Kids + Body Image

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Whoa.  I don’t know what came over me today!  I set out on a three miler and ended up doing six.  That never, ever happens!  In fact, it’s usually the reverse.  Hah.


I think the weather was the cause.  It was gloriously warm out.  I stepped outside in a jacket and went back into the house to change into short sleeves.  I’m sure glad I did – I was sweating buckets by the second mile.


And you know what else?  I am getting really, really pumped for my half marathon.  I’m excited for the next two weeks of life, period.  This weekend, we’re taking our first real family vacation to New Orleans.  I’m selling the new Operation Beautiful book at the Girls on the Run national conference (anyone going?).  And then I leave for the ZOOMA Half in Florida.  So much fun.  I can’t wait. 


Side note: Is that red cabbage?  My street’s sign monument is flanked by kale and cabbage plants – pretty cool landscaping!


Came home and ate this delicious lunch.


Spicy eggs with melty soy cheese, brown rice, kale, roasted potatoes.


The rest of my day is looking pretty run-of-the-mill.  Just baby fun and household chores.  Not that I’m complaining in the slightest.


Something to Read


I found this article about overweight children feeling bullied by trusted adults, including coaches and teachers, especially interesting concerning that I’d off to the GOTR conference to promote my new kids’ book.  Check it out here —> Feeling Bullied by Parents About Weight.




The article says that many adults believe a little shaming is a good thing for making kids change behaviors, which kids report is definitely not the case.  The author notes there are effective and healthy ways to motivate kids.  Suggested methods include never blaming them, refusing to engage in negative self-talk about yourself in front of them, and never sugarcoating the impact of bullying or promising it will go away if they lose weight.


I’d love to have a discussion about this topic. How did you parents influence your body image, and what did they do ‘right’ and ‘wrong?’ What will you do differently with your own kiddos?  Even though I have a son, I will never underestimate his need to have a healthy body image – boys are impacted, too!



  • Natalie @ Free Range Human January 9, 2013, 2:59 pm

    My parents never ever made anything about body image. I can’t remember a single instance of either one of them making a negative comment. That just wasn’t what life was about.

  • Cindi January 9, 2013, 3:01 pm

    I could write a book about this topic. Let’s just say, I’m planning to do a LOT of things differently with my little one(s). Good job on your run & have a wonderful family vaca!

  • *Andrea* January 9, 2013, 3:07 pm

    that is terrible advice to shame a kid! i prefer ellyn satter’s approach to intuitive eating for kids 🙂

    things my parents did right:
    – always offer to buy my favorite foods, when possible
    – prepare meals for me
    – offer nutritious snacks
    – not refer to calories
    – savor meals
    – bring attention to effort vs. goals (example: sports, homework)
    – not label food good/bad (for the most part)
    – not use food as a reward system, but definitely as part of rituals/celebrations

    things my parents did not get right:
    – diet (mom: Weight Watchers, Curves)
    – make negative comments about their own bodies (makes me sad today when i still hear this)
    – make critical comments about others’ bodies (specifically, family members)
    – state: “kitchen closed” after dinner/dessert (what if i was still hungry before bed for a small snack…nothing should be ‘wrong’ with that)

    • January 9, 2013, 10:54 pm

      These are such awesome observations of your parents’ “food attitude.” I know I always struggle when people say critical things about family members because deep down I feel like that means they are passing judgement on me, too, even if they don’t say it to me.

  • Elise @ Expeditions of Elise January 9, 2013, 3:12 pm

    I had roasted potatoes for lunch today too! What a coincidence.

    My parents have always been supportive of me in all aspects of my life, including my health. Never once have they made me feel like I wasn’t perfect just the way I am. They encouraged me to be active by keeping me involved in soccer through elementary and middle school and cheering me on at cross-country meets in high school. I’m pretty lucky!

  • Eliz January 9, 2013, 3:17 pm

    Although their intentions were good, I grew up in a household where my parents (especially my mom) always seemed to be on some sort of diet and always talked poorly about her body. That has instilled negative thoughts in my head at a pretty young age (I remember wanting to diet when I was in fourth grade!), which was made MUCH worse when I reached high school and my mom began to make comments about my body. It led to depression and disordered eating. Since then, I’ve come to terms with my body. It took years, but I no longer make hateful comments about my body and try my hardest to stop the negative thoughts that sometimes sneak up. My body is far from “perfect”, but I can say that the vast majority of the time I love it!

    The best advice that I can give moms on this topic (and keep in mind this is coming from someone who is certainly not a mother, so take it for what it is!) is to have a good body image YOURSELF, because that translates so much into kids.

    • Jacquelyn January 10, 2013, 11:05 am

      This exactly!
      The other thing is that, if the mother/father has a poor body image, then even if they compliment the children, it will still translate to the kids.

      When I was a teen my body image wasn’t so great and my mom would compliment me on MY looks while talking about how SHE needed to lose weight. All that did was make me feel that looks and appearance are the most important and I ended up hyper-critical of myself. I’m not like that anymore, but it’s true that actions can speak louder than words.

      Treat yourself well and your kids will treat themselves well.

  • Marie January 9, 2013, 3:18 pm


    I was ALWAYS ALWAYS told how beautiful I was / am – which gave me confidence and I felt beautiful inside and out.


    We did very little exercise/healthy activities as a family. That will not be the case with my own family!

  • Lindsey January 9, 2013, 3:23 pm

    things my parents (mom) did wrong:
    -frequently pinched her stomach and stated how she hated it
    -restricted me to one zebra cake in my grade school lunches (in a sandwich bag – so embarrassing) and no more than two oreo cookies – no exceptions. i think this had the largest impact on my because i grew up thinking it was “bad” to eat two zebra cakes or more than two oreos, thus causing me to sneak that extra cookie. cue binge eating disorder.
    -made comments about my overweight aunt…eg: “she can’t sleep on our trundle bed when she visits because i’m not sure if it will hold her.”)
    -never exercised because she was naturally tall and thin. i know exercise isn’t everyone’s “thing” but i didn’t have an example of overall health.

    it’s hard to say how i will handle things with my own kids because i’m still trying to figure things out. i guess i would say, offer well-rounded meals…must at least try a bite of the green stuff? the one thing i will never do though, is restrict them from eating that other zebra cake. the zebra cake still stings.

    • April January 9, 2013, 3:35 pm

      I feel you on the zebra cake thing. My mother would pack in my lunch nothing but a small sandwich (sometimes half a sandwhich!) and I would be so embarassed because everyone would be asking, “Why does your mom pack you so little? Does she think you need to lose weight or something??”. I still cringe at those memories!

      • Kimmy January 9, 2013, 4:04 pm

        I have no problem with the zebra cake thing. Those things are full of sugar and crap, I think one is a treat. Fine. Why do you need two?

        • Lindsey January 10, 2013, 9:01 am

          It kind of infuriates me that you don’t see the point and the attitude that comes across in your comment stings, just like it did when I was younger. I hope you find a more sensitive way to explain healthy snacks to your kids instead of shaming them about eating crap.

          Anyway, in an effort to rise above my sensitive feelings, I will explain this to you. The point isn’t that I “needed” two zebra cakes. The point is that it taught me that it was wrong to enjoy certain foods. Sure limits are necessary, but like April pointed out, it became embarrassing when I had to TRY and understand why my mom would do something to insinuate that I needed to eat less (and all in from of my elementary school girlfriends).

          • Phoebe January 11, 2013, 3:20 pm


            I wouldn’t dream of claiming that your feelings are unwarranted here since your childhood is yours only – no one else experienced what you did and can say that your response is right or wrong. However, I do think it’s importantt that we look at this situation from another angle. Why ARE zebra cakes common in kid’s lunches?? I was like you – jealous of the other kids who had twinkies and oreos in their lunches while I had my carrots and all natural granola bars. But, I think maybe your mom was right here. Obviously I can’t say for sure why she was limiting you since I don’t know her – but how else are kids to learn moderation? The problem here is that children have this crap in their lunches – not that some parents realize the problem and try to go about moderating the junk. (I do think this stuff in small amounts is more logical in this world than not having any at all…) And I think the answer to why is this stuff found in lunches a lot is that it’s cheap and quick and simple…and THAT is the big problem. Just my 2 cents, of course! (I know this was mostly a post about parents and body image and I do recognize that there are some parents who make their children feel terrible …)

  • Suzy January 9, 2013, 3:29 pm

    Great discussion!

    My parents never pushed me to be active, nor encouraged me to eat healthy. So by the end of high school I was 200 lbs. Their solution to that? Pills! They got me Phen-Phen, which I took for a few months before I started hearing about the horror stories. My parents and family would tell me I need to lose weight, yet would still feed me high amounts of sugar, soda and other bad stuff.
    After I graduated, I took it into my own hands. I started to eat healthy and exercise. It took me a few years to find that groove and yes, I even tried taking some pills again (bad bad bad, but when you’re 20 you don’t realize). 10+ years later and I’ve lost about 90 lbs and gained a wealth of knowledge and respect about health, diet and my body.

    Now I’m pregnant and in a way I’m glad I was big as a teen because I will be able to use what I learned to teach my own kid about body image and how to be healthy and active. In fact, I’m so excited about it! It makes me want to be more active and make sure that we expose our kid to the outdoors and such.

  • Suzanne January 9, 2013, 3:30 pm

    Unfortunately my parents weren’t the greatest models of healthy behaviours throughout my life. When my teenagers year approached, my lack of knowledge relating of proper nutrition and normal eating patters likely contributed to my eating disorder. Not that I blame my parents (there were many, many contributing factors), but had I had the knowledge it could have maybe been avoided. Throughout my adolescent weight gain and subsequent unhealthy loss during my anorexia, my parents never commented on my weight (praise or criticism). As I was losing unhealthy amounts losing weight, people around me had no problem giving me compliments which was in no way helpful.

    I guess it goes both ways then. I think there should be more of an emphasis on being healthy; whatever that means for you and your unique body. I wish I had been taught to love myself, favour whole foods, and exercise moderately. I am slowly getting there but I doubt encountered unnecessary obstacles.

  • April January 9, 2013, 3:32 pm

    My mother definitely went the ‘wrong’ route and shamed me. She’s always been big into crash diets/fads and the first time she put me on one of those was when I was about 5. Once at 11 she forced me to eat bacon sandwhiches and drink grapefruit juice with it every day. Then there was the time she made me eat cabbage soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two weeks. And Atkins. And tried to convince me to do injections. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there.

    Yeah. She definitely went wrong.

    With my kids I give them healthy food, make sure they’re active (and I get active with them!), and tell them every day how smart, kind, beautiful, and wonderful they are. I would never do the things my mother did.

    • Jen in MN January 10, 2013, 12:08 pm

      April, that is horrible. I’m so sorry you had to go through your childhood that way )-:

      My mom never did anything so overt as that (thankfully); but she was routinely overweight, unhappy about it, and dieting (typically on and off Weight Watchers). My sister & I learned to binge eat by watching my mom’s patterns of yo-yo dieting and sneaking “extra” treats when she thought no one was looking.

      I have a sensitive personality in general, so this was all pretty damaging for me despite not being super extreme. My sister has fared much better than I. I’m 34, have had 2 kids (girls! God help me!), and just now, I’m finally finally learning to really love & accept myself. True acceptance. I feel this is the ticket to getting a handle on my bad binge-eating tendencies (10-11 days and so far, so good!) and promoting/presenting a truly healthy body image and food attitude to my girls. I know it’s super important, especially the older they get (they are 3.5 years, and 8 months right now)….so I’m on it. I’m determined to conquer the bad image crap, and habits, of my youth.

  • Kathleen January 9, 2013, 3:33 pm

    I have never commented before, but have been reading your blog for over 2 years! This topic really hits home…my Dad had been teased about his weight as a child, so he was always watching his weight as an adult…drinking shakes at dinner, etc. My sisters were both fuller figured than I was (I was a gymnast from the age of 7 and always very active). I don’t ever remember my older sister not being on a diet, and my Dad used to have weigh-ins with my younger sister, and criticize her for her weight and what she was eating. (Although it came from a good place- he just didn’t want her to be teased like he was). I dealt with all this by making sure I NEVER got even close to overweight, and therefore have been struggling with anorexia, body image, self worth since high school (I am now 42!!) I constantly wonder what my life would be like if I wasn’t always fighting off these demons, or unfortunately, at times, succumbing to their all-consuming torture. I now have a six year old daughter, and it is one of my life goals to raise her to love and respect herself first and foremost. I am looking forward to sharing your book with her when she’s old enough. Thank you for all that you do, Caitlin!

    • Caitlin January 9, 2013, 3:51 pm

      thank you 🙂 i am so sorry for all you’e gone through – no kid should!

  • Katie January 9, 2013, 3:43 pm

    I have a wonderful mother but growing up she was constantly dieting and/or talking about her weight. She was always very thin, thinner than me, which made me so self conscious about my weight when I was a child and even now at age 28. I have a seven month old daughter and have vowed to do my best not to talk about weight/dieting around her but rather encourage overall health.

  • Beks January 9, 2013, 3:44 pm

    My parents started off doing a good thing when I was little. Two vegetables and healthy main dish, a glass of milk, family dinners. I wasn’t allowed to leave until I drank my milk (never had problems with the veggies. It was drinking my milk. Still not a fan of cow’s milk). We had a huge backyard, and a really cool swingset, so we played outside a lot.

    I do have memories of getting pizza with my parents, though. I’m the youngest of two, and they would always give me the smallest pizza slices, referring to them as “Becky Slices.” This went with anything small that was with dinner. I don’t know if that’s just ingrained in me or what, but I’ve always continued to take smaller portions, and I’m the healthiest of my overweight family.

    As my sister and I got older, and we all got busier, convenience foods became what we ate, and it’s weird to sit down to family dinner that’s not at a restaurant (though, we’re getting better. Yes, I’m 27 and still live with my parents).

    As an adult now, I am trying to be a better influence on my parents and think if I make healthy choices, maybe they will too, eventually. I think it’s harder for me than it is for them, but I’m trying.

    They never once bullied me about my weight (even though I started steadily gaining weight with puberty), but when my sister was home for Christmas, she cried to me that our mom could only see how overweight she was. I think my mom looks at it as concern, whereas my sister looks at it as nagging.

    • Beks January 9, 2013, 4:03 pm

      To add to that, my grandfather always belittled my grandmother when she tried to lose weight (she died of complications from type-2 diabetes in 2004), and the summer before she died, my mom and I had each lost about 30-ish pounds, and had tons of energy. We went to Florida for my cousin’s wedding, and took grandpa to Disney World. When we got back, he made comments about how he didn’t think we’d be able to keep up with him since we were all so fat. I told my grandmother how much he’d hurt my feelings after I’d worked so hard, and even though she’d never been able to stand up for herself, she was able to stand up for me. He’s never mentioned it again. To ANY of us.

      It might be a different generation, but it’s amazing how health has changed from the 70’s, when my grandmother tried to lose weight to the present when I’m just trying to live healthy (any time I mention eating clean, my mother rolls her eyes and says she doesn’t get it. It’s not a hard concept to grasp).

  • Katie January 9, 2013, 3:45 pm

    I was raised by a mother who (i think) is pretty naturally slender (size 2). I am much curvier (currently a size 12, I’d love to be a size 8). She says its because I snack and eat too much junk. Needless it says its not the best part of our relationship, but she is trying to come from a place of love, and wants the best for me. I tend to brush her off and do whats best for me.

    But really I wanted to comment and say congrats on the 6 miles!! Thats awesome!! I was kind of getting worried that this half wouldn’t be as fun for you based off the posts about training runs, and I’m glad to hear this are more positive!!!

    • Caitlin January 9, 2013, 3:50 pm

      me too 🙂 the last two were really great. thanks!

  • Nadiya @ Milk and Honey on the Run January 9, 2013, 3:46 pm

    Lol interesting topic!

    I’ve never been overweight or anything- my highest BMI ever was 22. However, when it was that high my mom did make a lot of comments about it 🙁 She basically told me I need to go on a diet…

    I guess I’m kind of small boned so I was a bit chubby having a “normal” weight, if that makes sense?

    Really wish I didn’t have to go through that. Everytime we’d go to dinners and cake was served she’s say “Remember about your diet”. It’s like wtf!

  • Lindsay January 9, 2013, 4:01 pm

    My parents never shamed or criticized me about my body, but they also didn’t pretend like body issues don’t exist. I remember complaining about my tummy pooch to my father once when I was a tween/early teen. He listened to me and replied, “Well, what do you want to do about it?” I really feel like he gave the perfect response. Instead of just saying “Oh, you’re perfect the way you are”, his response was a gentle reminder that we have the power to change things we don’t like.

    I didn’t feel hurt by his response; I felt empowered. It was shortly after that conversation that I got involved in sports and started to pay more attention to nutrition.

    • Lindsey January 10, 2013, 9:06 am

      This is a great example! When my son and future kids are old enough to become aware of their bodies, and possibly become dissatisfied, I will remember this. “What are you going to do about it” is a great attitude for a lot of things in life actually. Kudos to your father!

  • Stellina @ My Yogurt January 9, 2013, 4:05 pm

    Loveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee when that happens 🙂

  • Sarah @ Yogi in Action January 9, 2013, 4:08 pm

    I love this conversation so much! I also love that you’re asking what parents did right- because it’s so easy to pick out things they did wrong, but I love applauding parent’s efforts and what they did correctly.

    My mom definitely got it right with focusing on healthy food. We never had store bought cookies in the house, but would always have homemade goodies (cookies, cake, etc.). It was about fueling our bodies rather than focusing on calories. I still remember going to the fridge right before dinner and telling my mom that I was hungry. Her response would always be “Then eat an apple”. If I was truly hungry, I would eat it- if I just wanted to snack, then I wouldn’t have anything.

    I think what my mom did wrong was that when I was a teenager, I loved high calorie food. My mom would see me eating it and tell me that if I kept eating that way I would be “as big as the kitchen table”. She also would speak very negatively about obese people, and how it made her want to throw away her ice cream cone (or whatever high fat food was around). It installed in me a fear of getting fat.

    I hope to show my kids that everyone deserves to be loved, but you should fuel your body as best as you can.

  • Sara January 9, 2013, 4:11 pm

    I was in Girl Scouts when from the age of 4 to the age of 18 and I think a lot of their messages really helped me feel more confident, though I always had some self-esteem issues. My parents were always loving and encouraging. They never said anything negative about themselves or about me. They always wanted me to feel confident and happy. I didn’t completely stop caring about what others thought or gain a lot of confidence until I started college and when I started dating my now husband (at the end of high school.) One day we were watching TV and saw a makeup commercial and he said “You don’t even wear makeup, do you?” I did actually and thought, wow, he doesn’t even think so. He must think I’m beautiful just the way I am and he has always treated me that way. Something about that just clicked for me and I have always felt confident since! I just stopped caring about what others thought and felt more confident about myself. Maybe because he was my best friend and boyfriend? I don’t know. Anyway, I just try to be me and not worry about what others think. Who cares, right? I am pregnant with a boy and I hope he won’t suffer a lot of self-esteem issues that I did growing up. I know my husband had some insecurities growing up so I know it can too be an issue for men, but I hope to encourage him and let him know he is good enough just the way he is and not to let anyone tell him differently! Besides, who cares. Your mom loves you. That’s enough, right? 🙂

  • Ali January 9, 2013, 4:22 pm

    I was a very overweight kid – turned teen – turned adult and really wasn’t able to get a handle on my health until I was about 28. It was NEVER anything my parents did but I always had a horrible body image. My parents are absolutely amazing and I believe they did everything they knew to do – encourage me and let me find my way, stuck up for me, never talked down to me, etc. I was a competitive figure skater and ballet dancer while being very overweight and was still never made to feel bad about myself – my coaches, teams, and fellow dancers and skaters always treated me like a normal-weight kid. I was very lucky that way. I was unlucky, however, with the kids I went to school and rode the school bus with. They teased and bullied me and their comments hurt. My teachers did nothing to help. They just swept it under the rug or made me feel like it was my fault for how the other kids were acting. I always knew I was “different” but it wasn’t until I was teased and bullied that my body image tanked. I now am very health (healthier than most I went to school with) and am happy with my body no matter what it looks like. I also now work with children ages Pre-K through seniors in college and find myself cheering them on no matter what they are doing. While I hate that I had to go through all that, it has made a significant difference, for the better, as to who I am today.

  • Cassie January 9, 2013, 4:29 pm

    Growing up my mom constantly complained about her body, the focus was never on what my body could do it was all about how it looked. At times I have caught myself doing the same thing in front of my daughter, it’s something I strive not to do! I want her to focus on what her body can do when it’s healthy not just the appearance.

  • Carolyn January 9, 2013, 4:47 pm

    Wow– it’s really helpful to read all these comments because growing up, I often felt like I was the ONLY one of my friends who ever heard negative things about my body. As a preface– I KNOW my mom has always meant the best for me, but her methods often did the exact opposite of what she wanted.

    Good/Helpful things:
    -Prepared home-cooked meals nightly and requested the family eat together
    -Packed or helped me pack a lunch daily with fairly healthy food (rarely let me buy a lunch)
    -Encouraged playing outside and running around with friends
    -Offered to bring me to the gym or her workout classes, Bodysculpting, once I was old enough

    Bad/Unhealthy things:
    -Making negative comments about my specific body parts (thighs, stomach)
    -Shaming me about clothing sizes when I was a teenager (“If you’re a Large now, what will you be next year?)
    -Bribing me to lose weight or do a diet program
    -Talking about her own body issues

    While I’ve always been overweight (mildly so as a child, and moreso as an adult), these negative comments DEFINITELY impacted my self esteem, even though I have always been pretty confident. When my mom compared my body to my friends’ bodies, I couldn’t help but do the same (e.g. “She’s so tan, that’s why she looks good in a bikini”). I understand her intention was never to hurt my feelings, but that’s a concept NOT understood at the age of 8 or so (the earliest I remember hearing a negative comment about my “chubby thighs just like your mom”).

    While I internalized these as a child, as I grew older (high school), it was easier for me to understand that stick unless I wanted to make healthy choices for MYSELF, and I did. Unfortunately I still hear these comments to this day (and I’m 24– AND I’m very successfully doing Weight Watchers). Like when I was home over Christmas, “are you sure you want that much salad dressing? how about fruit for dessert?”. It’s CHRISTMAS for pete’s sake! I let it brush off my back much more now, though, but have definitely learned what to do (and what NOT to do) with my own child(ren).

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats January 9, 2013, 5:00 pm

    My mom never did anything wrong TO me, she always told me that I am made the way I am and I should be happy with that. However, she was always dieting (still is) and I think seeing that affected me. She also refused to get rid of the junk food in our house when I asked because I was overweight (technically I wasn’t quite in the “overweight” range so she wasn’t concerned). I think seeing her diet made me feel like it was normal to worry about your weight.

  • Jenny January 9, 2013, 5:01 pm

    Although I’ve never been unhealthily overweight, I remember going on a diet as early as 1st grade. My mom always told me I was beautiful the way I was, but her own behavior, I think, greatly influenced my adolescent years. My mom was and is still always trying new diets and fads (shake it weight, weight watchers, drinking slim fast and frozen diet dinners, the pink method, I could go on). Growing up I thought you had to be on a diet and eat as few calories as possible to look the way you wanted. It wasn’t until college that I learned from and ex boyfriend, who had lost a bunch of weight, that you actually have to eat whole foods and exercise (duh!). I weigh less and live much healthier than I did when I was living at home and encourage my mom to quit the fads and just start moving and eating real food. I’ve got some work to do with her, and I can’t say I didn’t learn anything from her about health, but I think she just got sucked in like everyone else to the only “eat everything fat-free” years of the 90’s and 2000’s.

  • Claire January 9, 2013, 5:02 pm

    This is a topic near and dear to my heart; although my parents (well, my mom really, my dad didn’t have a big influence on this aspect of my young life good or bad) meant well, my mom was a really poor role model for body image for me and my siblings (including my brother! We all three have disordered relationships with food/exercise, including him, so don’t think that Henry will be immune to this type of thing just because he’s a boy).

    My mom rarely said stuff directly to us, but she was intensively hard on herself which influenced all of us negatively. She was always SUPER conscious of her weight, although she was never above an average BMI (she’s naturally very petite like you), and always was a very unhealthy vegetarian – instead of being a vegetarian for good reasons (real health benefits or moral reasons) she used it solely as a way to restrict her eating by eliminating food groups as a way to diet. And since myself and all my siblings took after my father with his naturally larger frame, we all felt really bad that we were bigger than her and took her own comments about herself to heart (if SHE hated her body, how did that make us feel)?
    I went to therapy for a long while about all this. I really recommend looking into Ellyn Satter for healthy ways to encourage healthy eating in kids.

  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More January 9, 2013, 5:26 pm

    This is really interesting to me, especially with the new season of The Biggest Loser tackling childhood obesity. I did struggle with body issues as a kid but I’m not sure it was because of things my family ever SAID, as they never had weight conversations with me, except when it got too low… :-/

  • Tahlia January 9, 2013, 5:29 pm

    I’m glad you touched on this subject because I truly believe that what parents say has an impact on a developing child’s mind. My mum was constantly dieting, and saying that she hated the way she looked. She would only allow me and my siblings healthy treats-no junk food at all. I do remember one comment my mum telling me at about 11 or 12 years of age about how my thighs were too big and even though I don’t think she meant it in a mean way, it stuck with me. I battled bulimia/anorexia from aged 16-24 and have only now at 25 feel like i’m ‘recovered’. I don’t blame my mum and it hasn’t changed my love for her but her attitude to body image stuck with me.

  • Jolene ( January 9, 2013, 5:33 pm

    Even though I’ve never been more than 130 pounds (at 5′ 6”), I was still the biggest girl in my family, and my siblings definitely called me fat, etc. (I think they were joking, but I didn’t take it that way growing up). I think it did hurt my body image as a teenager, but I got over it.

  • Rebecca January 9, 2013, 5:34 pm

    I’ve never been really overweight (I got Dad’s high metabolism…), but my mom’s side of the family tends to be, and she’s very negative about all of that. She hates going to the Y, but she knows she needs to; tried a few different diets that haven’t worked for her; whatever. It makes me miserable to see her making herself miserable over her weight. My dad is very much into running and eating healthy (in about the last five years), but the way he talks about sweets and being “naughty” by eating ice cream/whatever makes me cringe. Like, “You’re gonna burn it all off when you go for a run later anyway. Just eat the freaking cake.”
    I don’t remember that being a huge deal when I was growing up, though. We rarely ever went out to eat (still don’t much), and it seemed like we always tried to do balanced meals at home. I think it’s just in the last decade or so that I’ve noticed all the negative stuff popping up. Sometimes it makes me possibly a little more upset than I should be… Oops.

  • Alexandra Rodriguez January 9, 2013, 6:36 pm

    This topic really hits home for me. My mom never came from a place of meanness but as a child I was always those” extra 5-10 lbs” overweight. I remember doing every single crash diet with my mom, who also had (and still has) major body issues. The cabbage soup diet around age 10 scarred me. I will never eat cabbage and the smell of the soup brings back bad memories and having to chug it down. My dad on the other hand always made a comment about every single thing I put in my mouth and would actually tell me I was fat. I come from a hispanic family and the rest of them weren’t so kind either. They never thought they were negative comments but I always was told I should lose some weight or asked if I didnt eat so much way I was still overweight (every ones body work differently!). This led to eating being a miserable and uncomfortable experience and major disordered eating i’m trying to manage now in my early 20’s. I was always ashamed to eat and this led to horrible binge eating that I have to really try to control still. Now I try to be more accepting of my body, it might never be “perfect” but if im making an effort to eat good whole, foods I try to be more ok with it. To this day, my mom continues all the negative self-image talk and continues jumping on and off diet bandwagons. Its so hard seeing your parent hate their body and not treat it well, especially as an adult. I absolutely plan to do things differently when I have kids and teach them to love their bodies and respect them by eating good whole foods and showing them the right ways to eat through leading by example, but letting them now a cookie every now and then is definitely not the end of the world.

  • cassidy January 9, 2013, 6:37 pm

    I honestly have no idea how I’m going to teach my daughter to have good body image. My parents did all the right things : healthy food, we were an active family, no media at all, and somehow I still ended up with an eating disorder. I read a blot post about a mom that not only tells her daughter that she is beautiful, but tells herself in front of her daughter that she herself is beautiful. I love that idea. Still, I wish there was some way to ensure that my beautiful, perfect daughter believes she is perfect and beautiful.

  • Amy D January 9, 2013, 7:46 pm

    I’ll be at the conference in NOLA! I look forward to meeting you and buying the book.

    • Caitlin January 9, 2013, 9:43 pm

      Thanks Amy!!!

  • Hillary January 9, 2013, 7:50 pm

    Oy. This is something I give a LOT of thought. My parents did their best and what they thought was right, but we ate a lot of fake, low fat foods in my house, and we were very restricted from eating desserts or snacks (and yet there was no restriction on bread, pasta, rice, etc. It was confusing!) I was overweight as a kid, and I think the one thing they did right was never making me feel bad about it. They always tried to steer me in the right direction (getting me to exercise, etc.), but never blamed me, made me feel gross, etc.

    I guess when I have kids, I’m going to try to teach them to eat healthy and stay active, but also reassure them that there are no “off limits” foods. I think that really threw me for a loop when I was a kid—I remember getting to college and going CRAZY when I realized I could eat all the ice cream and cookies I wanted, and it wasn’t a good situation. I think if I had those things in moderation, it would’ve been better for me all along.

  • Elena January 9, 2013, 8:10 pm

    Dear Caitlin,

    I have been reading your blog for very very long time. I started looking for a piece of advice on running a marathon and now enjoy your entries on baby topics, since I have a little son too.

    My parents never forced me to eat more than I wanted or something that I didn’t want to eat, though I was very very thin as a child and teenager and everybody suspected an eating disorder. We all were aware of it, but they always told me that I am totally ok the way that I am and that I should never, never compare myself with other girls which were …… rounder…. My sister was also very thin and sometimes refused to eat for 1 or 2 days, when she was 4 or 5 years old, but they did not force her to eat anything either. I am still pretty thin but I like myself and have no eating disorder, neither my sister has. And we both love cooking!

    • Caitlin January 9, 2013, 9:43 pm

      thanks for reading elena 🙂

  • Karen @ Runner Girl Eats January 9, 2013, 8:26 pm

    My parents actually got it right more than wrong. We were never criticized for our looks and always encouraged to be active and healthy. I have a few friends that unfortunately have very critical parents and they now have very unhealthy relationships with food/exercise. With kids its a very fine line between encouraging and criticizing and I think its sometimes hard for people to figure it out.

  • Christine @ BookishlyB January 9, 2013, 8:48 pm

    I have to preface this by saying that I love my mom and think she did a wonderful job as the single parent of four kids, but she was a product of her “time period.” To this day, I have serious issues leaving food on my plate, hungry or not. Not that I condone throwing food out, but I think portion control could have been addressed differently.

    • Laura January 9, 2013, 11:40 pm

      SAME! My mom used to call it the “clean plate club” and I am now a lifetime member. Hard habit to break!

  • Amber K January 9, 2013, 8:50 pm

    I just don’t understand being motivated by being cut down, but I have actually met people who were glad for the negative comments they received because it made them strive to change themselves. I am just not like that at all. I’m very much the crazy one who is like “you think THIS is fat? I’ll show you fat.” I had to deal with those feelings before I was ever able to lose weight.

  • Tanya @ Vegan Faith January 9, 2013, 9:35 pm

    As a new mom of a baby girl, and a professional in this field, this question plagues me often. How will I possibly raise my daughter to believe in herself and have an body-image innocence? I struggled with my weight and felt pressured to be smaller by my family. I’m not sure they put that pressure on me or if it was self-inflicted because my sisters and mom were always smaller than me, but either way, I have felt very uncomfortable in my own skin for most of my adult life. I suppose even though my family never said anything directly to me, since they would poke at themselves about weight, and I was larger it left me feeling that I also needed to be smaller. My plan now is to always focus on health, not weight. Healthy eating, healthy exercise, etc. I get very defensive when weight is brought into a conversation. I just don’t think it should ever be about weight.

  • Charlotte January 9, 2013, 9:47 pm

    What a great topic. My parents were/are not very good at this. I ended up with emotional/binge eating issues (though I never got to overweight) and my sister had/has an eating disorder. We had only low fat foods, but then were always eating unhealthy cheese filled dinners when my family actually cooked. We were constantly dieting, as a family, which eventually triggered my sisters ED when she was the only one not losing weight. When in sports told how great we looked. To this day if I am struggling with an injury or trying to get in running shape my parents will say you should fast to get off some extra weight and that will help, not what I want to hear.

    Luckily I have an amazing husband who has inspired/gotten me to workout regularly, eat better and feel good about myself, all allowing me to rid myself of most of my eating issues. I am so scared I will screw my kids up though. My husband had a great experience growing up and eats super healthy and we always joke that I am not allow our kids to see my issues and he would handle the rest if we notice me doing things in a negative way, haha. I am currently pregnant and secretly happy we are having a boy this time around, since I am not that bad and concerned with screwing them up, girls are just another thing in themselves 🙂

  • bulawanten January 9, 2013, 9:58 pm

    My parents really messed up my body image and self esteem. My mom is 4’9″ weighs maybe 80lbs and used to ask me a lot as a kid/teen if she was fatter than so-and-so. My dad has been on a “diet” since I can remember- no red meat, sugar, eggs, white rice (and he’s asian!!!). My dad also liked to point out that I was too fat to wear tank tops (I was maybe a size 4 but my parents bought me size 12 clothes because they were under the impression that I was that size). It’s still a constant struggle for me to this day to move beyond the emotional scars. Fat talk won’t be allowed in my home!

  • elizabeth January 9, 2013, 10:01 pm

    Hi! I live in Nola. My 8 yr old daughter and I would love to support Operation Beautiful. Where will you?

    • elizabeth January 9, 2013, 10:04 pm

      Sorry for the typo…Where will you be?

  • Elizabeth January 9, 2013, 10:05 pm

    I think I have a slightly different take on this. I was chubby as a kid, and by high school/early college I was quite overweight. My parents never made me feel bad about it–actually, it was never mentioned at all. My dad was (is) quite overweight as well, and although I remember him talking about wanting to start exercising, neither parent ever really dieted, or talked about it. We ate standard American meals–maybe a little heavy on the carbs/meat, but always with some sort of salad or something. Mid-range healthy.

    Honestly, I wished my parents HAD said something to me, and offered to help me lose weight. Not bullied me, obviously, but talked with me about it honestly and offered some solutions. I felt embarrassed about my weight, and because no one ever really said anything about it, I felt like I couldn’t bring it up, and I had no clue where to start losing it on my own. I wish my parents had talked with me about an eating and exercise plan. I can’t say how much that would have helped, but I wish the offer had been there. As it was, it wasn’t until my junior year of college that I made a change, and lost 100 lbs in a year, and have kept it off, now 10 years later. But that’s a story for another day…

  • Diana January 9, 2013, 10:19 pm

    Wow, reading all of these comments makes me really grateful for my parents. My parents never shamed me even once for eating too much or eating a specific kind of food. My mom always kept snacks in the pantry and my sister and I knew we could eat them whenever we wanted. Because they were there, we never felt like we had to hide eating them or feel an urge to eat more since it was “off limits”. We always had either pizza or chinese food every friday night, but every other night my mom made fantastic healthy dinners. We always played outside and took dance classes and played sports. My mom never once said she thought she looked fat in front of us, or was ever on any crazy diet. I grew up really confident in my body, and that’s not to say that I was the thinnest girl ever – no way! But I was active, ate healthy most of the time, indulged every now and then, and had really positive role model parents. I feel like when I have kids, I will be the same way. I would never want to make snacking or indulging a shameful thing.

  • January 9, 2013, 11:00 pm

    I coached GOTR this year for the first time and really enjoyed it. I’m sure it’ll be an incredible experience to be there and to be a part of what others will take away from the conference.

    One time I leaned over to my husband while we were running and told him that if we took a turn we could probably turn our 5-6 mile run into a 7 mile run. He didn’t reply (but we did take the turn)!

    Love this conversation!
    My parents must have done something right because I don’t have any negative memories about how my body was perceived. I know they wanted me to move more and “do” something besides play barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids and read all day. Eventually I ended up playing basketball, running track and playing volleyball so I’m sure they were happy about that.

    I’ve battled with being overweight as an adult and so have my siblings. We didn’t often do active, outdoorsy things as a family. Is that the reason why? I don’t know.

  • Meredith January 9, 2013, 11:09 pm

    Enjoy your time here in our lovely city of New Orleans!

    While I am not vegan /vegetarian, I know there aren’t a lot of those dining options here.

    Definitely check out Cafe Carmo in the warehouse district ( – the Carmo salad and Broken Noodle salad and banana cake are my fave, and all are vegan! Many things are gluten-free too 🙂 The owner and his wife are vegan, super buff, and very friendly.

    Also, the Wandering Buddha is a “pop up” Vegan Korean cafe inside a bar in the Marigny area called Hi Ho Lounge. They also deliver, by bike, if you’re staying in the French Quarter area, or you can pick it up from the walk up window thats around the back side, with a few tables outside. You know, in case you don’t want to bring your baby to a bar 🙂 I’ve had the bibimbap, braised tofu, and scallion pancakes – all delicious.

  • C January 9, 2013, 11:51 pm

    I’m a ballet dancer in my twenties, and when I was a young kid (like 8-13 or so), I wasn’t super thin. Not overweight by any means, and probably on the thinner side than average, but I wasn’t some super lanky specimen. I loved pasta and was pretty picky, so often, I’d beg for pasta with butter or oil and parmesan rather than whatever healthy meal (like salmon, rice and veggies) my mom was preparing. My parents, though well-meaning, would make comments like “is that what ballerinas eat”, “if you want to look like a ballerina, you can’t eat that”. Not only is that not accurate (dancers burn lots of calories and need to eat), but it gave me a bad impression of how I should treat my body. They didn’t mean anything by it, but it certainly screwed with my body image 🙁

  • Arlene @ Adventures in Weight Loss January 10, 2013, 2:06 am

    Great discussion. I had to bookmark this post to come back to it when I had some time to read and digest.

    My mother always struggled with her weight, from the time she was a child. I don’t remember her ever calling me “fat” or calling attention to my weight, but she also didn’t say “no” when I wanted to follow whatever diet she was on. (I got below 200 pounds my junior/senior years of high school because we were doing the old NutriSystem, where you still went to a center to WI, and mixed packets of stuff into water/diet soda for snacks/meal replacement. I still remember the puffed wheat/rice with skim milk and 4 oz. grapefruit juice for breakfast, chicken with broccoli/baked potato for dinner.)

    Mom died in 2003, after having a heart attack. When she went to the hospital, they diagnosed her with diabetes, which had gone untreated for probably years. So she was obviously not role model for good health.

    What she got right: Not making a big deal about my weight. A lot of home-cooked “square” meals (until she went back to work when I was in high school. Then it was Hamburger Helper).

    What she didn’t: Making me a lifetime member of the “clean plate club.” Not modeling healthy eating/exercise.

    • Arlene @ Adventures in Weight Loss January 10, 2013, 2:07 am

      I’ve always said that I don’t want my daughter to have the same struggles that I do … but since I have no children yet at 41, I’m not sure I’ll ever have to worry about it.

  • Ali January 10, 2013, 3:36 am

    I had an awful experience with this growing up. When I was young, I always wondered why my mother NEVER ate dinner. I never saw her eat. As I got older and learned about eating disorders, I realized my mom had one. My sister and I were active– played soccer, volleyball, etc on teams but despite this, I started gaining weight in middle school. In 8th grade I remember being 5’7 and 160lbs– definitely not great but not as bad as I thought at the time. My parents harassed me, told me how ugly I was and how no one would ever love me. When I’d break down crying, they would tell me they were trying to encourage me to lose weight and so I wouldn’t be bullied at school. Despite gaining a HUGE amount more after, I was never bullied or teased in school. I only felt it at home. Of course I’ve seen people staring at me, especially since I moved to an Asian country 5 1/2 years ago but I was never bullied.

    How my parents raised me with this has had a HUGE negative impact on my life. I broke my foot in 9th grade and ended up quitting soccer despite loving it because I didn’t feel support from my parents. To spite them, I ate worse and gained a lot of weight. The things my parents said made it so I began to hate myself and at 27 years old, that hasn’t changed. I went to university (first in my family), move abroad BY MYSELF and started a whole new life for myself, went to grad school abroad and am not preparing to move back to the US for a midwifery program and yet here I am, still struggling with my weight and still hating myself.

    My parents taught me that self worth is entirely dependent on the number on the scale and the way you look. I don’t think they intentionally taught me this and I think their hearts were in the right place, they just did it in such a bad way that I haven’t been able to undo it.

    I could write a book on this so I’ll just stop here.

  • Kirsten January 10, 2013, 5:00 am

    Oh no, I’m a parent to a overweight girl (14 and a half) – and I’m writing this even before I read all the comments or the links. Because you have no idea how difficult it is to watch from the side how she refuses to do anything about it, to feel like the worst mom in the world because I don’t succeed in helping her. I have for years ben working on getting her self esteem up,making healthy food (and including banning the rest of the family from eating junk in front of her), trying to make her exercise, going exercising with her, talking to nurses, doctors…… but she is not prepared to do anything herself. She seems to think that if we have (one more of the thousand) peptalk it will happen by itself. Cannot get that the actual work has to be done by her. You can take an animal to the well, but you cannot make it drink – that’s how it feels. My two other kids are normal weight, my husband is on the chubby side (and his family are all overweight) – and I’m a marathonrunner. Dreaming that one day she will get a grip – and I’m probably doing all the wrong things as a parent if I haven’t succeeded to make her feel better and more healthy.
    Sorry for this erratic post, but suddenly I just had to get it out.
    And now i will read all the links and the comments and maybe get some ideas….

  • Carly January 10, 2013, 5:32 am

    Very interesting topic.

    My mum is small framed and fairly petite. Even at her highest weight (16st) she didn’t look it and still shopped in the petite section at clothing stores. As a child in the early 90s I remember her working out to Mr Motivator on VHS (haha!) and she loved to walk to stay in shape. When she got to her highest weight (2004/05) it was down to depression but since then she’s back to her natural size which she maintains through moderate exercise and a lot of walking. My dad was a slightly overweight child who then reached a “normal” weight during adolescence but since my brother and I were born he has always been overweight. My brother was long, gangly, and very athletic looking. We’ve always had a close relationship and I compared myself/was compared by other family members to him and I always felt huge in comparison. Looking back as a 22 year old I can see that I was never “huge” but only ever so slightly bigger than the “average” kid and “bigger” than my brother because I had hips and thighs and boobs at age 10! This wasn’t helped by my dad who had always made it clear that he “didn’t want the same thing for me that he had gone through” as a youngster. It was very confusing and paved the way for disordered thinking about food and exercise.

    We ate fairly well in my house but treats and junk food were never off limits. It’s only now that I’m putting into motion healthy eating and lifestyle habits that I wish I had adopted sooner. I hope to engage my dad in positive thinking/body image rather than just accepting the age old excuse “but I’m fat”.

  • Andrea January 10, 2013, 8:14 am

    Oh what a great article. I sent it to my husband. We have 2 boys ages 6 and 4 (with another one on the way in May). Even though I have all boys this has impacted me. My oldest son is what you would consider “stocky”…i know, bad term. To me he’s not overweight at all, but my husband thinks otherwise and is worried. My husband grew up and still is on the heavier side (think football linebacker, not morbidly obese) and doesn’t want him to be teased like he was. I’m very health conscious and try to offer healthy meals, snacks, etc and encourage lots of activity/play.

    I get so aggrevated with my husband when he makes little comments directed toward my son. My husband is in the camp that feels that a little awareness will help him, but I worry about self esteem issues…especially at such a young age. This is honestly an ongoing “discussion” at our house. I hope this article helps in getting my point across to him!

  • Jen January 10, 2013, 8:18 am

    Like a lot of the other commenters, I was influenced by my mom’s negative self-talk and constant commentary concerning her weight. I’ve been slim my whole life but always thought that my thighs, hips, etc. were too large. Things are really changing for me now, though, as I’m shifting my focus from looking good to FEELING good. Now that I’ve got an eight month old, it’s all about the energy, man!

  • Faith January 10, 2013, 8:25 am

    Looking back, I see how terrible my mother’s relationship with food was, and I realize that it’s contributed a lot to the negative body attitudes I have! I remember her dragging me through the store to buy laxatives before meals at my Grandma’s house, living off iceberg lettuce and oatmeal packets for weeks, and bragging about how she hardly needs to eat anything to be oh-so-stuffed-that-she’s-sick. (she still does that last one, and it makes me want to shake her!) In no way do I blame her for my eating disorder…but I certainly see how her habits made me think that was normal and acceptable!

  • Lee January 10, 2013, 8:34 am

    I was a chubby teen and my [divorced] parents addressed it in very different ways. My mother never said a thing, but sort of tried to push healthy foods on me. That was also due to her disordered relationship with food, but that’s a different story. My father, when I was 14 or 15, told me once that I should lose weight because boys won’t want to date me. I guess he thought that he was going to make a lightbulb go off in my head or something. It didn’t and almost 20 years later, remembering him say that (though I’m sure he’s totally forgotten) stings.

    • Ann January 10, 2013, 7:46 pm

      Lee – My father said the exact same thing to me as a teenager. I remember exactly where I was, what I was wearing, etc when he made the comment. Both my parents weren’t great with weight/eating issues, but I’ve noticed the comments from my father in particular really impacted me in a negative way. I think it is very connected to other issues I now have with men and not feeling worthy of love unless I’m thin.

  • Whitney January 10, 2013, 8:47 am

    I don’t ever remember my parents talking about body image or talking negative about their bodies. My mom cooked every night and offered healthy meals to us. One thing that I loved that my parents instilled was family gym outtings. Every weekend we would all go to the gym, workout/play basketball, and then go out for lunch afterwards. It never seemed like something we HAD to do but we all just enjoyed doing it together and they made it fun for us. My sister and I were very active in sports growing up and played basketball in college so weight/body image was never an issue with us. I hope to continue the family gym time when I decide to have kids one day! 🙂 Great topic!

  • Carina January 10, 2013, 8:59 am

    Wonder if there is any right answer. If you feed your kids healthy whole foods, they buy sugary sweets out of vending machines. If you exercise a lot, when your kids want to rebel, they sit on the couch and play video games. I was only allowed soda at most once a week when I was a kid — so of course I was giving allowance money to my older brothers to buy me cans of coke to hide in my room, etc. But I don’t think the solution would have been to have soda as often as I wanted.

  • Stevie January 10, 2013, 9:09 am

    Wow, that is awful. One of my biggest goals for when I become a parent is to focus on healthy body image. I was slightly overweight as a child, and though my parents never really mentioned it, my mom was constantly dieting and criticizing herself when I was growing up. Seeing that she was never satisfied with the way she looked made me think that maybe I wasn’t good enough either. I spent my teenage years trying crazy diets and was never happy with the way I looked. When I have a daughter (or son!) of my own I am going to try very hard to be mindful about criticizing myself and encourage healthy eating and excercise as the norm rather than as a way to lose weight. I really do believe that the way you view yourself has a direct effect on your children’s body image.

  • Jen January 10, 2013, 9:51 am

    Hi Caitlin!

    I’ve never commented on a post before, but felt the need to add something to this great discussion. When addressing body image (in kids, teens, adults, etc) I think we need to remember issues don’t just arise among those who are overweight. My sister, mom, and I have always been very thin. My father was too until his mid-forties. I eat like a horse but am just naturally small-boned and thin. In elementary and middle school my sister and I both got teased occasionally for being so skinny, but it never really affected us since we had such a supportive, loving family and group of friends.

    My body image issues stem from my small chest. I have always loathed this part of my body. Even now, when I’m married to a man who adores my body and tells me this often, I STILL have such negative thoughts about my small bust. The funny thing is, I’ve never had a boyfriend EVER make a comment about my breasts, and I think my insecurities totally come from living in a society that tells women they should be stick thin but also be able to fill out a D cup. The “real women are curvy” campaigns really annoy me too. I’m very skinny, but still a “real woman”!!

    • Caitlin January 10, 2013, 10:17 am

      real women are all of us!

      • Whitney January 10, 2013, 2:34 pm

        This is a great comment Jen. My mom is a 7th grade teacher and had one of her students fail PE because he would not dress out for the class. He is a very thin boy and was embarrassed to wear shorts or short sleeves (basically anything that showed his bare skin) because of his thinness.

  • Rachel January 10, 2013, 11:05 am

    I think the most common theme here is mothers verbally expressing disdain for their own bodies, and whether they made comments toward their daughters or never said a word about their daughters’ weight, it affected us. My parents both made comments they believed were innocent (ie Rachel is ALWAYS hungry; everything revolves around your stomach) and to this day I have never told them how it affected my relationship with food and my body, but what affected me most of all was my mother’s constant dieting and complaints about her body and her weight when I was a child, teen and in college. I don’t think mothers realize the impact this has on their daughters, whether weight is an issue with their daughter or not, it sets a terrible example for body image for young impressionable girls. If I ever become a mother, of all things not disparaging my weight or body or the bodies of others in front of my children will be most important for me to remember. I love my mom and have always thought she was beautiful at any size, so to hear her disparage herself and to never be satisfied with her weight definitely confused me as a young girl and led me to believe weight was one of the most important things in a woman’s life.

  • Abby January 10, 2013, 11:11 am

    My mother always made a point to feed us healthy meals and snacks. Unfortunately she also always made a point to complain about how fat she felt, and how much she hated her “thunder thighs”and “saddle bag” hips (my mother was never larger than a size 8 her entire life even after having 4 children, 2 of them twins).

    The real kicker however was when I hit puberty and my mom started warning me not to eat sweets or chocolate because I was “cursed” with her figure. This of course led to me sneaking candy and treats after everyone was in bed. When I started feeling guilty for having these treats (a cookie or two, some ice cream) I would make myself throw it all up. I know the only thing that saved me from developing full on bulimia was my cross country coach always telling us that we needed to fuel our bodies to compete, and I’m so thankful that I had at least one woman with a positive body image in my life at such a formative time.

    Now that I have become a mother I make a point to be proud of my body and everything it allows me to do. I have promised myself that my daughter will never see her mother pinch her belly fat or go on a crash diet. Instead she will see us stay active, go to the gym as a family, and play outside.
    My family eats healthy meals made up of whole fresh food, but sometimes we go out for ice cream after or over indulge in Christmas cookies. I hope this teaches her balance. I hope she never feels ashamed of her body. I will do everything I can to help her see how beautiful she is!

  • Erica January 10, 2013, 11:11 am

    my parents did a great job of involving us in the family meal plan. we all went grocery shopping together and they were really into balanced meals, healthy lunches, and getting all of our fruits and veggies. so I thank my parents for my healthy relationship with food, teaching me to cook, and not being preachy about it. I learned as an adult that my dad hates vegetables, but be never let on bc he dint want us to pick that up from him.
    body image was a little different. my mom was always on a diet or trying to lose weight. and she always said she wanted to be skinny like me (we have different body types). It made me sad that she was sad about it. once I was a teenager my dad did make one remark about me starting to get the “family saddlebags” who was an inside joke among the women on his side of the family, and he told me to be careful. that kind of stuck with me and I still think of my “saddlebags” as my trouble zone, and I was really self conscious of them on high school (and still am, a little bit). I wish I could get over that. my mom still diets and is constantly losing and gaining the same 20 pounds ever year. I wish she could find her happy weight!

  • mary @ what's cookin with mary January 10, 2013, 12:02 pm

    I have a lot that I could say about that article… I wish I could have shared it with my Mom 20 years ago. I was like Amber K, “you think THIS is fat? I’ll show you fat”, when in reality I was just on the heavier side of average (taking after Dad’s side) at the time. I was the kid who was made to feel bad about what was packed in my lunch by other kids… A hard boiled egg, celery, carrots & a 100% natural juice box showed up in there often when Mom packed it. Also, growing up, on the one hand I was served a huge plate of food (like hamburger helper) for dinner (more than enough for an adult) and then punished (by my Mom) for not eating it all and then consequently also punished for being “chubby” in her eyes. Not only that, but my Mom, who was always a healthy weight, was always trying to lose 5-10 lbs and would beat herself up in front of all of us kids repeatedly. She still does this and she is still a healthy weight. My Mom is very petite and has any easy time remaining thin. I on the other hand take after my Dad’s side. Thank goodness my Dad was the total opposite on that and could relate much more to my struggle as he’d struggled with similar issues all his life. Had they stayed married, I think those types of interactions with her would have been reduced greatly. He was not perfect though… He would obsess about food, just in different ways. Calorie counting, carb & fat gram watching and restricting were common… as well as excessive working out, followed by a plate of only vegetables covered in “butter buds” powder after not eating all day. I also know that he struggled with binging as I had caught him at times late night in the kitchen eating mass amounts of food because of all the restricting. Definitely not the best role models for me to have in order to have a healthy relationship with food. Although I’ve lost 100 lbs and have a much healthier relationship with food, I still struggle with it and self image issues. I read through every comment and and I can’t tell you how good it feels to know I am not alone by any means on this.

  • Kimberly January 10, 2013, 2:10 pm

    Such an interesting topic! This caused me to think about how my mom treated food and body image and realize how hard she worked to create a healthy food/body environment for me.

    I think the best thing she did was to lead by example. I never heard her make a disparaging comment about her own body (she’s 5’1 and weighs only about 100 lbs, she’s tiny!) and she never said anything about mine. She always made sure to get daily exercise and frequently talked about how SHE liked to have balanced meals and healthy portion sizes; however, she never commented on my own food choices. Even though I didn’t eat as healthy as I could when I was growing up, now that I’m adult I feel like I have the tools to make healthy food choices, which I owe to my mom.

    My dad, on the other hand, has struggled with his weight and frequently commented on mine even though I would consider myself average (5’4, 120 lbs). I’ve remained the same size since high school but he would frequently comment that my butt was getting bigger, or that I needed to start working out. What I realized is that he might not even know how damaging these comments are or how he was projecting his weight issues onto me. After years of this, I broke down and told him how hurtful these comments were to my self esteem and he has not said a single word about my weight since.

  • Jo January 10, 2013, 3:29 pm

    My parents did play a huge role into my body image issues, not the best one unfortunately. They did do some things well, like never talk negatively about their own bodies, teaching me that our bodies are instruments rather than ornaments, and a pretty healthy portion ‘system’. However, they did focus a bit too hard on what was, at that point, just me being a chubby kid. What’s worse is, though they did have a knack for sensible portion sizes, the food itself was always a festival of delicious fattiness, so they did not teach by example in that area (I’m doing that for them a bit now). I know everything came from a place of love, but hearing so often about this made me feel like all my other achievements were ‘not enough’, which plagued me for a long time.

  • Elizabeth January 10, 2013, 3:58 pm

    I have a lot I wish I could put into words about this topic. My mom did most things wrong as she has had eating disorders my whole life and projected a lot of it onto my sister at I. Her binge eating lead to weighing in over 300 lbs at her highest. Throughout my youth all I heard was that I was going to get up “fat like her” or that if I ate that thing that I’d be fat. She constantly told me how much she hated herself and that she thought my dad stopped loving her when she gained weight and that all men would do the same thing to me if I was anything but skinny.

    My dad was slightly better, but he definitely wasn’t an innocent party. He has always had his thumb on the pulse of mine and my sister’s weight. If we gain he’ll mention we look rounder, if we lose he’ll tell us how much better we look.

    Even now, after going to college, getting married, becoming a runner and living a healthy lifestyle my mom is constantly rooting against my sister and I. My sister has had four kids and looks fabulous and is training for her first half marathon. I ran two marathons in the past year and have learned to cook. But we are both so disordered we really DO believe that that extra cupcake will make us fat forever, or that if we gain 10 lbs it will never come off. We still function off a number on a scale instead of being healthy.

    My mom always told me she loved me and that she thought I was beautiful (it just just followed by a “but be careful you don’t get fat”) and I LOVE my mom. I was not always at peace with how she treated me and the view she gave of me of myself. Sometimes I still get mad at her when I find myself tearing my body down, but the truth is my mom’s issues go deeper than her issues with food and so I have a hard time blaming it on her. I have my sister and we support each other.

    By the way I have two brothers, but my mom never talked to them like she talked to my sister and I. One of them is athletic and has the ego of Narcissus himself and the other is overweight, but happy in his life. In this particular situation my mom only went after my sister and I and my brothers received a boon. So much so they often tell us we’re “overreacting” or making it up. Sigh. Brothers.

    I try not to think too hard about how I would have turned out without my mom tearing me down, because it makes me sad. It is about moving forward and making sure the process isn’t repeated with my kids!

  • Ann January 10, 2013, 8:07 pm

    I dealt with most of the disordered habits mentioned in the previous comments (these comments helped me realize this is something a lot of women face).
    After finally getting some therapy for my issues, I can see how all the comments my mom said had little to do with me and more to do with her own issues and thoughts about herself.

    It will always be a sensitive spot for me, but when I have kids I hope to stop the cycle that has impacted the women in my family for generations.

  • Kristen January 11, 2013, 2:13 am

    My parents did a great job- I never had any body issues growing up. They got me involved in after-school activities (dance and softball- loved dance was horrible at softball) so I exercised every day for a couple of hours…it was fun, the music was good and all my friends were either in my dance classes or on my softball team- it never felt like a chore. My mom packed good lunches with fruit and one small ‘treat’ – she really avoided putting junk food in our lunches to the point where one day she packed me a Twinkie since that was her favorite treat as a kid…I returned it unopened because ‘it looked gross’…might have something to do with the fact that I was a super picky eater. In college when I stopped working out regularly and had unrestricted access to unhealthy food so I packed on 20 – yes 20!!- pounds. Even when I would call home and complain about the dryer shrinking my clothes (living through denial like a champ!) my mom would just say ‘I don’t think thats the problem’ but never once mentioned my weight. I do wish that I had learned earlier about living a healthy lifestyle- paying attention to what foods make me feel good and how I enjoy being active. Its weird that NOW in my 20s is when I am super critical of my body/appearance and of not weighing my ‘ideal’ weight. My parents continue to support me and don’t react to negative comments but its interesting how those self imposed negative thoughts creep in. Focusing this year on doing my best to ‘feel’ healthy instead of focusing on the numbers on the scale…woo hoo 2013!

  • Laura January 11, 2013, 2:11 pm

    I agree with the person who said they could write a book on the topic :). Suffice it to say that my Mom struggled with eating disorders as a teen and she grew into an adult who tried to control both of our eating patterns. She pretty much tried to eat as little as possible, and she wanted me to do the same–at one point we were on Weight Watchers (I was about 13 at the time) and she restricted me to the adult woman plan instead of the youth portions because it was “too much food for me to lose weight quickly”, but I was always hungry.

    As an adult I can see that my fat was partially my way of trying to take control of my own life and rebel. Anytime I tried to eat healthier on my own she’d critique what I was doing, so I would eat more to act out. I wore sweats for most of my teen years because my Mom didn’t want to take me to the “fat woman” store to buy clothes that fit, and if I “just lost the weight” I could buy jeans. She asked me if I was gay, because boys didn’t like fat, and didn’t I want a boyfriend? My Dad mostly stayed out of it, but I remember he didn’t tell me I was pretty. He said that I could be “above average” if I lost weight, but I was never told I was pretty as I was.

    I tied all of my self esteem to my looks, and because fat was ugly to her (and presumably to my Dad), fat was ugly to me. I didn’t feel pretty until I got to college and figured out that as much as I loved my Mom, she had problems. And they didn’t need to be mine. I still struggle with my self-esteem (and to some extent, with my weight), but I have a much healthier lifestyle and outlook about my body than my parents did/do.

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