Not My Mirror Image

Woman and Mirror

Image courtesy of adamr /

My adult daughters recently shared a site that asks the simple question, “Do You Know Your Body Shape?”

It then asks you to choose a silhouette from a long line, and indicate which you think most resembles your body. Then it asks you to grab a tape measure and measure yourself and put those measurements in the form provided.

It then tells you how close you were to your actual measurement silhouette.

I was 10% smaller than my guess. That is a little disturbing, I guess, but I am also middle-aged and may have gravitated toward the more matronly silhouettes from that bias.

My girls in their 20’s were a more concerning matter. Both of them estimated that they were 25% larger than they actually are. Think about that for a second. That is a huge over-estimate!

Here, try it yourself.

This matrix comes from a plus-sized clothing store in the U.K., and so I would take my “guesstimate” with a grain of salt. But that said, many women and girls range from simply assuming they are fatter than they are, (regardless of their athletic prowess, mind you!) to the extreme of body dysmorphic disorder.

What can we, as parents and friends, do to change this? I admit, I have always advocated physical activity and eating sensibly to my kids, but it is quite obvious that isn’t enough. They are both athletic, fit, eat sensibly most of the time and are very attractive.

But they evidently don’t see that accurately when they look in the mirror.

I have heard many attribute this phenomenon to unrealistically Photoshopped models, and possibly that is a part of the problem, but what else can we as parents, friends and daughters do to help others see themselves as we see them?

The most often recommended strategy is to communicate. Yes, here I go with that communication thing again!

Pull the curtain back from commercialization for your kids. Authorities in this area encourage mothers and fathers to discuss what their kids are seeing in ads on TV and in magazines. Get them thinking about what the image is saying and how it is intended to make you buy. After all, that is what most of these things boil down to, right? Ask them why advertisers would want you to feel bad about your body or envious of someone else…could it be that they benefit from this in added sales? A recent video did a wonderful job of giving girls the message to be themselves: Cobie Caillait’s “Try”

Listen to what your kids are saying to and about each other. Be aware that girls in particular are making body judgments about themselves and others at a very early age. I have friends who are seeing it in their 1st grade daughters. Role model good nutrition and activity as much as you can. Do things as a family!

So, what are the warning signs that your child may be veering from an unfortunately hyper-critical self-image to something that is truly dangerous? Keep an eye out for the signs, which include:

  • Skipping meals
  • Constantly talking and worrying about weight
  • Binge eating (eating large quantities of food followed by guilt)
  • Using negative words and comments (such as “fat” or “too short” or “ugly”) to describe themselves

As they reach the teen years, you may add the warning signs for bulimia which include excusing themselves to the bathroom after every meal and abnormal dental decay.

Does this sound scary to you? It does to me, and my daughters are grown and making their own decisions.

I wish I could go back in time and give them a healthier example, force myself to be more of an “outdoors Mom,” and actively avoid passing on my self-image issues. But that ship has sailed for me and my hope is to help you, and them, to avoid continuing that cycle in the next generation of kids.

And what celebrity shares my body type, according to the measurement site?  Beyonce.  Hmm…

One thought on “Not My Mirror Image

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