The other day I paid a long overdue visit to the dermatologist. As a runner who absorbs sun like it is going out of style, it is important to not only take care of your skin but also to get it checked out from time to time. Luckily for me, one of my childhood friends is an awesome dermatologist in the Chicagoland area. Thanks Jessica at The Derm!
While I was filling out paper work in the waiting room they had a TV showing various segments from the news where their doctors have appeared. I heard a quote that really stuck with me and made me tune in to hear more. “Our body image has a direct impact on our children’s body image.” While she was discussing how children come to her to fix “flaws,” this resonated deeply with me on a different level.
As a former competitive figure skater, body image was always at the forefront of my mind. I was constantly worried about being lean and was encouraged by coaches and judges to maintain that “physique.” One can only imagine how this can easily become an obsession. I was always concerned with being “fat” and worked out mostly just to stay lean. What an awful way to look at yourself. I didn’t value my body as an athlete and the power it provided me.
I hate the years I wasted worrying about how I looked. I can’t even begin to recall the countless times I would see a past picture of myself and think that I looked good then and assume that I was bigger now. And I know that I was not alone with this thinking. I have gone on many group runs with women of all ages and they all tell me that they felt this way at some point in their lives.
I am so incredibly grateful for everything that running has provided me. Instead of fueling the fire of that obsession to be thin, I began to really appreciate the power my body had. I ate healthy to continue to improve in my sport. But I also enjoyed my post long run feasts. I throw caution to the wind at times and enjoy a slice of pizza (or the whole thing), or a delicious dessert just for the heck of it. And I love that my night before a long run dinner involves burgers and fries!
As a mother of a young girl, I want her to grow up as strong and confident as she possibly can. I know that there will be moments when she feels weak and I can’t protect her from the difficulties of life. But one thing I can do, is be the most positive example of a healthy body image I possibly can. I know that I will be her role model as well as her source of embarrassment and annoyance. And I can handle all of that.
Her strength begins with me loving myself. I have learned a lot over the years. There is no ideal perfect body. Toe the line at any race and you will see that. I have watched the woman in a sports bra with six pack abs take off and assumed she was the one to beat, only to cruise past her in the first mile. I’ve watched powerful legs fly by me and leave me in their dust.
As a mother runner, I want my child to know that I run because I enjoy it and it makes me feel strong and happy. I like myself for who I am and know that our bodies are constantly changing. I plan to make a concerted effort to not discuss my “flaws” or comment if I am feeling off. Even now, while my baby might not understand what I am saying, I work at avoiding that negative self-talk. I strive to be healthy and the best runner, mother and coach I possibly can be.
Our vacation was a test at this confidence. While I might not feel like I am back to my pre-baby level of fitness, I wore my old swim suits and swam with my family in the pool and the ocean. I want her to see pictures of us and never question why mom didn’t get in the pool or spent her time covered up. And you know what? I feel good about that. It is freeing and we had a great time.
There is beauty and power all around us. I truly believe we are the first line in our children’s confidence both inside and out.
I absolutely love this post and encourage you to check it out: How To Talk To Your Daughter About Her Body
What are your goals as a parent or role model?