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.


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.


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, and her blog, 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)

NEDAW 2011: SAVE-the-DATE for “Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder” with Johanna Kandel

The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt is happy to announce that author and recovery advocate, Johanna Kandel, will be joining us in Baltimore to kick-off National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW) on February 20th, 2011. The kick-off event, Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder, shares its name with Johanna’s recently released book which is already getting rave reviews from the eating disorder community – both professionals in the field and individuals working towards recovery.  Before writing her book, Johanna drew from her own experience with eating disorders and recovery to open a non-profit dedicated to providing education and support to others who are going through similar struggles.

We are incredibly excited to welcome Johanna as our 2011 NEDAW Keynote Speaker!  In addition to the kick-off event, this particular week in February will be filled with recovery and support opportunities, family workshops and positive body image promotion, including Maryland’s 5th annual ‘Love Your Tree’ Art Exhibit.

Don’t forget to follow CED on Facebook for daily updates and reminders about the Feb. 20th kick-off event with Johanna Kandel where she will be speaking about the recovery process, answering questions from the audience and signing books.If you’d like to attend “Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder” you can reserve a seat by emailing or by calling (410) 938-3157.

More About Johanna…

Johanna Kandel, who recovered after a ten-year-long battle with various eating disorders, is the founder and executive director of the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, based in West Palm Beach, Florida. Since its inception in 2000, the Alliance has brought information and awareness about eating disorders to more than 120,000 middle school, high school and college students nationally. In addition, Johanna runs free weekly support groups, mentors women with eating disorders through their treatment and recovery, helps thousands of people to gain information and find the help they need, and advocates for legislation on local, state and national levels.

She is a member of the Eating Disorders Coalition Junior Board, Florida co-team leader for the National Eating Disorders Association’s STAR program, and board member/Expert Advisory Committee member for Girl Future, a website dedicated to educating and empowering girls ages nine to fifteen. She is an active participant in National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, has received many awards for her ongoing support and advocacy work—including the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the Giraffe Award and Harlequin Enterprises’ More Than Words Award—and she has appeared on national television programs including NBC Nightly News and Today.

More About her Book…

Now fully recovered after many years of struggling, Johanna Kandel knows firsthand how difficult the healing process can be.  Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder is a collection of information, hands-on tools, and a compassionate, encouraging chronicle in which Johanna and others share their individual stories of recovery.

The book provides a candid and comprehensive look at the ups and downs of recovery while cultivating hope, insight and practical tools  for addressing the everyday challenges involved with overcoming an eating disorder.  Among the recovery topics Johanna covers in the book are:

  • Helpful hints to avoid self-sabotage
  • Sidestepping triggers
  • Quieting the eating-disordered voice and strengthening the healthy, positive voice
  • Practical tools to help you get through the moment – or the meal
  • Letting go of all-or-nothing thinking
  • Overcoming fear and embracing change
  • Staying motivated and moving forward
  • How to find your core identity beyond your eating disorder

What People are Saying About the Book…

Finally, a refreshing new voice speaks out about full recovery from eating disorders! I am proud to be on the same team as Johanna Kandel. If your life has been touched by an eating disorder in anyway, you must read Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder.  ~ Jenni Schaefer, Author, Life Without Ed and Goodbye Ed,Hello Me
Whether you are struggling, in recovery, recovered, or helping a family member or friend through this difficult time, this is an amazing resource for you.  Johanna’s story gives each of us hope that not only can we recover from these illnesses, but each of us can help someone who may be struggling to find their way back to health and happiness. ~ Allison Kreiger Walsh, President and Founder, HOPE, Inc.
This book is an excellent navigational tool for the journey toward recovery from eating disorders.  With fierce enthusiasm, numerous insights and boundless encouragement, Johanna carries the recovery torch high, illuminating pathways so others can find life beyond their eating disorder. ~ Anita Johnston, PhD, Author, Eating in the Light of the Moon

If you have questions about NEDAWeek or the upcoming events, please call CED’s Community Outreach Coordinator at (410) 427-3886.

The Center for Eating Disorders’ Past NEDAWeek Events from the Blog Archives: