Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Weighty Matters...

Weight is an issue that comes up regularly at my house.  If you have read my blog for very long, you know that.  It seems like since I had a few children, it has been something I have constantly tried to keep under my control, and fought against, and struggled with--to get back to a certain weight.  Todd is no stranger to the struggle with weight either.  His whole life he has struggled with his weight, going up and down, and up and down, depending on what was going on in his life, and how he handled it, and whether he had the time, or the energy to worry about getting healthy.  Truth be told, we have been very vocal in our house about trying to excercise, diet, and lose weight.  Lately, I have begun to see the error of my ways.  You see, my children hear the comments we make, whether we are complaining that we are "too fat", or that we are "on a diet", or joke to eachother about our "muffin top" or our "binge" we had at the restaurant.  They also see us go on diets, whether healthy or not, (usually not), and talk about being deprived, or wanting a treat, or hating excercise and complaining about it.  Things have begun to change since my children have gotten older, though, and I see some of the damaging, even dangerous messages I have been sending them about body image, and weight.  Even though it has never been intentional, they have picked up on the fact that we put our body image, and our weight--a stupid number on a scale, above our love for ourselves, and that isn't right. As I step on the scale, I allow the number that stares back at me determine how I feel about myself, when it is nothing but a number.  That isn't healthy behavior, nor is it necessary--my worth is more than a number on a scale--much more. 

As a mother of teenage (and tween) girls, I wish I could turn back the clock and re-teach my girls some things about their bodies.  I wish I could teach them to be more grateful for them, even if they aren't the size/shape they want them to be.  Our bodies are truly a miracle, a gift from God, and they allow us to do everything that we want to do!  We should love ourselves--and our bodies for that reason.  I remember in an old ward, a lady gave a Relief Society lesson about loving ourselves, and related a story about how she used to be really hard on herself because of her weight.  She said that after having a few children, she used to get out of the shower and look at her naked body with disgust.  Then, one day while thinking about it--she realized that it was Satan that was causing these feelings inside her.  She realized that Satan wanted her to hate her body, to loathe her body, because, you see--Satan will NEVER have a body.  After that, she said she would look at her body in the mirror, turn around and stick out her tounge at Satan and say "Haha--you will NEVER have a body as beautiful, and as functional as MY body!"  Our bodies are a miracle!  My body helped to create, nourish, and ultimately give birth to 6 beautiful children.  Because of that, its shape has changed a little, and as I grow older, it will change a little more.  Shouldn't I celebrate those changes?  Shouldn't I be more focused on those beautiful and talented children that came out of my body, then I am on making it look a certain way?  When I look at my children, I don't see them as their body.  I see the PERSON that I hope for them to become.  I see children who are amazing, and talented, and beautiful, inside and out.  It makes me sad that someone would ever look at them and think anything different.  It makes me sad that I have caused, or contributed to them feeling badly about their beautiful bodies.  It makes me sad that we live in a culture that is obsessed with appearance, and obsessed with the "ideal" body image that is nearly impossible to attain.  Very few people can actually attain it, yet people would sacrifice anything to get it.  If I was going to be obsessed with something, shouldn't it be my inward self, and making myself right with God--rather than my outward self, and making myself right with the world?

I am not saying we shouldn't excercise, or be healthy, or eat good things.  Quite the opposite.  I am saying we should do right by our bodies, because we LOVE ourselves enough to take care of the body that God gave us.  I'm just saying that a number on the scale is NOT who I am as a person!  I am also saying that we should be aware of the messages we are sending, whether intentional or not, because sometimes they are damaging, and feelings can be hurt.  I love to read C-Jane's blog, and she has some articles that are written by her neighbor and friend, Janna Dean, that have opened my eyes to this subject, and I wanted to share them.  She is a therapist, who works with people who have eating disorders, and she shares some of her opinions on body image, and the messages we are sending our children.  This link will take you to the thread of 3 or 4 posts about the subject.  Each is worth reading--and even if you don't struggle with this issue, it is worth noting that you should at least talk to your children about body image, and why it is hurtful to others when we make fun of them for being overweight or fat.  One of the statistics I found the most incredible:
"Take for instance the research that shows children (and adults) would rather lose an arm than be fat. And studies that show young girls are more afraid of being fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing both parents. These children are growing up to become young women who would rather be run over by a truck than be extremely fat and who are reporting they would rather be mean or stupid than fat."
42% of American 1st to 3rd grade girls surveyed want to be thinner than they are. (6 to 8 years old!) And one half of 9 to 10-year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet.
50% of 9-year-old girls diet.
80% of 10-year-old girls diet.
90% of high school girls diet regularly—while only 20% of them have BMI’s that might be viewed as concerning.
Or this:
"I understand that health risks are associated with obesity. But I do not believe continued emphasis on weight loss and dieting is the answer. There is a direct correlation between the amount of dieting one does and the amount of depression one experiences. Allowing disparaging remarks about your body or your children’s bodies is harmful. Children who are teased by peers are 36% more likely to consider suicide than their counterpart and children who are teased by peers and parents are 51% more likely to consider suicide." 
Is that crazy or what?  People would rather LOSE AN ARM than be fat?  What message are we sending? Are we making sure that if our children are not the ones struggling with a weight issue--that they are also not the ones making fun of those children?  Are we teaching them to be sympathetic, or do we send the message that "those people" are just lazy, or don't care as much as we do about their bodies.  Do we realize that much of the problem is hereditary, and related to the "body type" that people have--and not just from the way they eat or lack of excercise?  Please, inform yourselves, be aware so you will know if someone you love is struggling with this issue.  And for heaven's sake, when you see someone who struggles with their weight--all we need is a little compassion and understanding for the struggle that it is to try to have a perfect body.  He who is without OREOS can cast the first stone...
Click HERE for Janna's articles...

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