Last night I was reading to my daughter a book given to her by her Aunt Cassen. The book was Beautiful Girl: Celebrating the Wonders of Your Body, by Christiane Northrup, M.D., with Kristina Tracy and Aurelie Blanz.
It was written to jumpstart a conversation between mothers and daughters on the importance of cherishing their bodies and appreciating all the miraculous things our bodies can do. Internalizing positive body images can influence a girl's physical and mental health throughout their lives.
My daughter, Taylor, and I discussed some of the ways we can honor and love our bodies. I reminded her that we are all born with perfect bodies and need to treat our bodies with love and kindness. Taylor replied that she wasn't born with a perfect body.
I knew she was referring to her congenital heart defect, and the scar that ran down her chest from surgery when she was a week old. I responded that "slight imperfections do not make you imperfect" and reread a line in the book,
"Everything in nature is perfect just the way it is. Each little seed sprouts up differently in its own time and its own way, You are the same, perfect just the way you are!"
Some of the things we can do to cultivate a positive body images within ourselves:
1. Be in awe of the things that it can do- the yoga pose you were able to achieve, the mile you ran, the power your embrace has on another person, the processes your perfectly designed system goes through to talk, think, breathe, move and feel, and the power to heal itself.
2. Treat it with love and kindness- Give it the nutrients it needs to feel good, let it rest when it feels it has been pushed too hard, don't berate it for the things it cannot do or its slight imperfections.
3. Give it the credit it deserves for allowing you to feel joy- Without it, you wouldn't be able to do the things you are passionate about such as writing, running, yoga, skipping on the beach, skiing, ballet, sewing, playing tennis or laying on the beach with friends.
4. Trust- that it will do its best to protect you from harm and that it has your best interests at heart.
As women, we often focus on our inadequacies, whether it be flaws we see in our figure or other aspects of our lives. As a nutritionist, and someone who at one time suffered from an unhealthy relationship with food, I am aware of the direct link our relationship with food has on our relationship with our bodies.
We don't trust that our body is there to support us. We condone abusive behavior, whether that be overconsumption of food, alcohol, or drugs to suppress our feelings of unworthiness, or we refrain from food or take control by measuring every bite to make up for the vulnerabilities we feel inside.
Clients often feel uncomfortable if I tell them there's no need to measure, or they don't need a plan for every meal. They don't trust themselves to stop eating when they are full or to make healthy choices. By forming an alliance with ourselves and establishing trust, we can become more in tune with the nutrients and support that our own body needs.
My daughter later said to me, "Can you write that quote down? 'Slight imperfections do not make you imperfect.' I could use it when struggling with a math problem."
I realized that she is already starting to dissect her perceived weaknesses and developing emotions connected to them. It dawned on me that I had been too hard on her earlier for not doing an assignment. I also took note that my reaction reflected my own feelings of self-doubt as a mother, assuming that her failure to complete an assignment was an act of defiance.
As a mother, I hope that I am a good role model for her and am giving her the tools she needs to ignore negative messages and form a healthy relationship with herself and her body. In our efforts to help our young daughters, I hope we are kinder to ourselves and realize, our imperfections don't make us imperfect; they are what forms our unique perfection.
Melissa Reagan Brunetti, CNC
Author, The Sweet Side of Balance