Mommy does this make me look fat?

Parenting language that promotes healthy body images.

Constructed on a 5 foot 1 inch frame, my husband thinks even that is a stretch, my body image has been a work- in- progress for most of my 53 years. While I was raised by parents who encouraged me to not be limited based on my gender, size or body type, I still felt the pressure. I was more worried about my roundish body in a bathing suit than the burn scars that covered 20 percent of it. For some reason, I allowed myself to not feel responsible for the scars and thus dismissed them from my pressure to be perfect. The not-so-perfect roundness of my body, well that was another story.

I was blessed to have a mother with strong instincts and unconditional love. She hung in there on more than one occasion when I wrecked an otherwise perfect Mother-Daughter outing by ending it in tears inside a fitting room. The goal of the day was to search for, select and purchase the perfect outfit for a special event, but my inability to capture the look sabotaged the joy of the outing.

Determined not to allow my own three daughters to fall into the same trap, I was relieved and enlightened by the writings of Mary Pipher. Pipher, a psychotherapist with a practice specializing in adolescent girls authored the best selling book, Reviving Ophelia as well as The Shelter of Each Other. Within the pages of her books, Pipher gave voice to my own thoughts of pressure and why I felt so defeated when measuring myself against unrealistic images. With years of documented cases as evidence, she had the credentials to bring to light the cause and effect that I had only suspected to be the source of my frustration.

As parents, we have a tide of un-subliminal messages constantly bombarding our kids. These powerful messages help to shape our children’s concept of normal and healthy. The messages put pressure on girls to be pink and pretty with the body dimensions equivalent of a Barbie doll. While parents’ abilities to counter seem small in comparison to the bigger than life images on screen and in print, one of the most effective and critical steps is one of recognizing the power of their own words and images.

My husband and I had considered ourselves well-read and fairly astute when it came to parenting, but not until I read an exert from Piphers’s book, did I realize I was not fully acknowledging the power of our words and how they affected our daughters’ body image. It was not enough to encourage our girls to be proud of their bodies and learn to take care of them by wise food choices and exercise. We were making an impact by the way we observed other body types and the dialogue that surrounded our impressions. We had no idea that we were unknowingly contributing to the sea of mixed messages for our daughters.

Being aware of healthy body image language takes practice and discipline. I realized I needed to curtail how much I spoke of my own concerns and issues surrounding dieting, body types and expectations. We began to realize that we were buying into and supporting the same messages that concerned us in our own behavior. How much did we discuss our need to diet, someone else’s diet, someone else’s size or body in front of our kids? If our goal was to take charge with building healthy self images in our children then we needed to walk our talk.

It is still a work in progress, but one of a heightened awareness of how we resist the temptation to fall into the trap of marketing and unhealthy expectations. Almost 20 years later, our girls are grown women with children of their own with a new prospective on image dialogue. The code for keeping it in check is…Reviving Ophelia!

About the Author:

Jan is an Advice Expert at Through her work, Jan Fulcher encourages, inspires and educates women to discover their personal hosting and entertaining style. Enhancing relationships and connecting through the art of hospitality is the focus of her message. Having developed her joie de vivre over the course of thirty-three years of entertaining, traveling and training throughout Europe and the United States, Jan blends stories of experience laced with humor and insight. Jan has raised three daughters and has been happily married for over thirty-three years. She brings her passion for family heritage, traditions, friendships and intimate connection to her work with clients as a hospitality coach and speaker.