Finding the balance between healthy body image and healthy bodies.

This week my sweet 9-year-old sat down to have a talk with her Dad and myself. She cried and cried and told us she hated her body and felt ugly because she feels fat. I thought this day may be coming. This last year has been a very hard one for her, emotionally. I had observed her weight gain, although I never mentioned anything to her about it.

This is such a tricky topic. I was overweight growing up (starting at around age 7 or 8) and I am still overweight now. While I was growing up my Mother constantly told me I was "heavy" and that I would be really pretty IF I lost 40 lbs. It made me feel like I was unworthy of love or blessings or good things because I was overweight, no matter how nice or charitable or worthy I was inside.

BUT...I found myself at age 32 weighing 330 pounds. My body was breaking down and I felt physically horrid. I felt that I was neglecting (and even abusing) the gift that God had given me. I felt I was not following the Word of Wisdom in regards to moderation. I did not want my children to feel like weighing 330 pounds was okay. But I also didn't want to communicate that being overweight means you are "less than" or not worthy of love.

How do you find the balance between caring for the physical bodies that God has blesssed us with and communicating that the "Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7)? That's it's what's INSIDE that matters.

I have since lost more than 100 pounds and I feel much better about the example that I am setting for my children in taking care of our physical bodies. I have taught them about portion control (we only eat off of 8" plates, not the US standard 10"), We eat low sugar, we are only allowed one sweet treat a week, etc. And yet, her weight has gone up considerably during her stressful year.

After my experiences growing up, I vowed that if I ever had a child who struggled with their weight that I would never mention it, but instead would teach them healthy eating and encourage family exercise.

I had a good talk with my daughter and told her about the basics of caloric intake and what happens to the calories left over after your body uses what it needs for fuel. We sat down and made a list of vegetables in two categories RAW and COOKED. My daughter listed veggies she liked in each category. This week we will sign her up for some structured sports that she has interest in.

More importantly, that night I went into my daughter's room and sat on her bed. I hugged her to me and looked into her eyes and told her that she was beautiful, exactly the way she is at this moment. That Heavenly Father knows her heart and loves her and that we do too. I promised that I will help her be more healthy and exercise more....we are in this together and we will make it fun.

This Sunday we will share this FHE lesson with our entire family and brainstorm ideas together for some fun family activities that we can all do that will increase our exercise.

What are your thoughts?
How do we, as parents, balance the concepts of individual worth and taking care of our physical bodies since they are gifts from our Heavenly Father? Please share!

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2 Way Righteous Comments:

Unknown said...

I think you are doing it exactly right! You helped her understand that she is a beautiful daughter of God, while at the same time teaching her how to be healthy. Thanks for sharing! I've struggled with this myself and want my children to understand this too.

annalisa said...

I was thinking about this post in Sacrament Meeting today. Our bishop spoke about how feelings of discouragement and that we don't measure up come from Satan. I thought about that in relation to this issue. Satan doesn't have a body. Of course he wants us to feel like ours aren't good enough. Of course he wants us to compare our bodies to others and see them as inferior instead of how truly amazing and beautiful they are. Satan will belittle all our gifts from God, including our bodies. Feelings from God express love, gratitude, and acceptance, and those are the feelings we need to cultivate. We need to learn to recognize the down-pulling whisperings from Satan as what they are and how to disregard and overcome them (easier said than done). After our bishop spoke, one of the counselors in the stake presidency (it was our ward conference) quoted 1 Samuel 16:7, which sent me mulling over this topic even further. I love the quote you included from L. Tom Perry. We should focus on diet (as in what we eat, not dieting to lose weight) and exercise to care for our bodies, these amazing gifts from God, so they perform optimally and bring us the greatest blessings possible, not to focus on our outward appearance and to fall into the cycle of comparison. You can error the other way by focusing too much on your body so that even though your outward appearance measures up, you have neglected your spiritual growth and are still just as susceptible to follies of comparison and the anxiety and pressure for perfection that comes with it. It IS such a tricky topic, especially difficult to see our children struggle with it. I love the ideas you've expressed here. If we teach our children to focus on our bodies, our spirits, our lives the way our Heavenly Father does instead of the way Satan does, we can hopefully guide them to a spiritually and emotionally healthy relationship with them.

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