Sunday, August 16, 2009

My body image and my daughter

Beautiful Mess had a post about her body image a couple of weeks back. She was contemplating how her own body image issues might affect her daughter. This really got me to thinking. And then I saw this episode of What Not to Wear and the woman on the show was talking about how her body image and how the way she dresses might affect her daughters.

I generally don't feel like I have a negative body image. Sure I had the "freshman 15". But I worked hard after college to transition to a lifestyle filled with moderate exercise and healthy but delicious foods. Prior to that, I never gave my eating habits much thought. Even worse, I *hated* physical exercise. I made some changes and found workouts that I enjoy doing and once I did, I was able to change my mindset. I wouldn't say I love exercise, but there are some kinds of exercise I do enjoy and there are others I still can't stand to do.

Even now, 10+ years after graduating from college, I work hard to maintain a nutritious diet for a couple of reasons. I want to ensure that I have good health for a long time. I want to have the freedom to enjoy cupcakes(!) and other treats when I want them without feeling like I have to deprive myself. Now, I also have the added incentive of wanting to set a good example for my daughter.

Exercise is a harder rule for me to stick to, in fact I haven't done a lot of regular exercise since my daughter was born. As a result, I try to make sure that I walk a lot, often an hour during the day when I put Peanut in her stroller and we go out and tackle the ups and downs of city streets in Seattle. But I'd also like to keep up a routine of some kind (including more aerobics and yoga) because I think it's important for all the above reasons. Likewise, I can't stand being out of breath just going up a flight of stairs!

But the whole thing breaks down for me a bit when it comes to wardrobe. I feel like I've got this healthy shape that I've worked hard to get, and yet I've got a bunch of baggy t-shirts and sweatshirts and "comfy pants." You know the ones I mean. The ones that you wear the day after Thanksgiving because they're elastic or drawstring and are very forgiving. But none of these things are flattering by any stretch of the imagination and in the end I don't want my daughter growing up and thinking I was a frumpy dresser, or more importantly that I didn't think I was valuable enough to spend some time on myself and my image. I don't want to come off as vain, but given my current standards, I think a small bit of improvement would not even come close to putting me at risk of that!

My mom always dressed like a mom once she was a mom. She has all these great pictures of herself when she was young and thin and *hot* and dressed like a cool, hip 1960's gal. Then she got pregnant with me and then two years later my sister was born and it pretty quickly swung the other way. She started wearing "mom jeans" and the like. I love my mom. She's my inspiration and my hero in countless ways. But a fashion idol she isn't. Not anymore. And not for as long as I can remember.

I don't want my daughter to think that about me. I don't want my daughter to be obsessed with appearances. I want her to understand the value of comfy pants and casual dress for sure. But I also want to be sure that she knows I'm not hiding my body all the time. I don't want to have to hide my bathing suit-clad body under a beach cover-up for my whole life (something I got used to seeing my mom do). I want my daughter to see me as confident; because that's one of the traits that I most want my daughter to have. I want her to be self-confident. Once you've got that confidence in yourself, it makes it a lot harder for others to shake you.

The "before" circa 1996 (i.e. my "freshman 15+" is still intact -please note the brownies which were ever present during my college days):

The "after" circa 2005 (i.e. I had walked over 400 miles in preparation for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3 Day about to start the very day this picture was taken):


  1. Good work! Both on getting healthier and writing this post. Confidence is they key! I know that there are days when I'm not feeling so confident, but then there are those days when I'm stuttin' my stuff!

    Your daughter will have an amazing roll model in you. She will look up to you and be so proud that YOU are HER mom!

  2. And you look great in the second pic, in such good shape!

  3. I love this post and how well you express the balanced image you want to have for your daughter. I totally feel the same way about not looking like a "mom" (though not sure I'll ever have a daughter to be a role model for!). I am really trying to keep some semblance of shape during my second pregnancy and plan to eat healthier sooner following the birth of my son.

  4. You look wonderful -- your hard work is certainly paying off.

    My mom dressed in "mom clothes" when my brother and I were little, but for many years now, she's looked better than I do! I don't know exactly when it happened that I started asking her for advice on clothes instead of vice versa. I guess the lesson is, there is always an opportunity for change. :)

  5. I really like this post a lot. I am a huge subscriber to the What Not to Wear philosophy of learning to love and accept yourself no matter what your shape, and that a big part of that is dressing well and taking time to care for yourself, including your appearance. I think it is not that hard to strike a balance between knowing that appearances do matter but also that they are not the only or the most important thing in life, and to pass that on to daughters (and sons, too...) Our bodies are part of who we are, after all, and so worth caring for and treated lovingly. And in my world, that definitely includes cupcakes!!

  6. Ahhh! I know what you mean. One of the reasons I'm trying to exercise is to be a good example to Jun. That's one of the reasons I make sure she sees (and helps) me do housework nearly every morning. Plus, I want to be around to see HER grow old!

    The clothes in Japan, I have little choice in what I wear, if I forget/put off buying while I am in the States. So - GO BUY before you come back - and show us all your pretty new clothes!

    One more thing - last year I started wearing bright colors because...Jun LOVES them! Yep! I have a pink T-shirt. No one can believe it, but it makes Jun happy, so I'm happy too!