Trying to Stay Afloat

Yesterday, I published a post about the female body, following an article published in a magazine that talked about how nowadays we are celebrating the female curves and being ‘beach body ready’ doesn’t mean that you have to diet. Here’s the link to my post:

Lots of people have made some really interesting comments about it. One that really resonated with me was a lady who talked about how she is trying to ensure that her children don’t grow up with hang ups about their bodies: “If anyone talks about ‘bikini bodies’ in front of my daughters, I will have words”, she says in her comments.

This got me thinking about how I approach this issue with my four daughters. My step daughter and therefore unfortunately for her, my guinea pig to raising teenage girls, never seemed to talk about dieting. She always appeared to have a healthy approach to eating, whilst of course still shoving all the usual crap down her neck, from time to time. Her weight, fitness and strength was never a point of conversation, as she trained hard at her Taekwon-do. I didn’t really have any need to give body image issues a thought.

This year, daughters 1 and 2 are going on holiday with friends. Since January, daughter 1 has been on a healthy eating diet, which, to be honest, has been a bit of a faff. I’ve tried to accommodate her requests for this and that, but it can be a pain in a big family. Now that their holidays are fast approaching, both daughters are talking about dieting. Now, I’ll be honest, until I read the lady’s comment yesterday, I didn’t give their talk of diets a great deal of thought, other than: oh god, more faff! I also thought to myself: well, we can all go on a diet then. Generally, I don’t really diet. I have always talked to the girls about healthy eating and a balanced approach to their food consumption. I do know that I am a role model to them and always try to lead by example. I don’t get hung up about the way I look and my cupboard isn’t full of out of date packets of Weight Watchers food or nutritional shakes that are gathering dust.

A few days ago daughter 3 made the comment to me that someone had said that she has a six pack. She was made up about it. She loves her sports and this is one of the ultimate prizes for an athlete. Then I read the lady’s comments in response to my post, in which she also makes the point that our bodies are not for show. This lady’s attitude in her thoughts seemed so balanced, it made me question how I should be responding to my daughters when they talk about their body image. The weight of responsibility feels so huge.

My thoughts then extended to my Ladies’ Taekwon-do class, in which I make motivational comments through grueling exercises like: come on ladies, not long until we’ll be getting in to our bikinis! I suddenly found myself questioning whether this is perhaps the wrong thing to say? I work in the fitness industry. Part of my job is to get people fitter. It matters not what size or shape they are, my goal is to make them stronger. Yet by making the comment about the ‘bikini body’, am I projecting the wrong image? By accommodating my daughters’ dieting, am I feeding an obsession with their body image?

I think it is easy to over analyse. Because as parents we have such a huge responsibility on our shoulders, it is easy to worry too much. The problem is, we too are living in this world where we are surrounded by issues of diet, health and how we should look. This creates our own insecurities, which we must be so mindful not to pass on to our children.

Perhaps when we talk about being, ‘beach body ready’ we need to focus on our strength and our health. I’ve got to be honest with you though, having four daughters who are brought up in a tsunami of social media with its narcissistic obsession of self image, I feel as if I am being engulfed by the wave and am just trying to keep my head above the water.

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23 thoughts on “Trying to Stay Afloat”

  1. This is such an interesting post (sorry, lame comment opener!) and it makes me feel quite twitchy as a mum of two daughters as I have all of this anguish to come my way. I guess “beach body” and what that means should be unique to the body owner. One lady may dream of a 6 pack and have that as her aim, while another may be pleased with exactly how she looks but enjoy knowing that she’s working towards her fitness increasing. It sounds like you have a very well rounded view on it though. #dreamteam

    1. Thank you so much for your comments – always appreciated. Your comment about the ‘lame opener’ made me laugh, because I often think that when I start comments and I really don’t mean it!

  2. I’d never really thought about it like this. I think we’re all guilty of associating being healthy with image. I’m 4.5 months post baby and whilst I decided I wanted to get fit, healthy and strong, I’d actually just like to look good in a bikini. I’m a long way off but when my daughter starts to think of body image I hope I remember this post!

    1. Thank you for your comments. I always find that someone throws out a perspective that I hadn’t previously considered and it starts to make me question things. That’s what happened in this instance, but I do think that we can worry too much sometimes. I appreciate your comments.

  3. Excellent post! It really made me question my approach to discussions around body shape with my girls … it’s a question I’m preparing to vlog about soon. It’s made very tricky in our house as eldest daughter is a model – it’s all about shape and what she eats and how often she exercises – we are very careful about it but it’s not easy for youngest daughter who has now become a vegan and has body dysmorphia issues – we are addressing it but it’s stressful to say the least. Would you mind if I referenced this post in the vlog?

    1. That is very tricky. I can only imagine how upsetting and stressful it is for all of you. I do worry about my approach with the girls – for example in the past when I’ve felt they needed to lose weight – how best to approach that? It’s a real struggle. What we say as parents can have such lasting implications. I look forward to the vlog and of course you can reference this post, thank you.

  4. To be completely honest it would annoy me if during a fitness session my instructor focused on being bikini ready, as I exercise purely for health reasons, as far as I am concerned I am bikini ready when I am a 10, 12 or 14, I am confident in my own skin, I just know at times I am not being healthy enough. I know for a lot of people exercise is all about looking great, but to me it really isn’t. I think when I feel great mentally I feel great about my body. It’s a tricky issue isn’t it, and with sons and daughters we need to teach self confidence, fitness and so many other things. We can’t be perfect, we cam’t always do and say the exact right thing, so let’s focus on being the best version of ourselves rather than perfect. I did comment on your previous post too today and had to come over an dread the follow up. Really great topic to discuss!

    1. That’s really interesting feedback. I don’t focus on the bikini body thing in class – it’s just said flippantly as part of my banter occasionally. However, it hadn’t crossed my mind that it might actually rub people up the wrong way, so it’s good to see it from every angle! It is a great topic for debate, this whole body issue and highly complex! I’ve had some really interesting comments that have opened up new perspectives on it for me. Thank you for yours.

  5. I wrote a post like this recently as i suffer with BDD and really try my hardest not to pass my hang ups to the kids. I’ve got no idea who I’m going to tackle things like diets etc when they are older (they are only 2&4) but I hope I can be as level headed and approachable as you are! Thank you #DreamTeam

    1. Thank you for your kind comments. It is a mine field, but I think the best approach is go with your gut instinct (no pun meant) and you can relax on this issue at least for a while!

  6. It’s funny you write this as my post is also about body image. Beach body ready now does seem to mean looking shredded but really its about whether you feel ready to hit the beach. That could be any shape or size as all about confidence #brillblogposts

  7. Children may be bombarded with narcissistic images on social media and there’s nothing we can do to stop this except to add in some balance. We should take pride in our appearance and respect our bodies but we need to teach our children that we all come in all shapes and sizes and if people want to judge us for it… let them! I tell mine about the absolute inspiration I get from seeing how people with disabilities cope and how it should put into perspective just how lucky we are.
    Last year, we hosted a boccia tournament at one of our leisure centres and I was absolutely bowled over by the absolute joy a young person got from being able to control her spastic movements to be able to compete in her match. She was truly inspirational. Those are the sort of role models we should teach our children about – not the lost souls who abuse their bodies with silicone implants and enhancements. They are so vacuous and we should remind our children that someone so self obsessed can have little worthwhile purpose in their lives.

    1. Great comments, Adam (as always). It’s a good idea to highlight how inspirational disabled people are in sport. Perseverance and indomitable spirit are qualities that they have in abundance, yet are sadly often lacking in many young people. These are the sorts of qualities that really matter, not size or shape.

  8. Since having my second child my new motto for my body is ‘built for use, not decoration’. I really couldnt care less about my wobbly bits anymore – but we do have to be really careful about our daughters, we cant shelter them from it, but hopefully talking openly about it and being positive in our own attitudes will help.#brillblogposts

    1. Great motto and great advice – we certainly can’t shelter our kids, but communication is definitely key. Thank you for commenting.

  9. I’ve read these blogs and comments with interest. All my life I’ve fluctuated between overweight and very overweight. However, other than fleeting envy when seeing an amazing outfit I couldn’t hope to get in to, I do not let it bother me. Our society places so much emphasis on physical appearance that even in seeking to demonstrate acceptance of the more curvaceous woman we can come across as disingenuous: “She looks great but *I* wouldn’t like to look like that.” I hold in higher regard qualities such as humour, intelligence, and kindness, so I make an effort to develop those characteristics. And it seems to work; I have many wonderful friends, colleagues, and a fit and lean husband, none of whom judge me by (or for) my body but respect me for other qualities. Many years ago, one of my stepchildren passed comment on a woman being fat and I asked, “Does it matter?” and then quickly moved on, not wanting it to be a big thing (pun unintended). That ‘child’ is now 29 and married to a hilarious, intelligent, generous, gregarious woman, that is, someone who is well-rounded physically and metaphorically. I want to add, that in my 20-odd years of extra special friendship with Alison, she has represented her country in Taekwon-do, become a personal trainer, a massage therapist, and owner/teacher of a Taekwon-do school. *Not once* have I ever felt judged or otherwise evaluated by her on the basis of my physical appearance. All I have ever felt is valued as a friend. x

    1. Oh I miss you Jo! What lovely comments. You are an inspiration to me and you are so right to hold other qualities in higher regard. Thank you for sharing your thoughts xxx

  10. Its one of those tricky ones… I can see why it’s something you are thinking about more with a house full of girls. I think if a fitness instructor shouted something like ‘working on our bikini bodies/bikini ready’ it would actually motivate me. Not that this body will ever go into a bikini again, but it’s the thought that counts. Though I can see how it can be looked at as being a negative thing. Ekk! I am not sure. I am just thankful that we have a load more years before it will cross Little Buttons mind. Thank you for linking up to the #DreamTeam x

    1. It is SO tricky – I’m getting in knots over it! I’ve just spoken to my friend who admitted that she doesn’t like any mention of ‘bikini bodies’ in class. It’s a completely fair point and there are so many perspectives! Enjoy the years you have…! Thank you for commenting.

  11. I think I have achieved action through inaction here!! I agree that we can get in a knot of over analysis and end up doing wrong because we are trying so hard to do right. I also think that we get ‘healthy’ mixed up with ‘thin’. I know some very unhealthy thin people! I also know some larger people who are very fit! As always – you make some really good points and I share your pain! I’m off to vote for you now. #BrillBlogPosts

    1. I totally agree that we mix up healthy and thin. As I just mentioned to Annette, my friend has just admitted not liking mention of ‘bikini body’ in class, with good reason. I’m just glad that I am hearing so many different perspectives on it, because it is helping me with a very complex topic…although I am still a bit confused with it all! Thank you so much for commenting and voting – it means an awful lot to me.

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