Like Mother, Like Daughter: God-Focused or Body-Obsessed?

likemotherlikedaughterOnce there was a girl who lived with a mother obsessed with her weight. Every day since she could remember, her mother had been on a diet. The little girl grew up watching her mother pick out all her “trouble areas” in the mirror, talk about how she wished she was the “perfect” size 4, and count the calories in every bite she ate. The little girl thought her mother was beautiful, but she must have been wrong because her mother hated what she saw in the mirror. So the little girl grew into a woman who nit-picked her own body,  was always unsatisfied with her size, and obsessively stayed on a 1,000 calorie diet. After all, like mother, like daughter.

In the same town, not so far away, was another little girl. The little girl grew up watching her mother talk about how wonderful God was, the importance of living a healthy lifestyle as a good witness for the Lord, and how God finds all His children beautiful, no matter if they’re skinny, heavier, tall, short, blonde or brunette. This mother taught her daughter that fearing God is the most beautiful thing in the world. So this little girl grew into a woman who knew her worth was in the Lord, not in her looks,  treated her body as something to keep healthy, not idolize, and her first priority was being a perfect witness, not a perfect body. After all, like mother, like daughter.

Two little girls, two mothers, two very different outcomes. One daughter ended up with a world’s view of beauty, one daughter ended up with a healthy, God-honoring understanding of her body.

While every daughter has the choice whether or not to follow in her mother’s footsteps, it is a natural progression to follow in the footsteps of the most important and influential woman in your life has acted.  A little girl usually wants to grow up to be as beautiful as her mommy, but unfortunately we have a world made up of many little girls who are dissatisfied with their bodies, crave physical perfection and go to any lengths necessary to look like the photoshopped models in the magazines.

There is an epidemic occurring in our world and our daughters are being emotionally and physically destroyed because of it. According to statistics, these are rampant among girls as early as elementary school*:

  • Nine percent of 9-year-old’s admit to having vomited in an attempt to lose weight.
  • Forty-two percent of first-, second-, and third-grade girls say they want to be thinner.
  • Fifty-three percent of 13-year-old girls say they are unhappy with their bodies.
  • Seventy-eight percent of 18-year-old girls say they are unhappy with their bodies.

We must step up, change our mindsets and mouthpieces, and help change the futures for the next generation of women. We must be the ones to reflect God’s view of beauty to daughter’s being bombarded with unhealthy, unattainable messages that only destroy.

Our Daughter’s need Mothers & Mentors who:

Don’t Diet but Live Healthy

Diet- It’s a nasty, little word that has become the life for one in four girls by the age of 15. But where do they learn about dieting? Most likely, their mothers. In the past 30 years, women have become preoccupied with dieting and it’s become a part of daily life. But at what cost are mothers trying to achieve their “perfect” weight? This is how one mother’s dieting affected a reader:

“My mom was always, always on a diet. And I don’t remember if she needed to be or not – she was my mom, I thought she was beautiful. But she certainly didn’t. Now, me and my sisters are in our 20’s and my mom is still on a diet. And all of us have battled self-image problems, a couple struggle with serious eating disorders, and none of us have been able to maintain a lifestyle of healthy moderation. Is that my moms fault? No – we are making those choices. But did my mom’s lifestyle of unhappy dieting make her daughters more vulnerable to self-image issues – I believe so. After all, I learned to diet from my mother.”

Girls are learning that food is their enemy or their best friend: they’re learning to have an unhealthy relationship with food. God gave us food to make our bodies healthy, to fuel us to be able enjoy life and serve Him. This is the message moms should convey through their words and their actions.  Daughters should learn moderation, not indulgence or restriction from their mothers (Prov. 25:16) so then they’ll learn what it is to have a healthy relationship with food.

Don’t Work Out to Be Skinny But Exercise to Be Fit

Moms can tend to go to two extremes: They either don’t work out at all or fitness becomes their life. This is how daughters learn how they should treat their bodies and they end up either neglecting them, which isn’t healthy, or obsessing over them, which isn’t healthy either. Again, it’s all about teaching them moderation and motivation.

What are your motivations for exercising or not exercising? Are you encouraging your daughter to go on walks, play outside with friends, or join in some active games? Or are you encouraging her run on the treadmill beside you, which she knows helps “Mommy get skinny”? There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to stay active and have a fit body as a way to be a good witness to the Gospel and a good steward of the body God gave you, even the Proverbs 31 woman was fit; but it doesn’t say she tried to stay skinny (Prov.31:17).

The other extreme is not taking care of your body at all which is just as much of a sin. The message being sent to your daughter and the world is a lifestyle of laziness which damages the Gospel just as much as body-obsessed exercise. The focus of both is selfishness and idolatry. We are to be women characterized by strength and service for God, not a life filled with idleness and slothfulness (Prov.10:4;12:24;14:23; 18:9; 19:15; 24:30-34;31:27 ).

Don’t Cut Themselves Down But Build God Up:

Mothers and daughters are like mirrors for each other and the daughter, especially, reflects the image of her mother.  Moms who display displeasure with their features can produce daughters who have the same self-distorted, negative image because they’re trying to be like mom. Little girls hear mommy say, “Ugh, I feel fat today,” “Do I look fat in this?,” or “I used to have a great body before I had kids,” learn to focus on their flaws rather than focusing on how God sees them.  When a mother cuts herself down she teaches her daughter insecurity, but a mother who builds God up teaches her daughter confidence in the Lord.

The younger generation needs to know that God created them in His image and they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps.139:14). Little girls need to be taught that their worth is in Christ, who looks at their heart (1 Sam.16:7). They need a mommy who isn’t focused on her outward appearances but is focused on an inward appearance that’s pleasing to the Lord.

Is it ok to dress nicely, be fit and well put together? Absolutely! We should represent Christ in a positive manner on the outside, but, more importantly, we should represent Him positively on the inside.The most beautiful thing in the world is a woman who hopes in God, has a gentle and quiet spirit, has sought the fruits of the Spirit over the fruits of this world (Prov. 31:30; 1 Tim.2:9-10). It is an imperishable beauty and is precious in God’s sight! (1 Pet. 3:3-6) What are we teaching the next generation to desire? What are we teaching them to pursue–worldly beauty or godly beauty?

A mother’s actions influence her daughter’s future so will your daughter learn to be God-focused or body-obsessed?

*Statistics from: Body Wars: Making Peace with Women’s Bodies by Dr. Margo Maine.

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One thought on “Like Mother, Like Daughter: God-Focused or Body-Obsessed?

  1. Great, great article. I was the little girl who always heard ‘you can’t have that’, ‘that will make you fat’, ‘you need to lose weight’, ‘that is fattening’. It sent me on a two decade journey with the demon of anorexia. It was only in the past few years that it ever occurred to me that I should eat to be healthy and not to be thin. What a revelation to me! Thanks for writing this. So many need to read it.

    I wrote about my own journey with anorexia over at my website. http://www.leahadams.org/my-journey-with-anorexia/

    God bless you.

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