May 12th, 2014

Body Image 101: an upcoming story line

by Terri Libenson

PJD-2

My daughters are at the age where they are becoming more critical of their bodies. This hits close to home because I, like many other women, developed an eating disorder earlier in life. Mine was in college. I gained the Freshman 15 and decided to battle it in my sophomore year by subsiding on hot cereal, coffee, and frozen yogurt. My stomach hurt all the time. I was miserable. Luckily, by my junior year I discovered exercise and more balanced eating habits. It was a hard-won lesson.

I’m now something I never thought I’d become: an athlete. I love to run, kick-box, and hike. I’m also a health nut who eats quinoa and flax seed. But don’t get me wrong, I have an appetite like a teenage boy and I never deprive it (10 helpings of edamame chips, anyone?).

I won’t forget what I went through, how awful my sophomore year was, and how I’d like my own girls to ultimately live a healthy life without going through the damage I did. I try and model health-conscious habits and a positive outlook. My husband and I never criticize their figures and – just as importantly – I try not to criticize my own (not in front of them, anyway!). We also say it’s okay to indulge in treats sometimes and we constantly tell them that they are beautiful. Luckily, they still have pretty high self esteem, despite their emerging doubts.

A real problem is with the rest of society: peers, media, and the food and fashion industry (for a few good documentaries, see “Forks Over Knives,” “Food Inc,” and “Super Size Me” — the last one we watched as a family and — unless it’s Shamrock Shake season — my kids refuse to step into McDonald’s). Anyway, I find it the dichotomies incredibly confusing, so I can’t imagine what it feels like for young, vulnerable girls. In response, I created a short comic strip series (running late May) that focuses on these types of issues. I’m sure it won’t be the last I do.

As they say in the entertainment world, stay tuned. I’d love to hear your thoughts when the series is over.

 

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