Body Image Issues

DD2 is 9, one of the youngest in her Year 5 class, and is an average height. She still fits into size 9-10 clothes, although the smaller stuff is becoming a bit of a squeeze. And for knickers, she finds it more comfortable to wear a size up, so 10-11. So I think she’s a pretty average size, especially compared to the other Caucasian girls in her class.  Our school is very multicultural so she has a lot of Asian friends, and they do tend to be smaller.

She’s not a giant though, nor is she huge, that’s the point I’m trying to make.

But you can see, even at her prepubescent age, that she’s never going to be a beanpole. She’s going to be on the curvier side of things and is currently going through a chunky-ish stage. I’m not panicking; I did the same at her age. But my mother told me I was fat, put me on a strict diet, introduced me to  calories and my weight yo-yoed ever since.

Clearly this wasn’t an example of fantastic parenting, so I have taken a different path. I talk to all the kids about the importance of some activity each day, about trying to work out if you are actually hungry before you eat, and try and nudge them towards fruit and veggies rather than crisps and biscuits.

Our main problem is not DD2; I  will repeat I think she is very ‘normal’ when it comes to body size. Our problem is she endlessly compares herself to DD1, who is 19 months older than her sister. The two girls are one school year apart but DD1 is a completely different body shape. She is tall ( now 5ft 2) and skinny. She wears 9-10 sized knickers and can easily fit into the same clothes as DD2. She’s even been known to wear some of DD3′s clothes , sized 7-8) on occasion!

Poor DD2 feels  inferior to her sister because she is bigger. Despite the fact that she has never heard me express dissatisfaction with my large frame, or talk about dieting, or express a wish to be thinner, she says she ‘knows’ that thinner is better.

And she gets very, very upset about it. She cries, she calls herself fat, she talks about her body in relation to other people’s bodies. It’s heartbreaking.

This morning the kids were playing MarioKarts on the WiiU.

‘Awwwww’, said DD2,’ I’d love to be Princess Peach.’

For those of you not familiar with this character, here she is.

Princess_Peach

‘Whats so good about Princess Peach?’, I asked. I like to challenge these sort of statements.

‘She’s so skinny. And blond. I wish I was blond’, my 9 year old daughter replied.

‘ Is that the best thing you can be?’ I wanted to know, but before DD2 could answer, DD1 chimed in.

‘Hitler thought so!’

What a statement! Of course then we had a discussion about Hitler and why his beliefs might not be the gold standard in thought processes, but isn’t it sad that in 2013 a 9 year old, bright, friendly, pretty girl who lives in a multicultural community, thinks that the ideal woman is a skinny cartoon character with blond hair, blue eyes and a pink dress?

I think it’s extremely depressing.

 

4 comments on “Body Image Issues

  1. Yes, it is very sad but it seems that they are continually bombarded with these images and messages. Like you, I never put down my own appearance, neither do I comment on other people’s bodies, positively or negatively, but it seems like we are fighting a losing battle. As part of my fight against it though, I make sure that my son is equally aware that women’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes because I think that men will be the key to changing attitudes. L x

    • I’m not sure it’s all down to men. But it’s a good thing to make sure our sons know that women come in all shapes and sizes and it’s okay to like someone who isn’t the ‘ideal’.

  2. This is one of my fears, I was that 9 year old and despite being blonde haired, blue eyed and impossibly skinny, still thought I was fat. I’m so scared that either of my girls will start to believe this too
    I think the one thing to do is to keep forcing images and role models around her that challenge this ‘beauty’ idea. Women like Adele who is gorgeous and talented despite not being the conventional ‘beauty’.
    Also I know you don’t put down your own appearance, but do you tell her that you think you are beautiful? you think you are the right weight, height, your hair colour is perfect for you? (that’s really not meant to be critical so please don’t take it that way! x)

    • Yes, I don’t go on about it every day, but I do call myself beautiful and point out that my life wouldn’t be any better or worse if I was a different shape.

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