Disturbing Discussion - Why I Want To Help Young Women
Written by Angelica Pupillo
Sometimes in life, you have those moments when you know that you’re on the right path. About six months ago I made a big decision to change my career path from law to health and wellness. I received quite a bit of criticism for this decision. Told I would never make money and that I was so stupid for throwing away my legal education. Well, yesterday morning I had a moment that cemented my decision and desire to help improve the body image of young women.
I work in a beautiful local café. I LOVE my job so much; I get to meet the most incredible people, like the fabulous Caz herself and work with such a warm and enthusiastic bunch of people. But yesterday a metaphorical cloud came over the workplace as the team and I were horrified with a not so pleasant conversation happening on the back table.
The conversation was between one of our regulars (let’s call him Tim) and his 13-year-old daughter (let’s call her Jane). Tim and Jane had come in for a coffee and some lunch. The waitress walked over and took their order. He ordered a latte, and she ordered a hot chocolate. Tim requested the waitress to make the hot chocolate a “skinny” because it was time for her to start watching her weight. From this request stemmed a discussion between the father and daughter about a “healthy” lifestyle. He told her that she was no longer allowed to eat white bread, white pasta or white rice. He informed her that she needed to lose 25kg, switch to skinny milk and start walking around the local river. Jane was sitting at the table in tears. To top it off when her chicken schnitzel wrap got to the table Tim told her that she was only allowed to eat half of it.
The conversation almost brought me to tears. I wanted to go over to the table and give Jane a big hug and tell her that she is beautiful the way she is, right now!
The messages a child gets from his or her parents are compelling merely because they have no other views or experience against which to make a judgment. Thus, most of the meaningful messages and ideas that children and young people develop about their bodies, body image and eating are the adults in the families they grow up in, and not solely from the media – Kids Helpline, The truth about body image.
Jane has a beautiful body. She looked like a healthy 13-year-old girl. The actions of parents shaming, judging, and restricting are where body image issues can start.
Now it should first be addressed that Tim by the sounds of things had no sound knowledge of what it means to be healthy and is not in a position to be educating his daughter on the matter. The method of diet he is promoting is one of restriction. As you read in Sally's article, restriction of foods often leads to disaster. From experience, I can tell you that there is nothing worse than craving something and continually telling your body that the food is forbidden and will make you “fat.” Food is not the enemy here.
Studies have identified five protective factors which promote a young person’s resilience to body image issues:
1. Family and peer support – examples and values set by parents and role models from early childhood influence a young person’s actions
2. Gender role satisfaction
3. Physical self-esteem – physical activity and overall fitness
4. Coping strategies and critical thinking skills – life skills broaden a young person’s outlook, and critical thinking helps them analyze and make educated decisions
5. Holistic wellness and life balance – able to define themselves through other interests such as hobbies, sport, spirituality and personal values
I know Tim only wants the best for Jane, and he is doing the best he can, but sometimes we need to be aware of what our best is.
Rather than humiliating his daughter, what if Tim became an active role model and supported his daughter?
Being an active role model for Jane would have consisted of Tim eating healthy himself, drinking water or a smoothie rather than coffee, and then he could discuss with Jane how brilliant he feels by changing his diet.
I spoke with Caz, who has four children. She promotes that the job of parents is to raise happy and confident children. Jane is craving unconditional love from her Dad. What a turnaround this could have been for both of them if they discussed his love for Jane, Jane's achievements and how proud he is of her, and maybe a discussion of healthy eating? Then he could have suggested they go for a walk around the river, together.
Please be aware of your actions as a parent because our behaviors, conversations, and feelings about weight and appearance may not serve our children. Please give affirming messages and promote SELF-LOVE and ACCEPTANCE. The smallest compliment may be just the thing your child needs to make it through the day.
Instead of promoting being skinny, how about supporting our children to be being HEALTHY, STRONG and EMPOWERED and be the best they can be.
Let's lead by example.
Angelica Pupillo is a bundle of energy and health. She has now completed her Law/Arts degree at Deakin University. Her arts major was journalism and she completed law with honours. Angelica is currently following her passion of health by doing a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine) at Endeavour College.
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Thank you for reading.