Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mothers, Daughters and Self-Image

Eating disorders are pervasive in our current culture and there was a time when it seemed to reach epidemic proportions. I wondered what part, if any, does a parent play, in particular, a mother, when it comes to body image disorders such as anorexia and bulimia which overwhelmingly affect females.

Research indicates that there seems to be a correlation between a mother's fixation with her image which may unintentionally send the wrong message to a child especially if she has a different body type. But then there are also cases where a mother didn't send a negative message yet the daughter still ended up with an eating disorder.

For myself, I cannot say that my mother ever made a fuss about her body image or her weight - she had other pressing matters to deal with like keeping house and ensuring her large family was happy. I was a very skinny girl and my mother was not. I distinctly remember having an assignment where we had to create a healthy diet. Working with my mother, we created the following diet: Breakfast - Bacon, Eggs, Bakes (Pancakes) and Orange Juice. Lunch: Rice and Beans, Chicken, Plantains, and Coleslaw. Supper: A Corn Beef Sandwich and Tea.

When I submitted this assignment, I distinctly remember the teacher looking at this 'diet' in disbelief and then giving me the once over and deciding it was OK. I was unbelievably skinny and everything in this diet was meant to fatten me up.  BTW I ate like a horse and still didn't gain weight; I was 99 pounds when I got married at 22 and after the honeymoon had gained a whopping 6 pounds. Finally, I had cleared the 100-pound milestone!!!!

I knew I was skinny because I was teased for it at school but I was never made to feel bad about it at home nor did I ever feel bad because of my weight. My mother was not slim and she carried herself well, so I never thought negatively or rather had any thoughts about her weight. She also didn't make any comments within my hearing regarding her appearance or her weight. But as I had children and heard what other mothers were saying about weight gain etc, I became conscious about weight - mine, and others. My daughters have always known that I prided myself on the way I look, but I wasn't overbearing with it. They've heard me say I feel fat without being anywhere near fat. As a mother, I had to be responsible for my words and actions yet still be a person. As it related to food consumption, I made food choices early on for the family that they didn't have a say in, based on what I thought was best. For example, I never bought sodas, focused on fruits and vegetables, only bought wheat bread. This is what they knew and this was their normal.


I became conscious of how I spoke to my daughters about weight and body image. The older they got, the greater wisdom I had to exercise especially if this was a touchy area. Sometimes I said nothing, and if I said anything it was minimal. I'd seen other parents lose this battle and I learned that I had to pick my battles. Weight gain or weight loss, I still wanted my children to feel accepted and loved. Apparently, I wasn't always successful at this, because to a young child a critique may seem like a deadly blow. My daughter told me many years later that I made her feel insecure because of her weight when she was much younger but somehow it didn't lead to a downward spiral of an eating disorder. Maybe I knew to stop, maybe she knew that she was worthwhile, maybe it was a combination of both. Maybe in all of these maybes, God was in the mix providing wisdom, understanding, discernment, and grace.


There's a balance to how we do this, but even if we do everything right, we still don't know how it will be received by the child. That's the challenge of parenting. Ultimately I had to know that I was worthy, not because of how I looked or felt but because I was loved by God. This love gave me worth and confidence which my children could emulate and which I could pass on. I think this was my mother's secret and it became mine. It can be summed up in this quote by Naomi Wolf,  "A mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem, with a caveat that the Source of this self-love is very important.

Young minds are particularly susceptible to the lies of the enemy and eating disorders are behaviors controlled by lies that show up in their approach to food. Am I saying that if you are anchored in Christ you are immune from having a daughter that struggles with these issues? No, but what I have seen in my own life is that this makes a huge difference. A mother knowing Whose she is and who she is makes an imperceptible difference to her daughter.

The enemy of our souls won't quit - so he may not get his hooks in to create full-blown eating disorders but he'll keep trying. As Christian mothers, we have a power that can defeat the enemy. We have to believe it, tap into it, and use it. Perhaps with the strength of the scriptures, one less daughter will fall into an eating disorder.

God has not given us the spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalms 34:18

People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13

There's no age limit on any of these verses. In order to deal with anything, you must first acknowledge that it exists. Start there, then reach out to others around you until you have the resources and strength that you need. Please don't believe the lies that lead to an eating disorder; starving the body to control the mind does not provide a balance of health and well-being and doesn't provide the answers that started you down this path. God created you to fulfill His purpose through you, so know that self-inflicted pain is no way to live. God wants you to thrive while you're alive, not live a life of lack because you are trying to control your body. Turn over the controls to Him. 

--Nylse

Thanks for reading. Please take a moment to share using the buttons below and also please like my Facebook Page. Don't forget to subscribe. Stay Encouraged!


13 comments:

  1. a great post. I have 3 daughters - thankfully, they don't struggle w/ weight/physical appearance issues (but other issues! tis humanity!) so true that children learn more from how we live than what we say. and so our greatest responsiblity is to live out of the truth of Scripture and God's great love for us as our anchor. that will spill over more than any other means to teach them. and the older they are, the less control we have but the more fun they are! (:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This statement - and the older they are, the less control we have but the more fun they are! hits the nail on the head. If the truth is embedded in us it becomes easier to live out. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      Delete
  2. This is a great post on body image. I tried very hard to be careful what I said to my daughters. But I think they still caught some "bug" or heard comments from kids at school since one of them said negative things sometimes. But all we can do is try and change their thinking and pray. a friend from Tune in Thursday

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I can relate to that and we ultimately learn it's not entirely up to us. Praying is powerful. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      Delete
  3. I have had body image and disordered eating issues since as far back as I can remember. I didn't get them from my mom. She's always been tiny, ate plentiful and never made disparaging comments about her own body. I always knew that if I ever had a daughter it would be super important not to project and to "hide" my issues, because kids see everything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read a book called Food For Love that got me thinking which led to this post. I asked my daughters why they didn't go down this path. Their answers varied - one was too vain and couldn't do it and the other just kinda got past it. I wondered why I never went all the way down this path though I didn't always have a positive image. I don't have all the answers but I wanted to put this out there.

      Thanks for your comment. Stay well.

      Delete
  4. Thank you for shining the light on this subject which is important for me as I also have a teenage daughter.
    That verse in 2 Timothy is speaking volumes to me tonight. I think that the spirit of fear has been whispering in my ear on certain subjects lately, and I don't always realize it right away. I need to meditate more on this verse and make it a part of my spiritual armor.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Such a great post. My mom was very health oriented and she tried her hardest to instill that in us. She would never say that I was getting fat but she would say, you're eating junk food. That was her way of telling me that I was gaining weight but in the best way because then I knew that she knew I wasn't being healthy.

    I've never had body issues but I'm always aware when I'm not being healthy because my mom drilled it in me. When I step on the scale and I've gained I always say, stop the junk food!

    ReplyDelete
  6. So much truth here, Nylse! I did not do this well. Weight has been a constant battle for me since my teen years. I'm thin but it has taken tons of effort. My daughters saw me obsess about my weight a lot and I know watch my oldest (who is very thin) do many of the same things she watched in her mom. Thanks for this great post that shows mom it's not just what we say to our children but also what they see and hear us say to ourselves. God's blessings!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Nysle, I am throwing a virtual hug around you...😂😂😂😂 I wrote something similar and I had a live interview with Heather Creekmore, the author of Compared to Who.

    That book is awesome. You will love it.
    Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts on this.
    You can read it here
    God bless

    http://purposefulandmeaningful.com/2017/07/what-your-kids-should-know-about-beauty/

    ReplyDelete
  8. Nylse, you and your girls are beautiful (can hardly tell who are daughters and which is mother), and I found this article intriguing. I had never thought about this subject much, but your assertions make perfect sense. A mother has a profound influence on daughter, and blessed is the child of a mother who knows her worth is in Christ, and who has her eyes on pleasing Him. You're amazing!
    http://grandmamarymartha.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Shared it on pinterest board, "raising girls."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for sharing and for your thoughtful comments.

      Delete

I love reading your comments; but please be kind. Unkind comments will be removed.