The Generational Side of Body Image

How often do you find yourself in a conversation with other women and the only topic of discussion is what their clothes look like, how their bodies are getting sized, and how they wish they could change or change their appearance one way or the other? When you keep your eyes (and ears) open, it’s amazing to see how often our conversations turn to body shame, denigration of the body, and body language.

The outside world is full of bodily discussions. We get it in the media around us, in our social groups, and in workplaces and extracurricular activities – but a place where we should not be surrounded is at home.

I had the chance to grow up in a household where talking about the body was not a thing. My mother never spoke shamefully about her own body and she never watched my sister’s body or mine. She let us wear clothes that made us feel comfortable and able (except my request to wear the same t-shirt five days in a row and shorts cargo to the church) and she told us encouraged to be who we are. My father never used the pretty or beautiful words to describe our best qualities and he always pushed us to “do” rather than “be”.

Growing up, the outside world went through the little cocoon that my parents had built around me and I was engrossed by the police of my body and comparing it to other girls of my age. Fortunately, the solid foundations that they had built for me would still be there – for so many other women though that is not the case.

When Body Image Problems Start at Home

Elizabeth Chadwell and Nicole Fetsis, both born and raised sisters in Indiana, were kind enough to share their stories with me. While they were both affected largely by their mother’s relationship with her own body, talking about their experience is not a way to blame. It’s more of a way to open the conversation, to connect and realize that it happens to all of us and that we can only start making a change by observing the way we talk to our younger generations.

called me fat while growing up but I have never been happy with my body, “says Fetsis.” My mother ‘s mentality and the way she talked about it. She herself was very touched, I became very limited in my eating habits and I developed a eating disorder – it was very easy for me to do it. ”

While Fetsis suffered from bulimia and anorexia throughout high school and most of the sister fell off the other side of the spectrum. She called herself “gigantic,” saying that people could roll her whenever they wanted.

“I was always very active when I was young,” says Chadwell. “I did tap, jazz, ballet, played outside all the time and played volleyball, basketball and tennis throughout high school. But I was always just bigger than the other girls and as a result people did not expect much from me. ”

Without nutritional advice, she quickly became the prey of many manias, leading to a bad eating relationship.For a large part of her young age, there was not much of her life where she n & # 39; He was not on a diet – continuing to add to his insecurities about his body.

“Honestly, at the time, I did not know how much judged by your appearance,” says Chadwell. “Which was probably a good thing for me at the time, my size was a byproduct of just looking at my mom and doing what she was doing – not really knowing better.”

The mothers power

Fetiss and Chadwell, taking different routes, were suffering from the same thing – a “As a mother, the only thing you want for your children, it’s to be happy” said Mary Fetsis, their mother. “As a single parent of three, I did my best but some things were not high on my list of priorities.”

Renee Engeln, Body Imaging Researcher and Professor Northwestern University and author of Beauty Sick, says she talks to many mothers who are concerned about passing on their attitudes to their daughters, feeling heartbroken when they hear their daughters saying the same words that they could have heard only from them

“I think the two the most important things that mothers can recognize, it is that”. it’s not too late and it’s okay to go wrong, “explains Engeln .” I’ve talked to a lot of women about breaking this cycle. We learn the attitudes of our body from many things; the way other adult women in our culture talk about bodies is huge.

As the mother of a daughter, Chadwell says that she wants her daughter to grow up knowing that she is more than what she looks like. “I think women, on the whole, are hard on ourselves,” she says. Having found a home in a gym where she embraced Olympic lifting and powerlifting, she says she’s eager to take her daughter with her, to show her that being strong is OK.

I never really understood what it meant. I was always active, but starting to push me in a new way really helped me to embrace what my body was capable of . – Elizabeth Chadwell

Engeln, who has been studying the body image of women for 15 years, says that changing one’s state of mind of how your body looks at what your body can do is fundamental to arriving to a good place mentally. As we were talking on the phone, she was sitting on the parking lot of her kickboxing gym

“I go every day, not as a way to look like a dummy but because it makes me feel strong and c & Is a way for me to take care of my body, “she says. “Exercise for the purpose of changing your appearance is one of the least effective forms of exercise.” Instead, we should exercise as a means of de-stressing, forming community bonds and to take care of our health. ”

Fetsis, in his own journey, also found his strength through the practice of yoga. “At the present time, size does not matter – it’s what counts inside,” she says. “When I lifted weights, went to the gym to be thin and with yoga, I made the movement for myself and that helps me to trust my own body.”

Their mother says that they’ve both been very determined to succeed in whatever they have chosen to do and she has always been their main support. She watched them both, Chadwell weightlifting and Fetsis practicing yoga, and she could not be happier that even though they both found different routes, they do what makes them happy. .

How We Can Get Out of the Cycle

As Engeln sees it, there is no easy solution to this problem and it will look different for every woman, but the most free and the easiest is to change the conversation at home. “Create a home where you do not talk about appearance,” she says. “I make a conscious effort to do it with my niece and sometimes it’s hard, but I always try to correct it if I let myself slide.”

We must begin to congratulate our daughters for this that reflects our values. The world will focus on its outward appearance, we must cultivate a place that can not reach its true potential, realizing that this is not the only thing they can be . – Renee Engeln

Genetically, body image has always been a source of concern for women, says Engeln. But each generation is more and more worried about their appearance. “I’m sure your grandmother is worried about it, but the intensity, the amount of grooming, and the money we spend are vamped up.”

Social media is also a defining factor for this generation, and future generations need to worry about – as the previous ones did not grow up with the easy access we have now.

“I’m so grateful that I did not grow up with social media, we only had fashion magazines,” Engeln says. “But there is something more powerful about constantly seeing perfect images of your peers and the need to feel as if you have to follow.It’s so easy to post pictures online and this is done regularly with filtering and publishing. ”

Engeln offers other ways to push back this culture like looking at where we spend our money and how much time we spend on beauty.It also urges mothers to use their teens’ a well of Unlimited rage “to get angry at a world that benefits women’s insecurities.

” We have to remember that our bodies are made to do and I think that’s really a good way to mirror and to re-engage with the world in general, “she says. ” We grew up in a culture that told us that the greatest thing for which our bodies are good is looked at and I do not think we’re putting this back in question finally. “

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