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):