I have an 8 year-old boy and 4 year-old little girl. They are already in tune with the word skinny, (although it has never been uttered in my house.) Sis parades around the house with my bra wrapped around her tiny self and says, she can’t wait to be just like me one day. I have these little eyes watching constantly. What am I going to show them about honoring their days with their bodies in a healthy manner, when the world will throw so many different messages their way? It was a great question and one I pondered after we had talked.
You see my profession is to come alongside people and teach them to show kindness to their bodies through exercise, what they eat, and what messages that seep into their minds. I am in workout clothes all day, since I train in the mornings and quite frankly am just too lazy to get out of my yoga pants, you feel me right? The good old athleisure wear trend is my friend.
My kids hear me talk and research different workouts for people I train, post videos, share eating tips. It’s my job to teach others how to live a lifestyle of health and wholeness.
So I have to be extra careful how I word things, and continue to tell them why we approach our health and our bodies the way we do. For those of you who have children, you might be wondering what are some ways I can make health and body image positive for my child.
Many of you came from families where negativity permeates from anything body related. You almost cringe when you hear people talk about getting in shape or staying healthy, because it means something completely different to you. Something painful and filled with stressful memories.
Maybe you heard your mom talk to her girlfriends about how fat she was getting, or how she hated her legs in shorts. Maybe you saw the way she looked at herself in the mirror with a frown or look of disgust.
All you saw was your mom, with the beautiful clothes and jewelry, the bra, the make-up or non-make-up wearing woman you couldn't wait to be like. She was just beautiful in your eyes. You didn't even notice the cellulite that she stressed about. Maybe she tried to give you “good advice” like don’t eat this or that, it will make you over-weight, or you better watch out everyone in our family gains weight if they just look at a cookie. Sometimes those things can seem helpful, but to a pre-pubscent or newly pubescent girl it can sting for a long time. For those who have felt this my heart breaks for your journey. Because it is a battle you have to face daily, one that I have seen won many times, but a hard one fought. For those of you who may have been those moms who were critical and didn't even realize, you did not screw up your kid for life, you can always get on the phone and say; "I am sorry if I have made you feel like you were not beautiful, you are beautiful and I love you no matter what." Maybe its a conversation that says, "help me as your mom show myself more kindness." There is still time.
And for those of you who are new moms, maybe we can start to write a different story.
Here are a few simple things I am trying to be intentional with my kids when it comes to taking care of their bodies. Who knows, I am probably going to screw them up in some way or fashion, but I will always let them know I tried, tried real hard to show them their bodies are beautiful and meant to be celebrated no matter what.
Be an Example:
This is probably the toughest of all. One of my favorite lines is: "it’s more caught then taught." Let your son or daughter know how important it is to eat right and move your body. You don’t even need to have a long drawn out conversation about it, just let them see you do it. Don't let them see you dread going to the gym or getting sweaty. Let them see you have fun, look forward to it, because it is doing your body good. It's keeping you active and around for the long haul. Taking care of you, is just an extension of love for your children. It says I want to be around to enjoy you.
Don’t let our littles hear us say unkind things about ourselves. If it is too mean or negative to say to someone else, don't say it to yourself. One day our daughters will be our age, and they might have heard us say our thighs were too big, or we didn’t like our tummy. Most likely their body is going to look like ours at some point when they grow up. And if she knows we didn’t think some of our body parts were acceptable, she too will think her thighs unacceptable. Let's teach our sons how to talk about a woman's body, to cherish and honor it, to stand up to the kind of locker room talk that degrades women to a mere object.
Many times the negative words just fly out of our mouth about ourselves, I know they have mine, I apologize and try better. Mama’s you are beautiful post baby body and pre-baby body. Dad bod or not. Don’t just be kind when you look the way you want, be kind to yourself when you are still in the transformation process. Your littles will pick up on it.
My kids are still young enough that exercising is just play to them. We have fun. We swing on bars, we do handstands, we chase and run. We make up crazy exercises. Moving our bodies is playful, joyful, like when we were kids and couldn't wait to get out for recess.
Is all exercise fun? NO…
Do we need discipline to grind it out when we have goals to meet? Absolutely.
But you know what, most likely my kids will have coaches and practices that will help them understand the importance of consistency and discipline. They will understand hard work, and see it pay off. I will echo those coaches mindsets to the mountain tops. There is a time and place for the hard work ethic. But one day after their high school or college glory days are long gone, there will come a time they have no coach, and no organized sports, and they have to figure out why they would still move that body.
I want them to remember: I move my body because I can, its a gift, and because it’s fun. It's what I do to honor my days. I want them to go back to that memory of when Holden and I would race through the agility ladder or skip rope, or when sis and I would swing on the bars together and do cartwheels in the grass. So when they are 30 year- olds instead of looking at exercise begrudgingly, they see it as an extension of their whole self. They see it in a positive light. So parents maybe try to make it fun, make it casual, go out and play yourself, you might just surprise yourself how fun it really is!