Don’t talk negatively about your own body.
Body image is something that girls create based on the things they see and hear around them. Media today gives our girls plenty of fodder regarding what they should look like. At school, their friends will have plenty to say about what everyone else looks like. Our girls are bombarded with all types of messages about what they should and should not be, in terms of their bodies. Which is why it is so important that they never hear those things from us. If we are talking about how big our thighs are, or how much we hate our nose, they are going to think that it is normal for people to feel bad about the way they look. While this is a real struggle for me, I’ve seen my girls pick up on my negative patterns, and have been convicted about my role in perpetuating that cycle.
Talk about food as fuel, and exercise as something you get to do.
I try really hard not to talk about foods as either good or bad. Instead, I tell my girls about the foods that fuel us and the ones that don’t. I try to get them to connect what they eat to the things they want to accomplish throughout the day. If they have a long practice, or lots going on at school, they will need lots of fuel. So, they can have a few things that aren’t necessarily fuel, but they need to be sure to stock up on the things their bodies need to run well. In addition to that, I want them to look at exercise as a way to be strong so that they can better live their lives. I never want them to associate exercise with some kind of punishment for eating badly. Exercise is something they get to do because they are healthy and able. It is a gift God has given them, so they get to use it to honor Him as they strengthen their bodies to serve others well!
Be careful in how you describe other women.
When we describe other women as thin, pretty, in-shape, or overweight, we allow those markers to seep deeply into our daughter’s thinking. When outward appearance is the first descriptor we use to talk about someone, it slowly creeps into our girl’s minds as the most important thing. When I can, I really try to stay away from things like that. If I am being honest, I am terrible about this. But, I want my girls to continue to grow in character and grace, and I want them to at LEAST think those things are as important as their outward appearance. This is not easy, but is something I am really working towards as a girl mom!
Comment regularly on who your daughters are, not what they look like.
My husband and I both tell our girls they are beautiful, regularly. However, over the past couple of years, we have worked really hard on telling them the ways we see God working in them. We talk about the ways we see them growing in character and the ways God is using them in their context. We let them know how kind and gracious they are and try to keep the talk about their appearance to a minimum. We do want them to feel beautiful, because in God’s eyes, and in ours, they are. But, we are working really hard to create in them a hunger to be a person whose beauty radiates from within. A woman who is confident in Christ and able to live out of that identity is truly beautiful. We strive to communicate that to our daughters, every chance we get.
At each of these points, I have failed miserably, multiple times. But, as God grows me in my own pursuit of a healthy body image, He is helping me change the ways I communicate with my daughters. While the struggle for our girl’s body image is a tough one, God’s ability to heal and restore what the world taints, propels me in fighting for the hearts of our girls.