I picked up my daughter from school and she was telling me how one of her friends was really flexible. She noticed how her friend is also skinny and came to this conclusion: “Mom, I think in order to be flexible you need to have skinny legs.”
As I personally know the pain and anguish of living with an eating disorder, I work really hard to prevent my children from going down a road similar to my own. One way I work with them to try to “prevent” that is by not idolizing thinness.
Sirens were going off in my head as she said this. I didn’t want her to think skinny is better, or easier, or more flexible, so what was I going to do?
I knew I needed to replace that image with different images, so she can see how flexibility isn’t just for skinny legs. I pulled up on instagram account @biggalyoga and @mynameisjessamyn and noted that these beautiful bodies were flexible too. I shared with her the message that in order to be flexible you actually need to practice, not look a certain way.
My daughter was about 5 or 6 years old when this happened. It was a completely innocent observation, but when that observation is confirmed over and over again as she ages, it can be dangerous.
REPRESENTATION IS SO IMPORTANT.
Because of my privilege (a caucasian, small-bodied cisgender woman), I saw people like me everywhere growing up. As ashamed as I am to admit, I didn’t realize the importance of this until I had my kids. I want them to be exposed to diverse humans … and bodies … and experiences, so they can be aware of the lies we are sold about one size being beautiful or more capable than the other.
HOLLI & ANNA ZEHRING
WARRIORS FOR CHANGE
We have to start having these, sometimes difficult, conversations with our children. If we are to one day live in a world free of disordered eating and body dissatisfaction, we have to help them understand that fatness isn’t inherently wrong; we have to let our children know that all bodies are good bodies so that they do not waste their precious talents, hearts and energy on worrying about measuring up to our society’s rigid and unrealistic appearance ideals.