If I could make a difference and reach out to one population, I would encourage our young girls to be physically strong. Here’s why:
STRONG is not fat, skinny, curvy, or any other useless and degrading label. Strong is healthy. Strong looks good and feels good in it’s own skin. Strong walks tall and with good posture. Strong doesn’t have a bad body image.
I wish I could ‘mentally’ arm all of our girls to know that a strong body is a lean body. Why emphasize that they can be lean? Because, simply put, that is what they want. Let’s be real, our young women want to look good!!! They don’t want to be overweight! They want to have peer acceptance and find a date to the prom. They want to feel confident in a swimsuit. Instead of addressing their real concerns, we try to tell them that ‘looks don’t matter.’ We tell them that it only matters on the inside. Even though we only want to give them a better sense of self, I believe that this idea actually perpetuates a bad body image.
Why? Because the ‘real world’ doesn’t validate the inner beauty.
Can’t we level with our girls and tell them that they don’t have to starve themselves to fit into fashionable clothes? Can’t we show them how to take care of their bodies with good nutrition, resistance training, cardio training and stretching? Can’t we give them better information?
I only wish that someone had told me about the magic of strength training when I was younger. I wish I had known that I wouldn’t end up with hulk-like muscles. I wish I had known that muscle strength feels so good. I wish that I had known that when I lift heavy weights, I feel a personal strength within. I just wish…
Instead of encouraging our girls to take care of themselves, we dismiss their feelings and send them mixed messages. They hear: “It’s okay to be curvy,” and see: “You need to starve to get thin.” Despite our best intentions, young girls are constantly inundated with pictures of media celebrities with very thin bodies, who get all the success (and all the famous boyfriends.)
Let’s validate a girl’s inner struggle with the world they actually live in vs. the world that their elders tell them about. Because, (and I hate to say it) the thin girls on TV seem to have it all: the popularity, the boys, the hair, the clothes…. The thin celebrities have a life of envy, as advertised. When we don’t recognize this disparity, I believe that girls begin this love/hate relationship with themselves and their food. The pounds go on and off and they feel bad about their body.
I would like to flip the tables and try a new approach!!! Parents: tell your girls that they need to be physically strong. Tell them that strong muscles (through cardio and strength training) burn fat, feel great, and look wonderful. Encourage them to eat natural foods. Help them find physical activities that they love and feel good doing!!! Remind them that physical exercise will help them alleviate stress and give them more energy! Praise them when they feel confident about their fitness accomplishments and good health!
I can’t change the World’s body obsession, but I want to, at least, validate our girls’ REAL body image concerns. Tell those girls that they need to be strong. Inside AND out.