By Jessica Drummond, MPT, CCN, CHC
Isn’t it funny that God designed moms to hit menopause just as their daughters are hitting puberty. (Well, actually, I guess we’ve designed it that way, since now many of us are having our children well into our perimenopausal years. But, wait… My grandmother had her last child at 40. So, I don’t know who to blame!)
Think about that for a moment.
Just when you’re feeling even worse about your body, the perimenopausal belly fat, the sagging well-past-breastfeeding breasts, the bits of gray hair, the middle aged acne, all combined with the fatigue that comes from raising tweens and burning the candle at both ends for the last 3 decades, it’s your job to combat 6000 negative media messages everyday about the unattainable perfect female body! Ugh.
In the midst of your own hormonal haywire, you’ve now got to be the body image superstar. You must model feeling amazing in your skin in the face of photoshopped supermodels! You’ve got to hold your breath, hide your embarrassment, and confidently talk to your daughter about her sexuality, healthfully, lovingly, and in a way that will help her to feel great in her skin. You must do all of this for the sake of your daughter’s fledging adult woman identity for she is just now stepping into her adult woman body for the very first time. And, you, Mom, are her best guide.
This is a nearly impossible task for any Mom. Alone.
But, together, we can break through the thickest glass ceiling that still exists for our daughters. The lack of feeling at home in our bodies is holding women back. And, it’s time that we break through for the sake of our girls.
The research is very clear about a mother’s role in her daughter’s healthy body image development, especially at puberty. A mothers’ drive for thinness is a direct predictor of her daughter’s increased risk of having an eating disorder1. A mother’s body dissatisfaction is associated with her daughter’s body dissatisfaction especially if she participates in a non-esthetic sport, like cross-country or softball 2. (Surprisingly for esthetic sports like gymnastics this effect was not as clear.) However, in other research3, girls who participate in esthetic sports tend to desire to be much thinner (even if they are already thin) and a girl’s body dissatisfaction is predicted by her mother’s habit to restrict her own eating and her mother’s perfectionism.
Beyond just modeling our own body self-love, we must be acutely aware of what we say to our girls. Multiple studies4,5 have shown that comments that parents (and often mothers in particular) make about their daughter’s diet or weight can negatively affect her body image.
Mother’s are not the only factors, of course, to a daughter’s body image formation at puberty. Her father also plays a significant role. In fact, a father’s withdrawal behavior within a conflict heavy marriage is a strong predictor of his daughter’s early-onset physical development at puberty6, which has many negative emotional and physical consequences. And, a father’s desire for thinness and his perfectionism are both related to long-term increased risk for his daughter having an eating disorder1. Interestingly, friends do not play as much of a role as once thought. Surprisingly no direct friend influence has been found on disordered eating7. But, girls who are already experiencing body image dissatisfaction do tend to perceive their friends as influencing their disordered eating behaviors, when in fact, the data seems to more strongly point to greater influence from her parents (and often more heavily weighted to her mother.)
So what can we do as mothers to amplify our own body image satisfaction for ourselves at menopause and for our daughters at puberty? I believe that the first step is to begin to notice beauty at every opportunity in place of criticism.
When you wake up tomorrow morning make a conscious decision to track how you judge yourself and other women in your world. Instead of glancing in the mirror to brush your teeth and noticing a new wrinkle, can you find something gorgeous about your face? Are your eyes glowing? Are you smiling? Can you see the beauty of generations of your family in your nose?
When you pick your daughter up for basketball practice, find something stunning about one of the other moms in the carpool lane. How gorgeous are her teachers and coaches? After a week of this shift in perspective, what new discoveries have you made about the beauty of the real women in your life? How can you pass that perspective on to your daughter? Can she see her own beauty reflected in you? Can she see the beauty of the shy girl who sits alone at lunch?
How will finding the beauty in every woman, change how all of us view the beauty in all women?
The transcript from our Menopause & Puberty: A Dangerous Combo tweet chat is now available, here. Please visit the Be Prepared Period Tweet Chat page for more info about the next chat and its associated giveaway! Or start your own conversation over on our PeriodTalk forum (a safe place to ask your puberty and period questions)
Jessica Drummond, MPT, CCN, CHC, the founder of jessicadrummond.com, is passionate about helping women and their daughters to optimize their hormone health. Her clients love her expert support and integrative tools that make it easy for them to lose stubborn weight, calm their PMS and pelvic pain, get their sex drive back, and have great energy! She specializes in working with tween and teen girls and their mothers to have healthy hormone cycles right from the start of puberty through menopause. Her signature programs Powerful Puberty and Powerful and Sexy Woman help her clients healthfully and happily navigate hormonal transitions.
Jessica was educated at the University of Virginia, Emory University, The Institute of Integrative Nutrition and Duke Integrative Medicine. She is currently a doctoral student in holistic nutrition at Hawthorn University.
For free guides to Harnessing Your Hormones and Having Great Energy sign up at jessicadrummond.com.
1. Canals, J., Sancho, C., &Arija, M.V. (2009). Influence of parent’s eating attitudes on eating disorders in school adolescents. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry, 18(6), 353-9. doi: 10.1007/s00787-009-0737-9
2. Karr, T.M., Davidson, D., Bryant F.B., Balague, G., & Bohnert, A.M. (2012). Sport type and interpersonal and intrapersonal predictors of body dissatisfaction in high school female sport participants. Body Image, Dec 16. pii: S1740-1445(12)00139-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2012.11.001. [Epub ahead of print]
3. Lombardo, C., Battagliese, G., Lucidi, F., & Frost, R.O. (2012). Body dissatisfaction among pre-adolescent girls is predicted by their involvement in aesthetic sports and by personal characteristics of their mothers. Eat Weight Disord, 17(2), e116-27.
4. Rodgers, R., & Chabrol, H. (2009). Parental attitudes, body image disturbance and disordered eating amongst adolescents and young adults: a review. Eur Eat Disord Rev, 17(2), 137-51. doi: 10.1002/erv.907
5. Schneider, S., Weib, M., Theil, A., Mayer, J., & Hoffman, H. (2012). Body dissatisfaction in female adolescents: extent and correlates. Eur J Pediatr, Dec 4. [Epub ahead of print]
6. Saxbe, D.E., & Repetti, R.L. (2009). Brief report: Fathers’ and mothers’ marital relationship predicts daughters’ pubertal development two years later. J Adolesc, 32(2), 415-23. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2008.06.009. Epub 2008 Aug 15
7. Rayner, K.E., Schniering, C.A., Rapee, R.M., & Hutchinson, D.M. (2012). A Longitudinal Investigation of Perceived Friend Influence on Adolescent Girls’ Body Dissatisfaction and Disordered Eating. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol, Dec 5. [Epub ahead of print]