EDAW Reflections: Thinking Beyond the Stereotypes
Every year around this time, I become particularly reflective regarding the issues of eating disorders and body image. Although it has been many years since I struggled with my own eating disorder, I continue to make it a personal priority to be accepting and loving of my body, and I find EDAW to be a great reminder of how important this is to do. This year, as a new mom to a baby boy, I am learning to love and appreciate my body in a whole new way. However, more than ever, I find myself particularly reflective on the topics of body image, self-esteem and eating disorders, and how these issues pertain to boys and men.
So often we discuss body image, weight preoccupation, and eating disorders as issues that affect girls and women. However, when you take a closer look, through research, clinical cases, or through discussion with boys and men, it’s very clear that these issues are not exclusive to one particular gender. Throughout my pregnancy, I often thought about how I would promote a positive body image and healthy eating attitudes in my son. I never thought of difficulties in these areas as “girl problems.” As a new mom, I continue to reflect on the topics of body image, self-esteem, and eating related issues, and I’m already trying to put some positive practices into place. Thus, as this EDAW has come to an end, I’d like to share a letter I wrote for my son, with the hope that others will be inspired to share similar messages with the boys and men in their lives.
My sweet baby boy,
Your body is precious, and so are the bodies of others. As you grow, I hope that you will respect, care for, and love your body, just as it is. I also hope that you will be respectful and caring towards others’ bodies. Always remember that we are more than our weight, hairstyles, muscles, or skin colour. When you meet people, please make the effort to look beyond the exterior and get to know the real person underneath, with all of their individual quirks and unique qualities. I hope that others will do the same for you.
When you eat, I hope that you view food as nourishment that helps you grow, learn, and do all the things that you love to do. I want you to make healthy choices so that you have the energy and strength to enjoy your days, but I also want you to be able to enjoy treats without feeling guilty.
Sweet, sensitive, and gentle qualities are not reserved only for girls. Strong, ambitious, and brave qualities are not reserved only for boys. You can be all of these things. Girls can be all of these things, too.
You have lots of feelings and that is wonderful! Please share them with people that you trust. (I sincerely hope I am one of those people). Also, when you speak to yourself, choose kind words. I know that many people will tell you that it’s important to speak kind words to others, and this is true. However, it is equally as important to speak kind words to yourself.
Please be grateful for all the incredible things your body can do. It is truly magnificent! Feel proud of your big eyes that let you see the beauty in the world around you. Cherish your infectious smile that can brighten up any day.
I know that this may be a lot to take in, but I can promise you that I will do my best to help make these hopes a reality for you. How will I do this? Right now, I have lots of ideas swirling around in my head, but I can promise you this:
- I will speak kind words about my body, and about the bodies of others.
- I will let you watch me eat a variety of foods, and I will talk about food as nourishment that our bodies need to help us thrive.
- I will happily take pictures with you. Even when my hair is a mess, and I have no makeup on, I will smile big and bright because I am so happy that I have such a wonderful son to take pictures with.
- I will encourage you to share your feelings, and will help you work through the tough ones.
I will love you, just as you are, always.
Sera Rossi is a former NEDIC volunteer, and holds a Master's degree in School and Clinical Child Psychology from OISE/University of Toronto. She is a registered member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario, and practices in the area of school psychology. Sera recently became a mom to an incredible baby boy who makes her life feel all kinds of wonderful.