I was in London last weekend with my parents, Gregg and Jenson to celebrate my birthday. It was a lovely time and also a time that has left me thinking about some body stuff.
My mum said to me at one point ‘you look slim‘ (or something like that). She meant it as a lovely compliment but then corrected herself and said ‘oh, I’m not supposed to say that, am I?‘.
This came from an article she had shared with me earlier in the year (which I can’t find now), but which is similar to this article in psychology today.
The main headlines are that if you don’t want your child to have body issues:
- Don’t talk about your body in a negative way. Instead of saying ‘I hate my stomach‘, say ‘It’s incredible that my tummy kept you safe inside me for 9 months!‘
- Model eating a variety of foods in moderation
- Don’t diet, but talk about eating healthily and exercising for the pleasure of feeling good and taking care of yourself
- Don’t comment on what other people look like, praising those who are thin and criticising others who are larger. Make body size a non-issue by not even mentioning it.
But I understand my mum making that comment because, in saying it, she was noticing me, connecting with me, wanting to say ‘I see you and I think you are lovely’. (I think she was, anyway!).
And it’s what I do to people as well. When someone has lost weight, I give praise. And when someone mentions how dissatisfied they are with their body, I try to make them feel better by saying how gorgeous they are or how I haven’t even noticed that they’ve put on weight.
It’s how we are conditioned in society – to say ‘you look well’ (which most always means something about body size) or to comment if someone has lost weight.
It’s normal validation.
But I don’t want to be part of it anymore.
And so I’ve been thinking about what else can be said to validate someone instead of commenting on weight/body size.
Here are some of the things I’d like to hear myself:
- I love you
- I’m so proud to call you my friend/daughter/son/part of my family
- I think you’re a wonderful person
- It looks like you’re really taking care of yourself and I think that’s great.
- You’re glowing for someone surviving on such little sleep!
- I really admire X in you
- I love your top/skirt/shoes
- I think you’re gorgeous, inside and out!
- I’d love to know how you’re really doing
It was really hard to think about these phrases and I’m still not 100% convinced by all of them, because they all feel a bit more intense.
A comment like ‘you look great’ feels safe. Whereas saying how proud you are of someone feels more vulnerable. And asking how someone truly is, listening fully to their answer takes more effort and engagement.
So I don’t have any answers really. And I suppose this is normal because observations about weight are conditioned in most of us.
All I know is that I’m determined for Jenson to not grow up with any weight phobias and so I’m going to see how it feels to not mention my body negatively or to mention someone’s size as a validation over the next month or so.
- Praising my body, especially the bits I find imperfect
- Not engaging with conversations about how someone looks
- Avoiding the ‘you look well’ ‘have you lost weight’ comments
Let’s see how it goes!