I often say that it was really motherhood that launched me into body image activism. Watching my body change so intensely during pregnancy, seeing what it could do during childbirth, and the overwhelming period of post-partum was a crash-course in self-acceptance. I began to think that there must be a new way to relinquish the body shame of my past - for myself and my child.
Fast-forward a decade and a half and I’m now the mother of three young children. A few years ago, in a radical act of self-love and body positivity, I stripped down to a blindfold and a black bikini as a fat, forty-year-old mom in a busy market downtown Boise, Idaho. I had markers in my hand and a chalkboard sign at my feet asking people to draw a heart on my body if they’d ever struggled with a self-esteem issue and believed all bodies are valuable. Afterwards I got a message from a mother with a page of homework from her six-year-old daughter, with an answer to the question “Have you ever been teased?” followed by a drawing and the answer “one time someone said my legs were fat.” There is a real war being waged right now on people of size and our children are the most vulnerable victims. Lay down your weapons and make peace with your body and teach your children to do the same. It’s revolutionary.
I spend a lot of time at home and making it as comfortable and radical a space I can is important and conducive to not my growth and that of my family. Here are a few of my favorite (and easy!) ways to make your family life and home more body positive.
Our family mantra is “All bodies are good bodies and there is no wrong way to have a body.” We have a coloring page stating such hung on all our bathroom mirrors as a reminder.
Put something new and rad on your shelves for you while you’re at it. Treat yourself to Charlotte Cooper’s new book Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement or buy the DVD of the movie Patti Cake$. Enjoying body positive books and movies are a fun and educational way to move forward on your own body positive journey.
Some of my favorite family-friendly movies with strong female characters not defined by their looks are Brave, Frozen, Penelope or Ponyo.
Move your body for fun rather than out of fear and invite your kids to join in! This can be as easy as gardening, walking to school or riding your bikes to the grocery store.
Compliment your kids (and others) on things like courage, resilience, and smarts rather than physical attributes.
Get rid of that bathroom scale. Give it away to the thrift store or ceremoniously smash it with a hammer. Your gravitational pull on the earth is irrelevant and has no bearing on who you really are.
Buy and hang some size-positive art. Surrounding yourself with inspiration and beauty is good for the spirit. There are many artists creating beautiful images of fat folks and diverse bodies (Instagram and Etsy are my favorite places to shop). You can also have your kids create some of their own!
Clean out your closet - and everyone else’s, too. Just like the number on the scale is meaningless, so is the number on the tags of your clothing. Keep things that fit well and make you feel fantastic and donate the rest.
Spend some time together in your kitchen. Check out a new cookbook by a well-known chef from the library or print off one of those recipes everyone is sharing around Facebook and give it a try. Bake a birthday cake for a friend or learn mise en place. Food should be easy and enjoyable, not stressful or scary. (Check out the Ellyn Satter Institute for some amazing tips on creating a positive relationship with food for your children.)
*This blog post is a combination of two previously published articles I wrote for FabUplus magazine in the Spring 2017 edition titled “Raising Body Positive Kids” as well as the Winter 2017/18 edition titled “How to Create a Body Positive Home.”