Remember When You Had Your Cake, Ate It And Didn't Feel Bad About It?

Standing in line at Starbucks today, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the tiny tutu-sporting toddler just ahead of me.

As her mom pointed out all the snack options, the little girl, rocking rhinestones and a feather crown considered her options (seriously, where on God’s green earth can I dress this way and still be considered a fully functional, mentally stable adult woman? Because if such a place exists, I’m buying a plane ticket, like, now).

She eyed the pastries, told her mom the cranberry walnut muffin might be good and finally settled on a chocolate doughnut.

“I’ve never tasted a doughnut before,” my new little role model said.

The cashier handed the treat over and jokingly tried to sell the girl on a banana instead.

“It would be healthier,” her mom said. The little girl barely gave the fruit a second glance and dug right into her sugary selection.

“It’s good!” she told her mom.

Don’t get me wrong, please. I’m well aware of the childhood obesity epidemic and the rampant health problems associated with poor nutrition and yadda yadda yadda.

I understand that moderation isn’t often a word associated with American dietary habits and processed foods are basically destroying our nation’s youth (Michael Pollan is a professor at my journalism school and I worship him, so trust me, I get it!).

But when I see little girls (or boys for that matter) making food choices from a place completely independent of guilt or conscience or caloric judgement, I just find it kind of beautiful and heartbreaking. When do we lose that freedom and become completely, utterly screwed up?

I’ve done a lot of writing about body image and the media and read a lot of amazing works on cultural standards of female beauty (Naomi Wolf should rock your world if she hasn’t already). It’s an area I feel insanely passionate, angry and hypocritical about. I’ll preach to death about every woman’s right to love her body and turn right around and berate myself for each and every flaw.

Observing little kids’ attitudes toward food and their bodies is so insanely eye-opening. There had to have been a point at which we were all that liberated and acted on hunger cues and cravings, not self-flagellation and sample size aspiration.

I have a niece who’s not even two. She loves her belly. Like, absolutely adores it. She flaunts it around, rubs it gleefully and just very clearly enjoys occupying every inch of her own skin. Do I have to worry that fashion magazines are going to change that? Are the Victoria’s Secret Angels going to send her self-esteem spiraling? Will she one day solely judge her worth on how closely her abs approximate Megan Fox’s (though let’s be brutally honest, Megan might be in her thirties by the time my niece is at risk for insecurity and Hollywood will likely have replaced her with someone younger, thinner and sexier – scary, right?)?

I know how naive and totally impractical it is to tell everyone to just embrace their bodies the way little kids do. I mean, are you really going to channel your 3-year-old cousin’s body confidence the next time you try on ill-fitting jeans or see any picture ever printed of Blake Lively? Probably not.

But if you’re still searching for a 2012 resolution (or you’ve burnt out on Master Cleansing), it might be nice to consider a commitment to turning back the mental clock—back to a time before you learned to think anything was wrong with your body. Do you even remember when that was? For me, it was dancing pantsless in my parents’ living room to Madonna’s ‘True Blue’ (pants were basically optional to me until age 7).

Take a second, think of that time in your life, and just remember that you didn’t always feel bad about the way you look. And you don’t always have to.

And maybe get yourself a doughnut.

Image via Chocolate Chipped.

  • Sandra Edgecomb McCormick

    Thank you! Just what I needed to read this morning : )

  • Sierra Austin

    Best body-image article of the year. This is amazing!

  • Stacey Bedingfield

    GREAT article!!!! I’m sharing it with all my girl friends! Very eye opening. Thank you. :)

  • Ashley Dodge

    Really beautiful piece to read this morning- thank you!

  • Jenny Lonussen

    Love this. Related to every single bit, from the slight hypocrisy to feeling heartbroken and hopeful about little kids not worrying about this stuff. As an auntie of three incredibly awesome kids (2 nephews and a niece) I hope that they can maintain that frame of mind. My niece is 12 now and I hope with all my heart she gets spared from all the body issues that we all have or have had. But seeing as what she’s faced with on TV and probably by classmates, or even unconsciously us as family members, it’s only a matter of time before she starts to wonder too. I hope we can shelter her from that for as long as possible.

  • Shawna Cooper-Holloway

    This is great :) I have a daughter she is only one but I do think about the day she sees herself as not perfect, it makes me sad. I have a young niece who already worries about being fat and not being as thin as her friends, it drives me crazy b/c I didn’t think about those things until I was probably 13.

  • Viv Yau

    love this. I’m currently sat in starbucks drinking a mocha and eating a panini, i was so hungry I didn’t even think about the calorific content. I like moments like these :)

  • Michelle Konstantinovsky

    you guys basically just made my year – thanks so much for all the amazingly sweet, supportive comments!!

  • Anonymous

    This was great~thank you for posting this~even guys fell the same even though I am gay but still~

  • Hernandez Diaz

    ~Thank you~I know Im not a girl but I feel the same way~I always had a problem with my weight and I didn’t care back when I was a kid~thank you for writing the things I could not say~

  • Amalia Pantazi

    Life’s too short to spend it counting calories, people! It is important, of course, to be on a balanced diet, first and foremost for our health’s sake. And I’m not saying eat anything sweet or in any way delicious gets in your way. But serisouly, if I crave a cupcake, or a bit of choclate, or some pizza, then hell, I’ll get. And I’m not going to make myself go through a spiral of guilt and self loathing. I’ll just keep in mind not to eat too much the following hours/the follwing day, I’ll drink more water and I’ll probably dance more than usual the following morning, as I’m getting dressed. That’s it. We all deserve little treats now and then and we should spoil ourselves, because let’s face it- noone else will.

  • Jessica Barrera

    love this! i am definatly not one for counting calories but i do make everything from scratch and try my best to teach my daughter to make better choices about her food, not because i am worried about her getting “fat” but because now a days you just dont know what kinda crap the food world is putting into all the processed foods. our occasional trips to starbucks allow her to pick a special treat and though i dont mind her getting the doughnut or chocolate milk (god knows i would rather have the doughnut) it tickles me when she reaches for the cup of fruit or yogurt! she gets what she likes and i respect that.

  • Becca Bex Elán

    Another inspiring article. And like the others, I identify with all of it. One of my favorite things about spending time with kids is seeing how carefree they are about this aspect of their lives and it helps, in return, to let me forget about it. Strangely enough, I remember the first time I started thinking about my body in a different way was after I moved from the Midwest to California. Not sure if it’s a regional thing, or the fact that we were entering middle school- whateverthecase, I feel rather fortunate to have held on so long. The media saturation is much harder to escape now than when we were kiddles, and like you I fear for my cousins’ body images.

  • Kristie Mullen

    totally uplifting article! we’re all guilty of berating ourselves, maybe it’s time to start asking why. made my day a little brighter, thank you

  • Megan Lindsey

    Love it! I hate that people think a balanced diet means that it is evil to occasionally 1) eat a cupcake without judgement over overthinking 2) drink chocolate milk 3) eat OMG white bread. IN MODERATION EVERYTHING IS FINE. My dad growing up used to get mcdonalds every Sunday as a treat for being good. This was way before the apple slices and whole milk. We’re talking fries and milkshakes. But He was a skinny beanpole throughout his younger years so again, he was pretty healthy!

  • Zoe Moorman

    You always write such lovely articles, Michelle :)

  • Georgette Eva

    This is amazing. I always envied kids and their confidence to dress, act, or even eat however they want, and you’re right. I’m not sure where my three-year-old mindset has gone, because I’m so self-conscious now. This is a great mindset to have for this new year, and I can only hope to do my best to be just as confident.

  • Joanna Lubbes

    I love this article. Thanks so much for the smiles. I won’t go into the various reasons why like I usually do. I just simply want to say I enjoy the happiness of enjoying oneself

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  • Rebecca Kennedy

    I can’t even remember feeling that confident about my body :/ I must have been pretty darn young, because bad health and medication caused weight gain from a fairly young age, and lack of interest in physical activties, as well as having asthma, meant it didn’t go away. Still struggling to rid myself of the leftover from being so young– here’s hopin’ the start of my second decade’ll manage that!

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