I would like to say that I hope it was never, but I would be hypocritical.
By now you have likely heard, but in case you have not, Amy Cheney, a mother of three hailing from Australia, found a diet plan in her seven year old’s bedroom. Because her daughter is seven years old, most things were completely misspelled, and it took a bit of time for Cheney to decipher everything in the “diyet” plan. The list entailed “healthy” foods with empty boxes next to them to check off throughout the day, as well as exercises such as “pooshups” two times a day, and “jog/run up and down the driv way” three times.
Do you feel sick? Cheney did, and she writes about the anger and sadness she felt that society has built her daughter up to believe that she is not perfect. At seven years old. When she finally discussed the issue with her daughter, she discovered that her friend, also seven years old, was on a diet, which is why she felt the need to participate, as well.
What does a seven year old’s body even have to burn? No seven year old should know what a calorie is. No seven year old should know about stupid workout regimens. The biggest worry in a seven year old’s life should be bickering at school, or learning how to write in cursive–if that’s a thing still.
Girls, and yes, it starts at an incredibly young age, have long been put through the ringer in this society. The images and people that we are “supposed” to idealize are humiliating. We do not focus on body types, we focus on one image of perfection that is an impossibility for most of us. Models are forced down our throats on the cover of magazines, and in advertisements, and on the sides of buses, and in our magazines. I will never look like a Victoria Secret model, and you know what? Neither will a Victoria Secret model. Everything is enhanced, nothing is real, no one is happy with what we have because we are taught to strive for something that does not matter. Flat stomachs, and toned arms, and two piece swimsuits are made to be the most important thing in the world to a young woman, and there are so many actually important issues in the world that we, as young, intelligent, full-of-potential women should not have to care about calories and being “svelte.”
The media should be ashamed of themselves, long ago, they should have been ashamed of themselves.
The first time I heard the word diet was when I was ten years old. I had just changed from that “baby fat” adorable to that…”maybe she is going to be fat” stage. I didn’t notice, nor did I care about anything that did not involve the three and a half hour movie I was spending every day going to see. Every time I went to see Titanic (yep, it was eleven times…during its first run), I had a giant soda, a refillable popcorn, a large bag of Skittles, and my older cousin. Do you know how many calories are in all of that?! Do you know that I didn’t know what a calorie was? Nothing could keep me from my tradition. Diet and exercise were the last thing on my mind, granted, I spent time outside playing with my brothers and cousins, and stuff. My body type was just not the kind to keep weight off. That’s a thing, you guys: “fat” does not always mean lazy. My older brother eats the worst food imaginable, and he is the skinniest person alive. I, however, eat extremely healthy 95% of the time, and I still have an impossible amount of junk not just in the trunk, but all over my body.
But you know what? I don’t care about a two piece swimsuit, and I don’t care about breaking my back trying to fit into a size 4? or 6? What are people striving for these days?
I used to be a lot heavier, I will admit to that. My junior year of college, I started actually taking advantage of our incredible recreation center and I lost fifty pounds that year because nothing was more fun to me than using the elliptical while watching Days of Our Lives. I was not trying to get a boyfriend, I was not trying to fit into any specific item of clothing, I was not trying to do anything. And when I had lost quite a bit of weight–I had gone from a size almost 18 pant, to a size 14–my cousin and I were talking about it, and I told her I would never want to be smaller than a size 10. It would just look weird for my body! I am extremely tall (5’8, almost 5’9), my feet are huge (size 11.5), my hands are like Jerry-Seinfeld-wouldn’t-date-me huge. My cousin, victim to societal standards, said, “oh, yeah right. Every girl would kill to be a size 2, or 4.”
Speaking of feeling ill, I wanted to throw up, or rather, eat a whole chocolate cake to prove her wrong.
Throw the magazines out. Love your favorite actress for her talents, not her body. Do yoga, and go running, and eat healthy, but do it because it makes you feel good and relaxed, not because you think you need to fit into a stupid size.
I am very sensitive to telling parents what to do, for I am a childless young woman, who may remain so for the rest of her life, but I will sound off this one time. My mother never, ever spoke about her body. We never, ever owned a scale. She never mentioned my weight, she always told me I was beautiful, every single day. She let me eat what I wanted, with normal parenting rules in effect. She did not let my skinny brothers eat ice-cream, but make me eat baked pears instead. She disciplined my skinny older cousin when she made me feel bad about being heavy, and she never made me play sports when she knew I had no interest in playing sports.
And I was only friends with girls who did not care how I looked. I had friends who were heavier than I was, and friends that were much, much skinnier than I was. I had active swimmer friends with lean bodies and broad shoulders, and I had friends that loved to eat ice-cream and watch music videos on their parents’ couches. I had friends that made me feel loved and beautiful. I had a mother who was petite in comparison to her thick little girl who made me feel like I was the most unique human being alive, and I had three brothers who treated me like I was a queen.
Every child deserves that treatment. I know if I ever have children, especially daughters, that treatment will be paid forward. Every little girl is beautiful, every single one.
(For the record, of course I believe children should eat healthy foods, but I also believe that children should get to have a childhood. So sue me.)
Featured image via shutterstock.com.