You may not give it too much thought, but it might surprise you just how much the culture around you is dictating a message to you and your children about body image. In many countries having a little more weight on your hips is a sign of wealth and prosperity while in the next it is a sign of poverty. And it is not just your hips they are talking about either. In one place you might be tempted to augment your small bust to keep up with all the ads and media filled with girls with large, perky breasts while in the next that same bust line is being judged by it’s ability to nurse and nourish babies.
In Morocco, I was constantly being asked why I did not eat more. Was I ill? Were we having troubles? My friends could not understand why I wanted to be thinner. The men preferred their women with soft lines and voluptuous curves.
I was feeling pretty good about myself.
Then we came to Denmark. And all those good feelings began to dissipate. I was one of the chubbier girls at the gym. (Yes. I am telling the truth.) Everyone was so tall and thin, talking constantly about the evils of sugar and fat, and I suddenly felt the need to step it up. It is not like anyone was telling me I was fat, but all around me, culture was dictating a new norm to me.
I have thought a lot about how the cultures around us affect our children because if it is so difficult for me as an adult, how much harder will it be for my children to have a healthy image of themselves? What is right the size and weight? What is healthy? How do I teach them to love the skin they are in?
Here are a few things that we are talking about with our kids, particularly our almost-teen daughter:
1. Don’t compare yourself to others. We all come in different shapes and sizes!
2. At times you will have to go against cultural norms and decide what is best for yourself.
3. Be healthy and love the body you have been given!
So, What do you think your culture is teaching your kids about body image?