WHAT A WOMAN TALKING ABOUT CHIPS TAUGHT ME ABOUT BODY IMAGE

A FEW months ago I was walking down the street in my local town when I caught a snippet of a conversation between a mum and daughter which took my breath away.

It was an ordinary conversation, general chit chat and it went a little something like this:

“Mummy, I’m so excited for dinner. I can’t wait to have fish and chips.”

“That’s great darling, Mummy is hungry too. I must go on a diet tomorrow though, I can’t have too many chips as they’ll make me fat!”

The girl, who was probably about seven years of age looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding her head. And then off they strode, hand in hand. Just a normal conversation between a loving mum and a happy daughter. Yet it has bothered me ever since.

Since that day, I have never talked about my body in negative terms in front of Elsie – or indeed in front of anyone else.

Since that day, if Elsie catches me walking around the bedroom naked, I walk with my head held high.

Since that day, if Elsie is in the bath with me and asks me about a certain body part, I answer her honestly and in a positive manner.

Since that day, I refuse to feel guilty because I fancy a Big Mac every now and then or I drink too much wine on rare occasions.

I am tired of hearing women say dreadful things about their bodies and I am sick of hearing about diets and dieting.

I hate it when I hear women rip another woman’s body to shreds because of their own fears or jealousy and I am angry. Angry and disappointed in all of us, that we have somehow allowed this culture of shame, negativity and criticism to happen.

Our relationships with our bodies are complex. We grow babies, we change shape, we get fitter, we get fatter, we get thinner, we get older. And throughout all of this, the world is watching.

Men desire our shapely forms. Models are photoshopped but held up as body ideals. We are told we must never get too fat. But are lambasted if we get too thin.

Our bumps are commented on and seen as public property. Our breasts are stared at, groped or found offensive. We are told what we can wear to cover up our bodies and also what we cannot.

And throughout all of this what do we do?

We turn on ourselves and each other.

We look in the mirror and hate what we see. We concentrate on our flaws and ignore our beauty.

We bitch about other women who are thinner or fitter than us. Why? Because we hate our own bodies so much that seeing a beautiful body makes us seethe with hatred.

We punish our bodies by starving ourselves or eating too much.

We show off our bodies as trophies or we cover them up because we’re ashamed.

We reshape them with cosmetic surgery or we just stop caring about how they look full stop.

We hate our stretch marks. We long for bigger breasts. We are jealous of other women. We dread getting older. We hate our bodies. Every. Little. Bit. Of. Them.

And so we punish and criticise and on it goes. The cycle of hatred towards our magnificent bodies begins and is passed on effortlessly, from one generation to the next.

When did we start thinking of our bodies as our enemies? And why the hell did we allow this to happen?

Because our bodies, our real, imperfect, functioning bodies do not deserve it.

They don’t deserve to be despised. They don’t deserve the awful things we say about them. They don’t deserve to be viewed through the cruellest of eyes.

We may refuse or struggle to love them, but on they go, loving and supporting us. Keeping us alive. Creating future generations. Breathing. Moving. Birthing babies. Giving pleasure.

Isn’t it time we showed them more respect? Isn’t it time we spoke about them more positively?!

If we don’t learn to love our bodies, we will never know what they are capable of.

If we don’t learn to love our bodies, neither will our daughters.

If we don’t learn to love our bodies, the world will continue to shape and mould us.

I am a mum. I am 35. I wear a size 10-12. I eat chips and I drink green tea. I put on weight sometimes and I lose it.

I have stretch marks. I have a mummy tummy. I often wish I was taller.

But I love my body – baby stripes an’ all. And so dear gorgeous women, should YOU.

Because maybe, just maybe, by showing our bodies less hate and more love we can turn this horrible, god damn awful body-hating culture around.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll never have to hear a mum teach her young girl, that our bodies are never quite good enough. Especially, god forbid, if we ever dare to treat ourselves to a few tasty chips.

——–

With love,

Kate

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43 Discussions on
“WHAT A WOMAN TALKING ABOUT CHIPS TAUGHT ME ABOUT BODY IMAGE”
  • Kate I absolutely love you for this post. I hate hearing women talk about their bodies negatively or about dieting in front of their daughters and I especially hate it when they tell them that if they eat X then they will get fat! If young girls growing up hearing all that on a day to day basis they think it is normal to strive for the perfect body and do everything we can to find it, when in actual fact, our bodies are pretty perfect as they are. I like you have stretch marks and my boobs have been ruined since having Luca (they used to be fabulous, hindsight I such a wonderful thing) but I wouldn’t change an inch of me, this is my body that grew my child, that my husband married and that has got me to where I am in life right now. I’ve been very conscious of doing the same things as you in front of Luca that you do with Elsie. I hold my head high, I let him grab my wobbly bits and answer his questions because one day he will be a teenager and I want him to appreciate that all bodies are different and perfect and beautiful. I want him to be respectful of the female form and hopefully he will instil some sort of confidence in future girlfriends if they don’t have it for themselves. Body image drives me crazy, diets do too. I love my body and I’m happy in it despite it’s imperfections and I don’t care who knows it! X

  • What a brilliant post! It’s so important we change the way we think and talk about ourselves. I’m currently reading ‘The Beauty Myth’ by Naomi Wolf and I can’t tell you what an eye opener it is.

    I really believe girls need to learn from a young age that your value doesn’t lie in how you look, at all.

    I heard an even worse exchange once by the way. When I lived in Australia, my office manager brought her daughter into work one day and was telling us how she was going to her school prom in a few weeks. Her daughter showed us a picture of the dress she wanted to wear and her mum, in front of everyone, said ‘Yeah but don’t forget you need to lose quite a bit of weight first otherwise you’ll look fat.’
    I felt sick with anger!

  • Kate, this is a wonderful post… But I’m gonna be honest. It is so hard. I’m a woman with a relatively healthy relationship with my body and self-image. I don’t diet, I don’t hate myself or my looks. I know my best bits and admire my body for all of the amazing things it has done. However, I am guilty of scrutinising myself, particularly since blogging and the public nature of it. The image of ‘me’ now has a wider reach than my Facebook friends, and I am conscious about looking the best I possibly can. And I’ll be even more honest; the 10kg of weight that I lost last year has made me feel better. I didn’t HATE the way I looked, but I was aware that I wasn’t as healthy as I could be. Plus, I didn’t like the way I looked in my clothes. Ultimately, I didn’t like how I looked because of how my mind has been conditioned to think about what is aesthetically pleasing. That sucks, doesn’t it?

    I don’t know what would have been a better way to be – to be comfortable in my unhealthy body, or more confident in my slimmer body? What is the balance? I’m sure there’ll be a lot of comments here to mull over. Ultimately you’re right. We shouldn’t be hating our incredible bodies, although it is sometimes difficult for us to see exactly how wonderful they are.

  • Bravo Kate my love, bravo!! This is a fantastic post, and right up my alley! In yoga we learn about non-violence, and this includes “violence” towards ourselves and others in thoughts as well as in deeds. I used to have a terrible relationship with my body but now when I look in the mirror I actively look for the positive. As with most mothers I often tell my daughter how beautiful she is, but in the same breath I always add that her kindness is the most beautiful thing about her. After my past I am careful to never mention diets (I don’t diet anyway), although she has obviously picked it up through peers already (at age 6!), and we talk about whether foods are good for us or healthy rather than fattening. It’s amazing the impact that vocabulary can have! Thank you so much for writing this post! Xxx

  • I bloody love you! I am so tired of the negativity, of constantly being told what I should or shouldn’t be. I have put on weight recently, not a lot, but I have been feeling awful about it. But y’know what – sod it!

    Another great post my lovely. You’re an amazing inspiration and a truly positive role model for your little one. Bravo!

    Xx

  • Excellent post Kate! Such a shame that some parents are still oblivious to the fact that kids pick up body insecurities so easily.

    I think that making an effort to love your body is a virtuous circle – I try to focus on what my body can do for me and to challenge myself when I engage in negative self-talk. If you can manage to accept and love yourself a bit more, you often want to treat your body right by filling it up with good food and doing some vigorous exercise. Of course, a chocolate brownie is needed every now and then for the soul!

  • A beautiful post that brought a tear to my eye. You are so so right and I often worry what my daughter will see as she gets older as there is this real culture of ‘thin’ fat’ ‘fit’ ‘unfit’, there appears to be no in-between and no recognition of the truly wondrous things our bodies actually do.
    x

  • Excellent post. I wish more women shared this view. At some point this ridiculous persecution of the female form has got to stop. Hasn’t it?

    That said, I’m as guilty as the next girl for occasionally berating my poor forty year old body for not being thin enough, toned enough, tall enough but hey! It all works. It’s strong — if you don’t count my knackered back — and it carried my gorgeous twin boys to (almost) full term. Nothing short of miraculous.

    When it comes to the girls in my life — my goddaughters — they will only ever hear me championing my body. And, equally, my sons will grow to learn that this is what a real woman’s body looks like; imperfectly perfect in every way.

  • Oh Kate, you darling are so wise and this is so true, we must and have a duty to ourselves and our children, to be kinder to ourselves, to not share the discourse of diets and as Zaz says to choose words carefully. You are one of the most beautiful women inside and out I’ve ever met and I feel privileged to have you in my life lady. I hope the lady talking to her daughter about chips reads this xx

  • Oh honey another utterly gorgeous post. You and I are very aligned in our thinking on this matter, and I never ever talk negatively about my body in front of the kids. I feel that If you want a nice body you must eat well and exercise regularly, it really is that simple. Unfortunately there’s too much money to be made from the dieting industry and it’s in a lot of people’s best interest to have us all loathing ourselves, hoping for a quick fix. As Vicki said above, we must be kind to ourselves xxx

  • This is a fantastic post. So happy to be reading this and I completely agree but, man, it’s HARD isn’t it? We’re so conditioned to hate our bodies and to deflect and compliments that come our way. The highest compliment of all being ‘you look like you’ve lost weight?’ – even I knowing this is ridiculous am happy when someone says this to me. I wrote a post on this topic a while back which you might like http://everyday30.com/2014/11/do-that-when-thin/
    xo

  • What an amazing post, yes it is so so important to send the correct message to our children. I know someone who worries so much about her weight that is is starting to affect her 10 year old daughter who now worries about her weight. We come in all shapes and sizes and whilst to is important to be healthy a little of what you like does you so much good. I don’t want to get to 80 and regret not ever eating cake, and ice cream x

  • Lovely Katie, what a fab post! You are so right. My mum had a very negative influence on my which I mentioned when we were to see you and Vicki in Leeds. I grew up thinking my thighs were massive because my mum used to say so all the time, and in front of other people too. I used to be allowed to eat only by 5pm otherwise I would put on weight …. according to my mum. She has always been skinny and I have no idea why she has always had issues with eating, which had negative influence on me too. When I lived in Sydney, I would wake-up weigh myself, and if I had a tiny bit more than the day before… I would not eat! These days I am more like what you say, I try to enjoy my body, do lots of exercises as you know ha ha ha and never mention this in front of my two daughters. i encourage them to do exercises and eat everything in moderation. xxx

  • I love this post and am definitely guilty of it. I once told my girls I was going running to ‘get rid of my big fat tummy’ when I came back they told me it hadn’t worked! I’ve tried for a different reason not to comment on my body now in front of them as I might not like their reply!! Great post though seriously. Men really don’t worry in the same way and we shouldn’t either! #sundaystars

  • Great post huni. I witnessed a similar exchange during last summer at an ice cream van. This whole subject is something with bothers me so much. I have dieted (and still am) for 20 years and I am so scared that my daughter will pick up on this and I never want her to think negatively about herself x

  • Fantastic post, and I completely agree with you! I always tell my friends they look fab, and if I see a woman when I’m out with fab hair/clothes/eyes etc etc I have been known to let her know even if it makes me look like a weirdo, as I think everyone needs a boost sometimes, and people don’t see themselves as they actually are, they only focus on the negatives!
    I never mention dieting or anything like that in front of my children, and I encourage them to look at what is inside a person, not their outer shell!x

  • Hurrah for you Katie – this is SUCH a wonderful post and I wholeheartedly agree with you. I hate the thought of my daughter growing up feeling anything other than completely positive about her body and her appearance. I try not to mention my work with Noom in front of her and focus more on the importance of a healthy diet and a strong, fit body that will carry her wherever she wants to go! xx

  • Oh Katie, this post actually brought me to tears. You are so right. For a very long time I hated my body, especially after having my boys. I’ve worked extremely hard to lose weight. A couple of years ago I was going on holiday and bought some bikinis – my sister in law asked me why. She was shocked when I said that I was proud of myself for losing so much weight, so what if I had stretch marks? And I do – Really Massive Ones! But I was so pleased that I didn’t care, I let the sun kiss my skin and enjoyed walking around in a bikini. I’m like you, a size 12 ish and 34 but I will never be ashamed of my body again. Even if I put on weight. It’s just what happens. Really, really great post that I found via Zaz – mama_andmore’s post on body image.

  • This post is everything, quite simply. I felt a bit sad reading this as it is me on so many bits (the negativity about myself not about other women). I however do try never to say anything about thinking I’m fat in front of H. Though he’s a boy, I don’t want him having body image issues or thinking it’s ok to say certain things about women’s bodies. Just fab lady xxx

    • Thank you so much. I’m sorry it made you sad but I really hope – if nothing else – it makes you realise how fabulous and beautiful you are. Because you are, you know. You really are x

  • Brilliant post Kate, I completely agree women should be a supporting each other no matter how they look not bringing them down because they don’t look a certain way or dismissing them because they feel jealous, its a shame! thanks for linking up to #sundaystars

  • I’ve been meaning to comment on this awesome post for a few days. The story about the mum and her daughter made me feel really sad. It is far better to have an ‘everything in moderation’ attitude to food, and celebrate your body. I grew up with a unhealthy attitude to food, not helped in part by my mum’s constant dieting. Wonderful what you do with Elsie, teaching her a positive body image. Women get such a hard time with body image, and we need to celebrate how wonderful we are xxx

    • Thank you Leigh. I totally agree – moderation is everything. We should def all aim to be healthier but life is far too short to spend it obsessing over calories or a few chips. I really hope Elsie will grow up with healthy normal body image. If I can achieve this, my work as a mum is done. (Almost ;-) )x

  • Hi Katie,

    I think you make lots of really good and valid points. Our society has beauty ideals that are both too narrow and unrealistic. I am all for promoting more diverse beauty ideals when it comes to age, shape, ethnicity, colour, etc. Yes, women should be proud of their stretch marks, other signs of life lived and different body shapes. I also think your judgement about the negative body image we transmit to little girls is correct. Far too many girls grow up thinking they are inadequate or unattractive.

    In the meantime we have a BIG paradox here; the UK has a growing obesity problem and in fact, and the child obesity numbers in this country are alarming. Almost a third of our children are so oversight their health is at risk. There is nothing positive about promoting unhealthy weight as part of acceptable beauty standards. Our generation is so unhealthy we will be the first generation to die younger than our parents without heavy medication and medical intervention. Our children’s generation is doing even worse.

    I do not think the way the mum in question expressed her concerns about her weight was the best approach to teach a young child about food and nutrition. We should all have treats every now and then and not feel any guilt about it. However, the fact remains that too many chips do make you fat and unhealthy. We do need to get the message across and we do need to educate our children about healthy food and healthy habits in a positive and sensitive way. I have been horrified by the garbage I have seen on nursery/school/uni menus!

    • Brilliant comment. Thank you for this! I completely agree – and perhaps in hindsight should have included this – that healthy food and healthy habits is important and a very positive step to take in all of our lives.

      To clear things up a little, I’m in no way saying that we shouldn’t be teaching our children to eat a healthy diet nor that a woman shouldn’t want to improve her body image with healthy eating or exercise. This post was more to make the point that our own insecurities with our bodies or issues with food shouldn’t be passed on to our children or to others. I really believe the more positive we are about food and our bodies – regardless of shape, age, fitness etc – the more we can improve the dreadful negativity that surrounds female body image and hopefully create healthier and happier future generations. Great comment x

  • Such a beautifully written post Kate. I make sure never to talk about weight or diets in front of my daughter. I know she will be bombarded with it soon enough (she’s six), and she doesn’t need to see her biggest role model have such negative feelings and insecurities. #allaboutyou

    • Yes! That’s brilliant news Elfa. Thanks for your lovely comment. As you perfectly say, we are our children’s biggest role models. If our daughters see us hating our bodies, how will they ever learn to love their own? x

  • Brilliant post Katie and it is such s difficult thing to try and change the way we view our bodies because of the way society views them. It is up to us to try to not pass it on to our daughters and hopefully enable them to feel happier in their own skin. Xx

  • Great post – my 8 year old is very conscious that she is ‘skinny’ and that mummy is not after four babies…(youngest is 4 months). She has walked in a few times on me doing my hip hop abs DVD and I really need to think quite carefully what I say as my body image has always been very negative.

  • I decided this a long time ago after hearing a friend say that her 8 year old daughter had asked whether she looked fat. I have terrible hang ups about my body and I know that it is due to my own mother’s shame about her body. She has been on a diet since about 1990 and is still overweight. All that dieting and unhealthy living was put onto me. I want to break that cycle, I dont diet- I eat healthily and so do my children. I am super lazy but I walk everywhere to show a good example. I do not like my body but I will NEVER say it out loud as I dont want my girls to grow up thinking negatively about their body. This is a fab post Katie, as always. Now, where are those chips? xx

  • Thankyou for this Kate, It has made me stop and think. That Mum could easily have been me….that little girl easily have been my 10 year old.

    I had not even got past that part of your story when I stopped and wrote a blog post of my own, I tweeted it to you, hope you don’t find it spammy that I did that!!

    I finished writing the post with tears in my eyes, and as I came back to finish your post the tears came thick and fast. I don’t want to become a reason my daughter has an eating disorder. I dont want to be the reason my daughter hates herself and her body. I don’t want my daughter to fight with these demons like I have.

    I want her to love her body, love herself and be proud of the beautiful person she is, inside and out.

    Thanks again Kate, you may have just saved my 10 year old from fighting a fight that has been mine.

  • My baby is causing havoc around the house so I don’t have time to write a proper response, but I couldn’t just read and leave this without saying something! Such a moving post and a good reminder. I’d like to print this and give it to my daughter when she is older. Nothing teaches you to respect your body like birthing a human being does! Best post I’ve read in ages. X

  • Dear Katie I was struck by your last comment “if we ever dare to “treat” ourselves to a few tasty chips. This I think is where the problem lies in our collective psyche – we are brought up to think that chips, chocolate, sweets etc – all foods which if overindulged in are bad for us in terms of weight, body health, mind function, are “treats”. We give children a sense that there is something naughty and unforbidden about them but at the same time that there is gratification to be had from them. We set up this “guilty pleasure” mentality. At heart we know these things aren’t good for us. Having a small niece and nephew I know what a battle it get be to get kids to eat fruit and veg but how many times do we say “oh I’m really looking forward to that broccoli when we get home.” I know it might all sound a bit Gwyneth Paltrow but isn’t there also something in us that wants to rebel against someone so “perfect”, or perhaps there is in me anyway. And by that I mean a consistent, healthy, varied diet full of nutrition. I know it’s a hard message to get across to kids – all the kids in the playground have sweets, go to any birthday party and cake, sweets all manner of sugar laden “treats” abound. And yes, when I was a kid going to the chippy was a regular saturday treat. Isn’t it a case of we don’t love ourselves enough to treat our bodies right?

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