I had hated mine. After much personal development and growth, I pledged to ditch diet culture’s offerings once and for all.
Here are my top 10 tips on how to be a positive mirror model to your children. I hope this helps you on your journey to becoming a positive mirror model for your children as they head into their teen years.
1. Talk positively about your own body. This is probably the most important step. We are so quick to say negative things about our bodies, ‘my legs are so thick’, ‘my butt looks fat’, yet we feel weird at the thought of praising our bodies for the awesome things they can do. Next time your kids are watching, sit down and say ‘thank you bottom for being such a wonderful soft cushion!’ If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll love hearing you say positive things about your body and have a little giggle about it all at the same time.
2. Stop weighing yourself and get rid of the scales. I used to weigh myself multiple times a day. It was only when I noticed my kids mirroring my behaviour by hopping on the scales first thing in the morning comparing their numbers, that I realised the damage I was causing to my kids. “The scales aren’t for you, you can’t weigh awesome”, I’d say, knowing full well that I needed to walk my talk. Getting rid of the scales allowed me to realise that I am so much more than a number, and my weight no longer defines me. Get rid of your scales, I dare you!
3. Say farewell to diet culture. When I was going through recovery for my disordered ways, I read book after book, researching and learning the truth about the diet industry. I came to the realisation that diets don’t work and if they did, the industry wouldn’t exist. They are based on our failure; we lose weight, we put it back on, we blame ourselves, we go back on a diet, repeat, repeat, repeat! Ditch the diets, it’ll be the best thing you ever do! Work towards removing moral value from food. Eating a piece of broccoli doesn’t make you ‘good’ and eating a piece of chocolate doesn’t make you ‘bad’. Instead, start focusing on how your body feels before, during and after eating.
4. Don’t comment on anyone’s physical appearance, ever. We need to teach our children that it’s never okay to comment on someone’s size, whether that be height or weight. It’s not okay to suggest a large person go on a diet, nor is it okay to suggest a skinny person eat a burger. If we all spread this message, the world would be a much better place. The change starts with us!
5. We are meant to look different. When my daughter was in her first year of school, she came home upset that her legs were bigger than her friend’s legs. “Your legs are amazing!” I reminded her. “Your legs are strong, they help you skip and jump and run, and they’re not meant to look like anyone else’s because they’re yours! Do I look just like my friends? No!” We must teach our kids that we’re meant to look different to each other and that different is awesome.
6. Never compare yourself to others. This follows on closely from appreciating our differences. Comparison is the thief of joy, so when we compare ourselves to others, our kids follow suit. We are all unique and amazing, you don’t compare apples and oranges, so why compare ourselves to others? No one else is you and that is your superpower. Teach your kids that there is enough goodness to go around, and that the beauty, strength or intelligence of another doesn’t detract from their own.
7. Be aware of diet talk and body shaming. I banned diet talk in my house. I might love you, but I don’t really care about your latest diet that is keeping you trapped in a diet mindset. I no longer want my kids to sit and hear about the importance of weight loss, or how carbs or any other food need to be avoided. There is so much more to life. Remind your friends that they are so much more than their thighs and move on. Life is short, let’s not waste it on worrying about the least interesting thing about us!
8. Model a balanced relationship with food. Stop referring to food as good or bad or clean and dirty. Food is food, some foods give our body better things, other foods give our body’s less. When we love our bodies, we want to nourish them with foods that make us feel amazing, we need to model balance, over restriction. At the end of the day we always want what we can’t have, so learning balance is key here.
9. Talk to your kids about what the mirror can’t see. We are so much more than our reflections. Talk about who makes them laugh, who they have fun with, and take the opportunity to point out beauty in the world. I love clouds, you might love looking at flowers or bugs. It’s up to us to show our kids that true beauty is so much more than skin deep.
10. Talk more. It’s our job to help our kids navigate the world, especially the world of advertising and social media. When I walk past another bikini billboard, I ask my kids if they think the model is cold, and we talk about how advertisers and diet companies want us to be unhappy with ourselves. One in two women reported feeling worse about themselves after looking at images of attractive women. Talk to your kids about models, and how most people will never ever get close to looking like the images they see because most of the time even the model doesn’t look like that. How many 16 year old male characters are being played by a 23 year old man? There is unrealistic pressure everywhere, but knowledge is power.