Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey

Body Image


Thinness as ideal beauty has been on the American scene for a long time.  Girls have been pressured for years to be very thin.  I know people who let their morning weigh-in determine whether they have a good day or not.  Our identity is so often wrapped up in how skinny we are.  In a culture with so many eating disorders and so much pressure to look a certain way, how can we help our girls to have a healthy body image?  I have more questions than answers.  But with 3 duaghters, I think about this a lot.

Beautiful women weren’t historically portrayed as super-thin.  This painting is by Mary Cassatt.

And Rubens, of course, is known for his substantial beauties.

But even in American culture, the pressure has mounted.  Here’s Doris Day…

Eva Gabor…Slender but not skinny…

Sophia Loren.  Wow!  What a beauty!  But she’s pretty heavy by today’s standards.

And of course, Marilyn Monroe.  She wouldn’t get a second look today.  Instead of being a sex symbol, she’d be selling Nutrisystem with Kirstey Alley.

By contrast, today’s fashion magazines that our girls read tell us that they should look like this.


And this…This girl should be the poster child for anorexia, not working as a model in the “beauty” industry.

Most celebrities are skinnier than celebrities used to be.  Look how tiny Kelly Ripa is.

Even Jennifer Garner, one of my favorite ever actresses…How adorable is she?  But is this degree of thinness realistic or even desirable for most people?

When celebs put on a few pounds, our culture views them as fat.  Back to what our girls see as “ideal”.  Tyra Banks is a Victoria’s Secret supermodel.  That’s what our culture values as beautiful.  So when she gains 30 pounds, she’s considered “fat.”

Does Jessica Simpson look fat to you?  Me either.  But the media had a field day with her weight gain.   They scream in our daughters’ ears that if you weigh this much you are fat.  And ugly.  Doesn’t that break your heart?

As much as I disagree with her beliefs, I think Oprah Winfrey is a great example of someone who is confident and beautiful without  having to be a size 0.  Isn’t she pretty?

I wonder, as moms, how we can help our daughters.  Certainly we want them to be healthy.  Obesity isn’t good for anyone.  And whether we like it or not, we are influenced by our culture to some degree.  There is a weight where we all feel pretty–we just want to make sure that, for our girls, it’s not unrealistic and that they don’t base their self-worth on that.  They need to know that they are beautiful even if they aren’t at their “perfect” weight.  And for younger girls, it shouldn’t even be on their radar (although it probably is because they hear so much about it, no matter how sheltered they are.)

I hear that we as moms should be good role models.  Do we constantly fuss about our weight, check ourselves in the mirror, smooth our tummies, and talk about our thinness or lack thereof?  Do our little girls grow up believing that they are less if they weigh more?  Do we tell them they are beautiful no matter what, and then sabotage that message by our intense, vocal dissatisfaction with ourselves?  It does no good to try to shelter our daughters from society’s lies if we believe them ourselves.

I hear that we should simply focus on healthful eating and make sure our kids are active.  I’m a low-energy person, especially after having 5 kids in 10 years.  But one of my goals is to be active with my kids, to play sports with them and just have good physical fun.  I want my children to see me making good choices.  I fail at this a lot.  But I hope that most of the time I’m able to pick myself back up without too much drama and make better choices the next time.

So, like I said, these are the things I hear and the things I hope to do–but I have more questions than answers. 

So I really, really want to hear from YOU!  Tell me what you do to help your daughters be healthy and secure with a healthy body image!

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9 thoughts on “Body Image

  1. My daughter isn’t old enough to have any “talks” about this issue yet, but I’m thankful I have a little time to work on myself first. As someone who struggled with anorexia up untill a few years ago, and is still feeling the after effects, I finally was able to find peace in who I was created to be by learning to see myself thru my Makers eye’s knowing that “I am fearfully and wonderfuly made” There are good and bad days but the thing that really helped me was to throw away the scale =) now I don’t base my day on what I weigh. And playing with my kids and keeping healthy food on hand helps too.=)

  2. Very good topic to blog about. It really appears that society’s idea on beauty has to do with what looks healthiest. Women who were healthy in the past, when food was a lot more scarce, were those who ate enough and had a good amount of fat on their bodies. Of course people probably took it too far and gained a little too much weight in order to have a fashionable weight. Nowadays, with too much food, or actually too much fat, oils…etc.. in our diet (because those things taste so good in food), what is the more ideal body type when it comes to health: the skinnier individual. As you pointed out, this skinnier look can be taken too far. But what’s the reason for it being taken too far? I don’t think you can find anyone who is too skinny because they were too concerned about loosing weight for health reasons, it’s almost always guaranteed they are concerned with meeting society’s goal of how they should look, something even guys struggle with nowadays. Yeah, maybe throw away those jean shorts because your friends tell you they are out of style ( or don’t if you really like them) but don’t torture yourself to simply look more stylish.

  3. Jodi, I don’t have a scale any more either. I actually bought 4 over a period of months, and they were either defective or the kids broke them immediately so I finally figured I must not be destined to have one! LOL

    Will, you may be right about healthier women being the ideal of beauty in different cultures. I do think our overabundance of food has something to do with it. I lean toward the belief though, that refined carbs are the culprit more than fats and oils. Our grandparents and great grandparents typically ate meat, real butter, lard, whole milk products, etc and yet they didn’t have the obesity and heart disease epidemic that we do today.

  4. This is hard to handle, especially as the mother of two daughters. My husband works in Manhattan for a fashion retail icon and it is hard to balance his world with how I want my girls to perceive themselves.

    Thank you for stopping by my blog. I have many posts about how homeschooling has worked for my family. I also blog for At this site, two of my friends and I share how we approach issues like transitioning from public school to homeschool, why we made the choice and we will be exploring things like family support (or non-support) and things that we just can’t homeschool without. The comments we are receiving have provided meaningful discussion about the ups, downs, highs and lows of educating your children (most of ours are girls too!).

    I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  5. I love this! My little girl is only two and I already worry about this. How am I supposed to help her learn to see herself as beautiful for who she is when the culture around us sends such damaging messages to girls? I’ll do my best, but I feel like it’ll be like pushing a huge boulder uphill. For all its gains, feminism still has a long way to go!

  6. Thank You for posting this article! It really opened my eyes on our media these days. But I have to admit, (I am a teenager) I am blinded by the fact that skinny is beautiful. When I saw some of the pictures of the models today, I really thought they looked much more beautiful compared to people like Jessica or Merilyn Monroe. I am saddened by the fact that our society is going downhill fast, but as long as we as human beings believe that we are beautiful the way we are, that is true happiness in ourselves that we don’t need to fake. 🙂

  7. Thank you for your thoughts, Haru. I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  8. THANK YOU for a post like this. I find women more beautiful with curves, the bust, butt, hips. None of that looking like a plank of wood. Sadly, I’m very thin. I embrace it as who I am but I wouldn’t complain if I had an extra 10 pounds. (:
    I also really enjoy your posts! I’m glad I stummbled upon them!

  9. Thank you, I am glad you are enjoying them! I think it all comes down to rejecting an artificial standard of beauty and realizing that we are perfect just the way we are. Thin is beautiful too. 🙂

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