I noticed my daughter was acting odd when she returned from the grocery store with family friends, but I did not think much of it as I watched her climb the stairs with her head hanging low. She is almost a teenager, and while she is typically pleasant, her moods will ebb and flow.
At dinner, I noticed she was pushing her food around the plate. Usually a voracious eater, I was shocked when she didn’t ask for an extra helping of mashed potatoes or biscuit.
When we finally had a moment alone before she went to bed, I asked her what happened that day to make her so glum.
She sighed and rolled her eyes upwards, but realized I wasn’t leaving her bed until she fessed up.
“We all took turns getting on the big scale at the grocery store, and I was the only one that weighed more than one hundred pounds,” she stated dejectedly. “I don’t want to be fat.”
I stared at my daughter in shock. There was so much I wanted to say to her at that moment, so much that I didn’t know where to begin.
As the mother of three daughters, and a woman with her own self-confidence issues, I am keenly aware of the importance of promoting a positive body image. We live an active lifestyle, eat in moderation, never talk about weight and focus on attributes like strength, intelligence and kindness more than beauty or unrealistic body types.
We did everything we were supposed to do. So what in the hell just happened?
“Honey, you are the perfect size for your height! What would make you think you were overweight?” I stammered.
“I don’t know. One hundred just seems like a lot. Like I shouldn’t weigh that much,” she countered.
That’s when it hit me. Even though we did our best to promote the positive, even though we never talked about weight or her physical appearance or skinny or fat, my daughter still boiled herself down to a number. Worse, when she didn’t like what she saw, it impacted her entire mood.
We can’t just promote positivity and expect our young girls to embrace it. We have to make sure they look at all the measurements.
I chose my next words carefully. “Hey, didn’t you just beat your personal best in the mile? Seven minutes and thirty-one seconds? Your hundred-pound body did that. And didn’t you just get selected for the advanced music program? Your body helped you do that too. And how about the strength you have to ride horses and take care of them?”
She did not look convinced.
“What I’m saying is life is going to throw you numbers for the rest of your life, but happiness is not measured in the amount of likes you get on social media, numbers on a scale or even your GPA. How you feel about yourself requires different measurements, and those often don’t involve concrete numbers. I think it is about the impact you have on others and improving on yourself every day.”
“So, one hundred pounds isn’t fat?” she asked.
I sighed. “Do you feel fat?”
“Well, I didn’t. I didn’t until I saw it on the scale.”
“I think that’s your answer. Don’t ever let a number tell you who you are. As long as you are doing things to be healthy, that’s all I care about. And it’s what you should care about too.”
And then I watched her lanky five foot three body stand up tall as she wrapped her gangly arms around me. The scale may say one hundred pounds, but as she hugged me, the weight lifted a ton from the room.
Our kids are trying to figure out their place in this world. It’s important to focus on the positive, but we can’t ignore what they sometimes see right in front of their face.
It’s up to us to make sure they use the right measurements.