Modeling body acceptance to boys

Yesterday as I was finishing up cooking dinner I told my son it would be time for him to turn off the tv shortly. I asked if he could be my ‘trainer’ and time me while I did planks and help me count out push ups and sit ups. He loves to do this so he agreed.

A moment later he asked:

Mommy, why are you exercising so much. Like every day!

We’ve spoken about this a lot over the past year as I’ve really committed myself to moving my body on a regular basis which means that I often have to leave early in the morning or right after work to get to the gym. I reminded him that I want to be as healthy as I can be and I can do that by trying to eat a lot of fruits and veggies and by exercising at least 5 times a week. It’s a goal I don’t always hit, but I try and we talk about it as a family often.

I asked him if he noticed that I’m a little smaller than I was a few months ago.

Of course he responds “No.”

Then he asked me if I want to be smaller than I am.

Carefully, I considered my response and said:

I want to be as strong and healthy as I can be. I want to do cartwheels and handstands and run around with you in the park for hours. I might get smaller as I get stronger but that’s not my goal.

He replies- on cue- “You look great just the way you are, mom”.

I love that child.

It isn’t always easy to discuss societal & cultural issues with children that are more nuanced and complex than most would have us think, but I’m committed to trying to shift the conversation in our house from whether someone is ‘fat’, ‘skinny’ or in between to ‘how strong’ and ‘what healthy choices she made’.

Fat does not equal unhealthy and skinny doesn’t equal healthy.

I am hoping that as he grows up he’ll have a foundation of thinking about food, bodies and health in multiple, holistic ways. It’s definitely a work in progress for all of us.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about teaching your own kids about healthy bodies.


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