I am on a couple of Mums’ facebook groups and I think they are amazing communities. Sure, there are some differing opinions, some weird and wonderful discussions and a slightly alarming number of spider pictures. But, I have at times been speechless at the kindness and care that these women, many of whom have never met, show for one another.
On the whole, they appear to be honest, respectful, compassionate, generous and intelligent women. Women juggling multiple life roles while genuinely trying to do their best for their families. I have been helped, challenged and inspired by some of these women.
But one thing that strikes me, and saddens me, is how often discussions about weight come up, especially with summer around the corner. Questions about the best way to lose weight, in general or from specific parts of the body, women stating that they ‘need to lose weight’ or ‘do something about their body’. Women who are clearly unhappy with weight gain and it’s negatively affecting their mental health. Often these threads have huge numbers of comments and of mums tagging to ‘follow’ the thread.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised and I certainly don’t judge these women for feeling this way.
We women are constantly bombarded by images and messages about our bodies. It is big business and it’s ramping up as the weather warms up and the swimwear hits the shelves. “Get in shape for summer”, “lose weight fast”, “get your bikini body”, “are you beach ready?” the list goes on and on…and on.
The best way to sell something to someone, is to convince them they have a problem, and promise that your product fixes it. We are told, blatantly and subtly, that losing weight is the answer to our stress, unhappiness and body dissatisfaction. Just look at those happy, strong empowered thin people on the weightloss product commercials! Except the reality is far from the ads. And, at it’s heart, the problem many women have with their bodies is not caused by their weight, not will it be solved by weightloss. The problem we have, is that we buy the lies. We compare our body with the images of how women are ‘supposed to look’ and we all come up short in one way or another.
The weight loss industry is selling us short, and selling our daughters out.
The media and diet industry sells body hatred and dissatisfaction by the truckload. We now live in a society where 8 year old children worry about being fat and smuggle their mum’s diet shakes to school to have in place of lunch. Where 5 year old children pinch their stomachs and thighs in the mirror with a sad sigh and wonder if they should go on a diet. Where over 70% of teenage girls are on a weightloss diet, and almost all of them wish they were thinner. Enough is enough.
This season, resolve to change this toxic pattern of bonding over body hatred and quiet the voices telling you that your body is not good enough to be seen. Don’t let life pass you by while you wait to feel good enough to live it. Don’t waste this summer not doing things you would enjoy because you are worried about how you might look while you did.
It’s time to fight back
Let’s resolve to not let the weightloss industry sell out our sisters, our daughters, our nieces, our friends. Let’s refuse to buy the lie that if we don’t have a ‘perfect’ body that we don’t deserve to experience a carefree day at the beach. Let’s push back at the messages that there is something wrong with women if they have a muffin top, love handles, no thigh gap or a saggy butt. Let’s stop letting anyone tell women that their body ‘should’ look a certain way. Let’s stop the message women ‘should’ lose a certain amount of weight or ‘get their body back’ and that until they do, they better avoid the beach or at least buy a swimming costume with built in, tummy flattening ‘technology’. Please say no to letting the media and the diet industry tell you there is something wrong with the way you look and that you need fixing. Stop them before it is your daughters that they are targeting.
Let’s be proactive in pushing back against the toxic environment that causes women to be so distracted by their body, and how they wished they looked, that they go through life like they are holding a mirror up to themselves. Worrying how they look while they are living, rather than actually experiencing life. Worrying about how they look at the beach, rather than really seeing the look of joy on their child’s faces as their sandcastle’s moat gets filled by a wave.
Beautiful Mums; strong, compassionate, caring, intelligent, kind, loving, tired and overworked-but-not-quitting mums; I believe you are the key to real change, to generational change.
How? Well, you can start to change the state of play by unapologetically getting your body, just as it is, on that beach and in that pool, wearing whatever you want to wear. You can decide to not give your thoughts, words and energy to worrying what other people might think. You can decide to not to allow those negative thoughts about how you look to drown out the fun, but choose to live in the moment. Swim, play and laugh. Your kids won’t notice or remember your tummy rolls, stretch marks or dimpled skin, but they will remember that you swam, played and laughed. Because that’s much more important.