|Audrey Hepburn, our "beauty standard"|
I've written before about my desire to lose weight, and fortunately I've made progress, to the point where I am definitely in the healthy weight range, and aesthetically much better than before (I'm no longer regularly getting asked if I'm pregnant), but at the same time, I would like to lose more weight. Not a lot- my goal weight is about 15-20 lbs away from where I am now (I lost about 25 lbs already)...
The other day my son asked me if I am able to eat dairy. I told him that the answer is complicated. He wanted to know more. Question followed question, and eventually I told him that I can eat goat dairy, but I don't want to, because I want to lose weight.
"But what's wrong with how you are now, Mommy? You're not fat," my 7 year old Lee wanted to know.
That question was a toughie, and it scared me.
Because there is nothing wrong with how I am now. Yes, I am overweight, according to the BMI, but not by too much. I look good. I just want to look even better. I don't want my kids to think that there is something "wrong" with them if they're less than perfect, because no one is perfect. And I don't want my kids to think that someone skinny is better than someone fat. I don't want my kids to think that someone's value is connected to how they look. And I worried that maybe what I was doing might be harming my kids.
So that made me do a lot of thinking.
And though we generally tend towards unschooling, I put together a lesson plan to hopefully try to teach my kids healthy attitudes about beauty, health, and weight loss. Hopefully it'll help someone else here- maybe you can use it with your kids as well.
I started out by showing my son pictures of what is considered beautiful around the world, and/or at various points in time, including:
And chiseled teeth...
I told him that in the past, for example, heavier women were considered more beautiful, but today society considers skinny people more beautiful.
|A Ruben painting. (One of the few fully clothed.)|
I gave him the example of plastic glasses being considered cool and pretty in the 70s, then ugly and dorky when I was a kid (I had some that I refused to wear since I would have been made fun of), and then now it's considered cool and pretty again.
I also showed him some pictures of celebrities that are considered to be beautiful, and asked them if he thought they were beautiful. He said yes. I then showed him the same celebrities, sans photoshop, sans make up, and asked him if he thought they were pretty. He said that they weren't. He was shocked to learn that it was the same person, and what a difference make up and computers can make.
I then showed him a video of how photoshop is used to transform models into something unnatural, which they then call "beautiful"- there are many such examples of videos (here's one).
I then discussed with him about how the media showing unnaturally super skinny women as what is beautiful makes people try to lose weight soooo much that they end up starving their body, not getting the nutrition they need, and some people even die from that.
I explained that at the other end of the spectrum, though, you can be too overweight and that can also be dangerous and you can also die because of that.
And the goal is to be healthy, not too fat and not too skinny, but to take care of your body and be as healthy as you can be.
I explained that in life, if you go to one extreme or the other, you'll get hurt. I gave an example of riding a bike- if you lean too much to one side you'll fall over. If you lean over to the other side too much, you'll fall over. Only by staying in the middle and not leaning to either side, at least not too much, can you stay healthy.
I explained that in regards weight, you want to be healthy, and that means not being too skinny or too fat, but the middle ground- not to either extreme... and that means that you should eat healthy food, enough to get enough nutrition, but not overeat. And that you should exercise as well.
I told my son how as much as I don't want to be affected by what the media is telling me is beautiful and what women should look like, it does have an effect on me, and while that isn't a good thing, it is a fact. And I'm trying my best to not pay attention to the beauty standards of the media.
I reinforced what my son already knew- that what truly matters is what is on the inside, how we act and what we do, and not what we look like, and that there are evil beautiful people and ugly good people..
At the same time, I mentioned that we still should take care of our body and hygiene, make an effort to look decent, wearing clean clothes that look presentable, as a matter of self respect, and because it is a positive thing to try to look pretty for our spouses.
I concluded that we should be appreciative of our bodies that we have, take care of them, and be the best "we" that we can, and not compare our bodies or our looks to other people.
I'll be honest- this is a complex lesson, and I'm not sure most 7 year olds would be able to understand it, but fortunately my 7 year old did. And even if a kid doesn't understand all these aspects, some of them seeming like contradictory things, at least its a starting point for future discussions.
I'm sure this isn't the only discussion I'll ever have with my children on beauty and weight, but hopefully with this basis, we'll be able to expand more.
How do you find a healthy balance with your children (and yourself) regarding healthy attitudes towards beauty, health, and weight? What have you taught your children about that? For those of you with older children, do you think your method of teaching them about these stuff has paid off? Do you have any regrets? What would you do differently if you could?