The other day my almost six year old daughter was standing in front of the full length mirror in our bedroom giving her outfit for the day a check. She was doing various poses, checking out her outfit from different angles, all things that aren’t out the ordinary for her. Things she’s probably seen me do countless times. But then, all of a sudden, things took a turn I didn’t expect. As she was checking out her profile she said “Oh this makes me look skinny!” I stopped what I was doing (putting away laundry) and turned to look at her. Clearly I heard her wrong. “What did you say Molly?”. Without hesitation she turned to the side, sucked in her belly and with a smile repeated what she has already said “This makes me look skinny.” I had heard her correctly. Yet what she was saying seemed so foreign it might as well have been a different language. We don’t use terms like “fat” or “skinny” in our house. Not about ourselves. Not about anyone else. But she’s in school now. Exposed to other people’s ideas and ideals about body image. Sigh. I’ve had it easy until this point. Until now almost everything she’s ever heard about this subject has been from her parents. And it’s been pretty positive. We are a reasonably healthy, fit and active family. We are far from perfect but we make a conscience effort to be “body positive” about ourselves and about other people too.
I took the opportunity to have a brief discussion with Molly about what she had said and what it meant. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it but I also didn’t want to pass up the chance to start a dialogue on the subject because obviously this is going to come up more and more as she gets older and is bombarded with other people’s opinions. During our talk it was pretty clear that, at this point, she really doesn’t have any insecurities about her own body. Her “skinny” talk was her mirroring things she had heard from another little girl at school. According to this classmate, if you can see your ribs you are skinny and that’s a good thing. I have to tell you, hearing that made me sad. Sad that a little girl, not even six years old, was spending even a second of her time thinking about how clearly she could see her ribs. Does it really start this early? I know that I had my own body demons growing up. Especially as a teenager. Even reflecting back on that now is hard. It took me many years to shake those demons and legitimately feel good about my own body. I want better for my daughter. I don’t want her to go through the things I went through. I’m not a fool. I know I can’t shield her from negative body talk with her friend, from the media – it comes from everywhere. But I can handle this so much better than my own parents did. Because, if I’m going to be totally honest here, they sucked at this. I will not suck at this.
So how do I, as a parent to a little girl, not suck at this? Just like every other aspect of parenting, I trust my gut, roll with the punches and make it up as I go along. That’s pretty much how we all parent isn’t it? I also have an entire play book of things not to do from my own childhood. We are definitely are a family of foodies. And we don’t talk about food in terms of “this will make you fat”. There is no list of forbidden foods. Treats are fine (and NEVER used a reward). We don’t worry about eating everything on your plate. It’s all about moderation. And education. Just like teaching kids the actual names of their body parts, we teach Molly about the actual nutrition in food. We don’t describe foods as fattening or unhealthy. We use words like protein, fibre, calcium and carbohydrates. We are giving her the tools she needs to make healthy food choices. Knowledge is power and I want my daughter to be empowered. And the conversation also extended into any supplements that she takes (she has an autoimmune condition). At her age we don’t just hand her a pill and say take this because I told you to. She wouldn’t accept that anyway. She’s a very curious kid. So everything gets an explanation. You take probiotics because one of your medications impacts your stomach flora. You take an Omega-3 because it helps with inflammation. You take Vitamin D because it helps keep your immune system healthy. Although we, along with her doctor, make the decisions about her health care she is an active participant.
Now I realize that there is much, much more to teaching our children in terms of having a positive body image. And we do actively have dialogue in this area that isn’t food and nutrition related. But the fact is that children (and adults) that have a good understanding of what is actually in the food they are eating are far more likely to make better, healthier choices overall. And having a positive relationship with food is essential to having a positive relationship with your body. It took me a long time to get over the hang ups that I built when I was young and get to the place I am now. I’m going to do my best to help my daughter not have to “get over” all of the things I have had to overcome along the way.
Why Orange Naturals? Well, first – Orange Naturals is Canadian. Not only do I like to support Canadian brands but there is just a level of confidence in buying from a home grown company that I don’t always have with buying elsewhere. The other thing that I feel really good about when it comes to using Orange Naturals is that Orange Naturals products are developed and designed by a scientific advisory board consisting of Naturopathic Doctors. This is pretty important. Naturopathic Doctors in Canada complete rigorous medical training at accredited educational institutions followed by professional licensing which holds them to national standards of practice.
Whatever your healthy goals are, Orange Naturals has something to help. Be sure to stop by the #onatural blog to get lots of great tips and advice for feeling your best and keeping your entire family healthy. You can also find Orange Naturals on Facebook for more information and fun.
Disclosure: I am part of the Orange Naturals Mom Ambassador Program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.