We all feel the pressure to lose weight and look like photo shopped images in magazines from a young age. When we grow up, we learn lessons about body image that we wish we had been told when we were a lot younger. This article shares the Top 5 things I wish my mother had taught me about body image.
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) defines Body Image: “Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind” (NEDA. 2014).
Lead by example
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I wished she had accepted her own image. My mother’s generation glorified Hollywood and the beautiful and voluptuous actors that started the media frenzy of what represents the perfect female body. Admittedly, she was a product of her past and of a society that neglected women’s rights. For the most part, women did what they were told to do, and their personal inclinations and aspirations were ignored. In addition, talking about sexuality and puberty was taboo, and questioning religious or political guidelines was unacceptable.
Strive for success
Get a degree, go all the way – get your PhD. Women are a force of nature and can meet any challenge. It is imperative that you succeed academically, because being smart is way cool. Education is the most fundamental way to broaden your horizons, seek out opportunity, and learn how to harness the talents that will serve you well for the rest of your life. Higher education is not only for men. Embrace your skills, explore the world, and strive to be the best you can be. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states,”education is especially significant for girls and women because it is an entry point to other opportunities…the educational achievements of women can have ripple effects within the family and across generations”.
You are what you eat
Choose wisely, because we know better. When I was growing up, the term ‘healthful diet’ was for the ‘old’ or the ‘infirm’. I do not think the word obese was included in the dictionary until the twentieth century. My family accepted the fatty meats, the boring and overly buttered potatoes, canned fruits and vegetables, frozen dinners, and bottled infant formula. As new, ready to eat foods were offered, the microwave oven was introduced, and fast food restaurant chains expanded globally, people became intoxicated with the ease of eating poorly. However, the correlations between food and health must have been a secret.
Exercise and LOVE it
Sports are a good thing. Participation teaches you how to be competitive as well as how to accept winning and losing. Maybe my mom ran for the bus, but breaking a sweat meant you smelled bad. I, on the other hand, wanted to swim, ride a horse, climb a mountain, bike, run, canoe, windsurf, row, and anything else that looked fun. It was not that she discouraged me; I truly believe that she had no clue what to do. Thankfully, there is sufficient research today confirming the benefits of regular exercise on health and wellness and on physical manifestation.
You are beautiful just the way you are
Celebrate your curves, your breasts, your hips, and your backside, no matter what size they are. Maybe you do not look like a model or an actress, but confidence in who you are is more than skin deep. Your outward beauty is a reflection of your overall internal health, even though how you act, your level of education, what you eat, and how much you exercise is important factors first and foremost take care of yourself and have integrity.
Unfortunately, the conundrum persists today, even as women strive for equity, the media continues to portray them contingent upon outward appearance only. A point worth noting: “Women competed for the first time at the 1900 Games in Paris. Of a total of 997 athletes, 22 women competed in five sports: tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrianism and golf” (Olympic.org. 2014).
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). (2014). What is Body Image? Retrieved from: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/what-body-image
Olympic.org. (2014). When did women first compete in the Olympic Games? Official website of the Olympic Movement. Retrieved from: