Dr. Linda Mintle – One day, years ago, when my daughter was 4 years old, I emerged from my shower only to find her young eyes staring at me. “Mommy, will I have that crinkly stuff on your legs too?” Crinkly stuff? Then I realized she was referring to the cellulite on my thighs!
As I studied her uncertain face, I realized this was a key moment. My response to this seemingly innocuous question mattered. For years, I have treated eating disorders and body image problems as a licensed therapist. I knew my attitude toward my own body was part of an on-going process of shaping my daughter’s opinion about her body. So how I answered this question was important. In a culture obsessed with thinness, beauty and physical perfection, the normal invasion of cellulite to that 40-year-old frame needed to be discussed in its proper perspective. “You will only have this crinkly stuff when you are an older mommy, “ I replied. But my little one did not look satisfied. “And it doesn’t hurt at all,” I added. Bingo! That was her concern. She giggled and said, “OK” and that was the end of it, or was it?
Not really. Every time we as moms or dads make comments about our physical bodies in front of our young daughters and sons, we teach them how to think about their bodies. Do we feel fat today, hate our hair, criticize our appearance or pick on our imperfections while they stand by absorbing it all? When we make disparaging remarks about our physiques, we run the risk of teaching our children how to feel inadequate and never measure up. Our voices matter in the sea of media voices telling them to be thinner, prettier, perfect and improved. The importance given to physical appearance is way out of balance when it comes to personal development, and we need to change this.
Fortunately, we can begin early by normalizing the changes of aging and talking about our bodies with respect. Resist cultural prescriptions of beauty and focus conversations on inner beauty and character building. Model body acceptance and healthy livingó-teaching your children self-care rather than self-obsession. View yourselves holistically and do not dissect yourselves into parts. Replace negative, degrading thoughts with loving and caring statements about the way God made you.
The next time you are tempted to complain about your flabby stomach or ask, “Do I look fat in these jeans?” reconsider. You are teaching the next generation how to think about their bodies. Your voice matters and is one of tremendous influence so think before you speak. And like the title of my book, Making Peace With Your Thighs, practice acceptance and respect for the body God gave you. It will make a difference in the life of your little one.
Dr. Linda Mintle is a licensed therapist, a national speaker and best selling author who wrote the book, Making Peace With Your Thighs (and other body parts, Thomas Nelson, 2005). For more help and/or information regarding Dr. Linda, visit her website at
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