Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why I don't agree with Huffington's latest post, "How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body."


I want to begin my emphasizing that I am in no way pretending to be an expert on health. My personal journey and pursuit of health is exactly that; it's personal. It's individual and unique to me and my own life experiences. In the past two years as I have progressed as a nursing student and as a woman, and have developed opinions and habits that have helped me to lose and maintain around 15-20 lbs. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. Do I totally have my days every once in a while where I screw up and eight my weight + some in Ben & Jerrys: "The Tonight Dough"? Absolutely! (Also, I think it's important to clarify here  for honesty sake that "The Tonight Dough" contains "caramel and chocolate ice creams with chocolate cookie swirls & gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough & peanut butter cookie dough.") I know, right? It's unreal. It's also unreal at making my stomach pretty upset. I digress.The point is, i'm not perfect. And I don't claim to be. But I do believe I have learned things about health that have helped me, and in writing this I hope that those things may be able to help someone else as well.

One of my dear friends showed me a post a few weeks ago titled; "How to talk to your daughter about her body" from Huffington Post. You know, one of the Facebook viral, everyone's sharing it, everyone's talking about it sort of deals. These are the posts that receive over one million likes, and within a few weeks we've forgotten about it entirely, buried in the history of our Social Media and minds.

Except, there was something about this post that struck me funny, and I couldn't forget about it.

My intent is not to argue the concept, in fact, it's beautiful. I'm actually so grateful to my dear Maddie for sharing this post with me--what an intelligent, incredible woman she is. The base concept is that rather than encouraging our daughters to obsess and stress over their weight, we as mothers, as teachers, must take a more holistic approach. We must encourage our daughters to "run because it makes her feel less stressed... climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe... to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that is a good thing sometimes." We must encourage our children to view themselves as they are-- human beings who are beautiful and capable and unique (with an eternal purpose and destiny--I might add).  We must empower our children and help them to realize that their worth is not defined on their outward appearance, on their percentage of body fat, on their amount of Instagram followers, on their jean or dress size.

Raise your hand if you agree with the above statement? YES! Of course! Me too! With my whole heart.  May we strive to raise daughters who have the courage and confidence to comprehend how wonderful and capable and amazing they are, despite what the media will be throwing at them from every angle.

To that I say; amen. Amen, amen, amen!

While this concept of intrinsic worth is of so much value, their is another underlying message this article sends that makes me cringe. Every time. The article reads; "How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don't talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works...Don't say anything if she's lost weight. Don't say anything if she's gained weight....Cook healthy meals. But don't say, "I'm not eating carbs right now." Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself."

(If you'd like to read the article, you can read it here!)

At first glance, this method of sidestepping a focus on weight itself is ideal, beautiful even. But here are the facts. "More than two thirds (that is 68 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese. More than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are considered to be obese. More than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) have extreme obesity." Obesity is the "second leading cause of preventable death in the United States." --The National Institute of Health.

I believe in taking the time get sweaty every single day. And I believe there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting sweaty every day with the intent to create a healthy, fit body. In fact, I think that desire is critical. So yes, let us encourage our daughters to "climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe", but let us also teach our daughters the value and life-saving importance of creating and maintaining a work-out regimen that is realistic and comfortable, one that works for her. It has taken me longer than I can tell to come to this belief, to find a real love for my morning-gym time. For years and years I found my happiness in the rhythmic pounding of the street pavement beneath my feet in the mornings on an outside run. That worked for me then, the gym works for me now. That doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be a religious treadmill user running at 8.2 for 6 consecutive miles. I have friends who swear by the elliptical, others who thrive off of a little cha-cha in Zumba, and one's who find their chi in hot-yoga downtown. Everyone is different, what works for you may not work for me, visa versa.  The point is, there isn't always going to be "peak of the universe mountain" to climb, and if you are only waiting to exercise on the weekends when your friends happen to plan some super fun hike, you will more than likely, based on National statistics, gain un unhealthy amount of weight, often leading to an increase in depression, and a decrease in self confidence. So yes, let's teach our children their intrinsic worth and capabilities, but let us also help our daughters to feel comfortable and confident in taking care of their body, whether that is at the gym, at Zumba, at down-town hot yoga, or simply on a little run around the block.

In regards to food, the article goes on to read; "Teach your daughter how to cook kale. Teach your daughter how to back chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter." I believe the point the author was trying to make was; eat healthy, but don't over do it. Does that mean we actually need to be eating chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter? Well, it depends. Do you, does your daughter absolutely love chocolate cake? Is it her guilty pleasure, does she write it down as her "favorite food" in those little survey's everyone hates filling out? Then yes! The girl should have a reasonable slice of chocolate cake every once in a while for heavens sake. Food is difficult to pin down because, again, it's different for everyone, but here is what I have learned in my journey and pursuit of health and happiness. These are my three favorite rules I have come up with.

1.  Stop focusing on what you can't eat! Stop thinking about all of the coconut Dirty Dr. Pepper you love that you just can't drink. Stop thinking about the way that Dove chocolate melts in your mouth, stop thinking about that buttery, mapely doughnut you "really shouldn't take another bite of." Stop it. Seriously, stop it. You're annoying yourself and everyone else when all you talk about is how you shouldn't be eating something while your snarfing it down.

2. Instead, think of this. Think of all of the food you can eat! When I finally internalized this concept my health definitely took a turn for the better. Think of all the colors you can put into your body, the browns of potatoes, or thick, warm whole grain bread on a cold afternoon. Think of the bright orange of tangy tangerines and sweet carrots chopped into a salad. Think of grilled chicken, grilled fish, even a little grilled steak every once in a while. Think of clear water flushing through your system, moisturizing your eyes, your skin, your nails, and your hair. Think of red, juicy tomatoes and red bell peppers. Think of yellow bannanas! Think of you. Think of the way you will feel after you consistently fill your body with fuel that was literally created to bring you life, to bring you energy. It really is so cool.

3. My last and final rule. ONLY EAT THE CRAP FOOD YOU LOVE.  Remember when we talked about the chocolate cake? If you could live on an island and eat, sleep, drink, breathe chocolate cake then you had better eat some cake every once in a while gosh dang it. For me, it's cold-stone ice-cream.  If you love it that much, will totally be worth the tummy ache. However, if you're like me and chocolate cake is something you don't really care for but you just "eat it because it is there", you are creating unhealthy life-long patterns of short term gratification. You're not going to like it that much anyway, and a constant intake of sugar is not only bad for your body, but will eventually make it so your body is literally unable to effectively store and use sugar. (hence diabetes.) Be kind to yourself.  Don't eat crap you don't even like.

Well, it's Sunday, and I think my husband has fallen asleep in the next room waiting for me to come cuddle him, so I should probably wrap this up. :)

So, YES! Let us encourage our children to view themselves as they are-- human beings who are beautiful and capable and unique with an eternal purpose and destiny. Let us empower our children and do everything we can to help them to  realize that their worth is not defined on their outward appearance, on their percentage of body fat, on their amount of Instagram followers, on their jean or dress size. BUT MAY WE ALSO have the courage to set an example of consistency, self-reliance, self-control, and the importance of getting sweaty on a daily basis in order to keep our bodies physically fit.

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