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I’m 41 years old. I have a 14-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. This topic is something that scares me a bit and is deeply personal to me. As it is for many women raising a daughter today I would imagine. I grew up in an upper middle class area in NJ. When I was in high school in the late 80’s, the picture of beauty included shoulder pads, and permed hair with REALLY big bangs. I can honestly remember thinking my hair could never ever get TOO BIG. I look back now and think about my poor parents. This is my high school yearbook picture from my senior year. YIKES!!!!!

HS Photo

HS Photo

My only defense was that was “the look” back then. That look was “in” or “hot” back then. I had the hair, the shoulder pads, etc. However, I still felt insecure because I felt I was fat. I hated the way my body looked and didn’t know what to do about it. The only way I knew to lose weight and feel beautiful was to severely limit what I ate. This is an approach I tried many times and failed. Knowing what I know now, of course it didn’t work. The emotional, psychological and physical effects of trying to starve yourself are all a part of our survival mechanism and 99 times out of 100 will not work, at least not in the long term. Some managed to lose weight but tended to gain it right back. But there was that small group who managed to succeed in breaking that survival mechanism but then the consequence was anorexia or bulimia. We learned all about this stuff in health class, but the answer to staying at a healthy weight was to eat a low-fat diet.  We all know the folly of that approach and unfortunately it is still the prevailing wisdom, but it is starting to change…….slowly.

Being honest with myself, I was probably about 10 lbs heavier than I should have been.  On a 5’2” frame 10 lbs makes a pretty big difference. But as I look at photos, I was not fat! I was nowhere near the fat girl I thought I was. But the mind of a teenage girl can be a dangerous place and if you’re not careful that mind can lead to some pretty unhappy years. I am lucky I had parents and good friends who loved me because that ugliness in my head never really led to irreparable damage. But that ugliness in my mind still nags at me to this day. I still stare at my thighs and wish they were thinner. I still wish I could get my butt smaller and tighter. It is this obsession with not wanting to feel fat any more that contributed to me getting sick over 3 years ago. It was the low carb, low fat, low calorie diet combined with way too much chronic cardio, too much stress, and not enough sleep that finally led to a breakdown in my immune system, complete adrenal fatigue and exhaustion.

I worry about passing this nonsense down to my daughter. I worry she won’t see the beauty in herself because she will be too busy comparing herself to someone else’s idea of beauty. I worry this nonsense will ruin her self esteem and lead her to pursue an aesthetic ideal that is not only not beautiful, it’s unhealthy. Some have actually said, this is just what comes with the age. I think that is a bunch of crap! I know hormones can do a real number on her temperament but there is no reason she has to believe staying unnaturally thin will make her happy.  I want her to stay this healthy and happy forever.

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How is this the picture of beauty? I don’t get it. Look at what a pretty face this girl has. But her body is just a clothes hanger. I can only imagine what lengths this girl has to go to in order to stay this thin.

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Remember her? She was a model too. Her demons were many but not rooted in whether she was beautiful or not, She knew she was beautiful and used it.

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How do we instill the concept that healthy, strong and secure is all you need? Your own personal unique beauty will shine through when you make the choice to nourish and cherish your body.

My only answer is to try to live by example and be as loud as I possibly can about it. So here is my game plan and I hope others do the same and/or add their own healthy examples to the pile.

 

  • I WILL EAT FOOD. This is what I want both my kids to not only understand but believe! Real food nourishes, fake food destroys.

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  • I WILL BE STRONG. The stronger you are the confidence in your ability to handle anything goes sky high. Focus on a strong body.

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  • I WILL TALK ABOUT IT. At this point my kids know all this but I will repeat it over and over until I know they will take it with them when then leave my home.

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  • I WILL SPREAD THE WORD. This is where MomeGonePaleo.com comes in. I am not afraid to stand up for it. Once I have completed nutrition school I hope to use my credentials to offer workshops for kids, teens and families about what is truly healthy and what is just propaganda.

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If our pile of healthy, happy living examples begins to grow higher than the unhealthy, unnatural ones, pretty soon our girls won’t be able to see past our strong towering pile to even be influenced by their weak scrawny one. We must start with our own because it will grow exponentially from there. Everyone is unique. Some are naturally thin, some naturally a little bigger. We all have the ability to be the best, healthiest version of ourselves possible; we just need to be given the right tools and the right advice on how to use them.  Let’s get rid of the ugly side of beauty. Lets embrace the unique beauty in every one of us. Let’s help our children, friends and family see the beauty in themselves. Let’s crowd out the shameful images perpetuated by those that profit from illness, insecurity and unhappiness. Empowerment, confidence and strength can do wonders and it needs to start early.

To quote one of my favorite fitness sites, “Strong is the New Skinny” It’s also the new Beautiful.

Until Next TIme,

~ Laura, MGP

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10 Responses to “The Ugly Side of Beauty”

  1. What an awesome article! Thanks for reminding us where our focus should be. I have three daughters and I PRAY that I am establishing them with healthy body image views…and to grow up knowing that strong is sexy! I love that they come to the gym with me and cheer as loud as anyone else when they see me lifting crazy heavy weight! 🙂

    • Momgonepaleo says:

      Hi Busy Paleo Mom!

      Thanks commenting. It’s awesome you can bring them to the gym with you. They will be joining in before you know it!! Mia can’t wait to be able to lift with me. Right now soccer takes up 4 days a week for her and she rides horses once a week. That’s enough for now. 🙂

  2. Rebecca says:

    This is a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing – you are a real inspiration for me!

  3. Lauren says:

    Awesome! Eating disorders are a huge problem today, especially for young kids – I’ve done some eating disorder work and have seen them in girls as young as 10 or 11! Parents, the media, and the community need to set better examples about what is healthy and strong rather than instilling the beliefs in kids that they need to be skinny to be successful, well-liked, etc. I’ve personally known people with eating disorders, and it’s SO hard to talk rationally with people once they’re deep in it. Focusing on a healthy body image growing up may be the best prevention to these diseases.

  4. Aya says:

    Very nicely written…. I struggled with the same thoughts and am still struggling with it… And I am trying to cure myself from the thin obsession to not pass it to my 2 daughters

    • Momgonepaleo says:

      Hi Aya!
      I think almost every girl gruesome up struggling with it to some degree. That’s why I wrote it. My hope it to turn the tide one generation at a time. 😉

      ~ Laura

  5. Loved this post, Laura! Teaching in a high school, I see on a daily basis how the media and other sources infiltrate our children’s beliefs and self esteem. It’s scary. We need to be the better role models for them! 🙂

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