At what age do we start telling little girls to hate their bodies?

Watching my two year old niece run around with total freedom in her tomboy mismatched clothing sometimes leaves me wondering…

At what age do we start to tell young girls to hate themselves and hate their bodies?

I see children as young as six years old with body image issues but perhaps we start even younger? I see very thin teen girls come to my office suicidal because they’ve been told they are fat. Because apparently kids call other kids fat as an insult, even when they aren’t overweight. And I’m not surprised because in the past I’ve heard patients fat shamed by the very people they have come to seek help from in healthcare. This isn’t a highschool bullying problem, this is a societal issue.

Yesterday I was in my office working through a pile of referrals for suicidal kids and I overheard two people talking about their diets. One was talking about techniques for staying under 500 calories a day and the other was talking about how they’re back on the keto diet, focusing on greasy animal products and eliminating the foods that offer the most nutrients such as fruit and veggies. I realized that while my day is filled trying to prevent kids from killing themselves, my evenings filled with using yoga as tool to build resilience in kids and adults to manage mental health so they don’t become a referral on my desk for a suicide attempt, some people spend their days worrying and calculating how to make their bodies conform to societal expectations, specifically around weight.

When did we decide that being overweight is one of the worst things a person can be in our society? Let’s not pretend what I just said isn’t true becsuse countless studies show that people of size are continually discriminated against in all facets of life.

I didn’t think I could become a yoga instructor because my body doesn’t bend in ways I thought it should. When I met my mentor and she explained that sharing yoga isn’t about how you can twist your body, but how you hold space to safely guide people through the physical, emotional, and spiritual practice of yoga, I knew I expand my practice to become a yoga instructor. I has been a social worker and college instructor for years and holding space for people is something I’ve always done.

I don’t even know where to begin to address the societal pressures on people (not just girls) to look a certain way but I figure opening a mirrorless yoga studio where everyBODY is welcome and where instructors hold space for you to move through your individual strengths is a start. This includes my approach to teaching kids yoga, finding opportunities for body awareness and growing confidence through the asana practice are two of my goals of the Young Ravens program.

We are living through a global pandemic right now. Weight gain is an absolute normal response to stress and trauma. If you find yourself spending more time counting calories than working on your mental health, or being of service to others, I am sorry. I am sorry that we live in a society that has told you that your waistline is more important than your mental health or your contributions to others. I won’t solve any of these societal issues through this blog but perhaps have given you some food for thought (pun intended)

As for those who insist on imposing their values of “pretty” on little girls, I have yet to find anything more powerful than this video.

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