Mothers, Daughters & Body Image

Now anyone who knows me know that I have a guilty pleasure for reality TV shows. Laguna Beach and the Hills began this secret hobby of mine. When Lauren turned around to Heidi and said the words ‘All there is left to do is forgive and forget. So, I want to forgive you, and I want to forget you’, I was a full on mess. Tears and tissues everywhere. Nearly 10 years later and my passion for these reality TV shows has not gone away despite being mocked many a time. These days, I watch TOWIE, Made in Chelsea and of course Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Now Keeping Up with the Kardashians (or KUWTK for short), for those very few on this planet who have not seen it, is a programme about a large american family who rose to fame when the patriarch of the family was a lawyer for OJ Simpson and the subsequently, one of the daughters was involved in a sex tape with a C list rapper. It’s not very high brow and my IQ probably drops every time I watch it but I love it none the less.

A couple of weekends ago there was an episode in which there was a lot of drama. The family were surprised with a trip to Vail to ski, the family found out that one of the siblings had asked his girlfriend to marry him, that girlfriend being the baby mamma of another sibling’s boyfriend and there was a lot of reminiscing about their late father. However, amongst all of this there was a scene that completely stuck out for me and that was one involving the eldest sibling Kourtney. Kris Jenner, the matriarch of the family turned around to her eldest daughter and asked if she looked fat and Kourtney replied “Don’t use that word in front of my daughter please”.


In a family whose whole persona goes on their body image, I love that Kourtney has banned this word. In a world full of Kardashians, she has shown has forward proactive thinking in trying to protect her daughter from this. She is known for her organic and gluten free lifestyle, her exercise and being body positive. After she gave birth to her eldest child, Kourtney did not lose weight in an entirely healthy and correct way. However, she learnt from her mistakes and after her second child was born, she lost the weight by eating well and exercising regularly. She now prides herself on taking care of her health and focuses on how she feels as opposed to a number on a scale. The fact that she is passing that onto her children is fantastic. I have always said that I will never talk to my (currently fictional) children, especially if I have a daughter in the way that makes them feel they need to look a certain way or be a certain way.

Kate Winslet once said “As as child I never heard one woman say to me I love my body. Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said to me ‘I am so proud of my body.'” I have a similar story as do a lot of women. Your mum is the first role model a daughter has. Unfortunately, not many mums realise that they unknowingly share their own body insecurities with their daughters. Whether they talk about feeling slightly heavier because of an excessive meal or needing to diet, and get some weight off of their stomachs, young girls pick up on this and teaches them to worry about their body instead of celebrating it.

My own mum did this. I constantly heard about the fact I shouldn’t eat carbs or that her jeans were tight from overeating or that she wasn’t eating deserts because she was trying to lose weight. When I got older and I went through puberty and every time I went for another bread roll, I always felt I was being watched and judged on having something I wanted. There were other things but I won’t go into them.  It caused me to have a immense love and hate relationship with my body, one that I am still struggling with today.  The one thing I never did was talk to her about how she was talking to me. I mean I tried, but it always seemed to end up in arguments. Maybe I wasn’t phrasing it the right way or maybe I lacked the maturity to be able to handle the situation correctly but whatever it was all we did was lock heads whenever I tried to express how I felt. However, something changed with my mum recently. A few weeks ago I was at my parents house sorting out her wardrobe and she asked if I wanted to try on a pair of jeans she had never worn. I tried them but they would not do up, nothing to do with my weight but simply my bum. My bum is in my eyes (and my boyfriends eyes!) my best feature. I have always been proud that I have a big bum and working out has made it stronger and firmer and I love it. My mum has always said to me that I should be proud of my bum because I got it from her. So when these jeans didn’t do up I just turned around and said “Mum, they aren’t going to fit my bums too big.” and she turned around to me and said “yeah I’ve noticed it has gotten a lot bigger recently, can’t you get rid of some of it.” I was too shocked to say anything and I pretended to not let it bother me. It wasn’t until the next day when I had been to the gym, come home, had a shower that I sat on the edge of my bath and started crying because what she had said really bothered me, even though I knew she wouldn’t remember saying it. I then proceeded to not go to the gym for the next two weeks. It was ridiculous, such a small thing could cause me to feel so crap about myself. It lead to me not talking to my mum really for a couple of weeks and then she called me out on it. So we met up for a lunch.

For the first 45 mins we talk about menial things. At some point when we had run out of other stuff to say, I decided to bring it up. “So are we okay?” I asked her. She said “I don’t know Lucy, are we?”. And that is when the whole thing came out. Years of pent up upset over the comments and the looks, it all came flooding out in a very tearful conversation and to my surprise, my mum just listened. She said nothing but listened to me and when I was done she apologised, sincerely and also tearfully apologised. She explained that she thought she was doing the right thing, she thought she was encouraging me to keep fit and eat well, no one had ever taught her and she had extra weight when she was younger and would have liked someone to have called her up on it. As much as I understood that, I had to tell my mum that every girl is on their own path in this life and we have to learn to love our bodies no matter what shapes their body takes on. We had a break through that day and my mum and I have never been better but it should never have had to get to that stage. I am hoping that by having talked to her I can now start to learn to love myself.

I read the most powerful piece about how a mother should talk to their daughter and I stand by everything it says. In a world where the media tells you who you need to be, what your body should look like, what weight you should weigh and what fad diets you need to do to achieve these “must have looks”, your mother should be you safe haven. Young girls are living in a social media age where every bad picture, every bad decision gets put onto the internet forever and they are judged but trolls, their own peers and society. You hear story after story of young girls being bullied for not being what our culture deems perfect and in some cases, the results of this can be deadly. So choose to be the positivity in your daughter’s life, so that she knows no matter who she is or what she looks like, she is perfect. I’ll leave you with this article by Sarah Koppelkam entitled “How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body”

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.

If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:

“You look so healthy!” is a great one.

Or how about, “You’re looking so strong.”

“I can see how happy you are — you’re glowing.”

Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.

Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. 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.

Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.

Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.

Teach your daughter how to cook kale.

Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.

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