Developing a healthy body image: Mothers, stop trying to fix your daughters

By Ashleigh Adkins

For Striving Onward

Published: Thursday, Nov. 7 2013 9:35 a.m. MST

“One of my co-workers came into my office upset about her daughter. She told me that her daughter is overweight and doesn’t know what to do. She told me that she finds herself asking her daughter if she should really be eating things or wishing her daughter wouldn’t eat what she does. Ashleigh, as I listened to her talk, I realized that this is what I have done to you. I told her about our conversation two weeks ago when you stopped me and told me to quit talking negatively about myself.”

I can’t tell you the peace and acceptance I felt hearing my mom tell me how she was able to help her co-worker because of something I said. At the time I said it, I didn’t even think she was listening to me explain to her about her need to accept and love herself, but she was.

Here’s something she wrote and shared me with about this experience:

"Being Shaped and Unshaped"

Learning by example. How potent the statement. I attribute my strong ability to grasp change and explore its adventure to my mother. I thrive on change, but not to my body. I thought it was normal to try to control my weight as I grew up as a gymnast and dancer and was required to weigh every Monday to control the weekend binges. After all, your agility is limited by rolls of skin. But what do you do when you grow past those days? Activity and agility decreases, but you are already shaped into a mindset ingrained solidly into your every thought ... you must not grow past a certain size or suffer the consequences of being evaluated by all those who see you in the revealing leotard. I gave birth to my last child 14 years after I quit gymnastics and would not even step on the scale in the doctor’s office as it was just too painful to watch. Ashleigh is my child that I unknowingly shaped because she received the signals that I gave off from how she ate to how she looked. I would watch her grow both up and out and try to stop the out growth. Our journey is not unique to families. I would like to think that with my contributions to her body image concerns, I also gave her the strong personality to unshape me and reshape herself. And I’ll always be grateful for that.

After having this powerful experience with my mother, there are a few things I would like you to take away from my experience:

1. Mothers, stop trying to “fix” your daughters. Skinny does NOT equal healthy.

2. Be an example for your daughter. Don’t talk badly about your body in front of her.

3. Make sure you give yourself compliments in front of your daughter. She will remember them!

4. Never stop fighting to change the culture of body shaming.

To see or know me you would never guess that every morning I have a battle within myself when I look in the mirror. It has taken me many years to get where I am today. I love things about my body that I used to hate. I am better at embracing my curves instead of covering them up. Every day I fall in love with myself again. My body shape comes from my mom, but the shape my life takes is up to me.

Ashleigh Adkins is an office supervisor for Women's Services and Resources at BYU. She received a bachelor's degree in sociology from BYU with a minor in women’s studies.

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