The Center for Eating Disorders Blog

Breaking the Cycle: Changing the Body Image Legacy We Create for Our Daughters

A special GUEST POST by writer and editor, Dara Chadwick…

Dara Chadwick is the author of You’d Be So Pretty If… Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies—Even When We Don’t Love Our Own.  A former magazine staff editor, she’s a New England-based freelance journalist specializing in health, wellness and lifestyle topics. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Parenting, Working Mother, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Better Homes & Gardens, For Me and VIV.

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Can you believe the holidays are upon us again?

I always find myself getting reflective during this season, as one calendar year winds down and we prepare to begin another. It’s a good time to think about where I’ve been, what I’ve accomplished and what I’d like to see unfold during the upcoming year. It’s a time to take stock of habits — healthy and unhealthy, productive and unproductive.

There’s great value sometimes in looking to the past. I found that to be true while writing my book, You’d Be So Pretty If…: Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies — Even When We Don’t Love Our Own. In it, I dug into my body image past to examine how my mother’s feelings about her body had affected my feelings about mine, and how my feelings were shaping my daughter’s feelings about her own body. As moms, we create a body image legacy for our daughters through our behavior and attitudes toward our bodies — just as our mothers created a body image legacy that they passed to us.

Some of us find that idea frightening, particularly if we didn’t grow up feeling good about our bodies. The idea that we could unwittingly pass those feelings of shame and even self-hatred on to our little girls is unsettling. It’s true that we moms are a powerful force in shaping our daughters’ future relationships with their bodies. But the good news is that we also have the power to change that legacy by changing the choices we make each day.

We don’t have to be perfect or look like supermodels to raise girls who feel good about the bodies they have. Here are five ways to set a positive body image example for your daughter today — no matter how you feel about your own body:

  • Change your tune. If you’re usually harsh or critical about your appearance in front of your daughter, make sure she hears you say at least one positive thing about yourself each day.
  • Don’t do comedy. It’s OK to laugh together — even about your bodies, occasionally — but don’t make your butt the “butt” of every joke.
  • Corral your compliments. Resist the urge to focus on weight when doling out compliments to family and friends.
  • Examine your example. Don’t refuse to wear a bathing suit or dance at a wedding because you think you’re too big or don’t look right. Do what you can to feel your best, then forget it.
  • Skip the mirror. Resist the urge to constantly re-check your look in mirrors, store windows or any other reflective surface. It’s OK to just let the obsession go.

Simple changes like these can lead to a shift in the way you feel about your body — and the way your daughter feels about her own. If you resolve to do one thing differently in the New Year, resolve to be conscious of the body image legacy you’re creating. You can change it. The choice is yours.

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We’d like to extend our gratitude to Dara Chadwick for sharing this post with us as the New Year approaches.  If you’d like to find out more about Dara Chadwick and her book, visit her website, www.darachadwick.com and her blog,  www.youdbesoprettyif.com. You can also follow her on twitter @DaraChadwick.

You can also follow the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt on Facebook and Twitter (@CEDSheppPratt)

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