Sometimes the best advice about body image, exercise and diet comes from people who are complete amateurs. Forget doctors, diet book authors and body image gurus. If you want pure, unencumbered joy and pride in your body, then just watch a four-year-old child.
While body hatred has become widespread for adult women — and increasingly men — we only need to look at children to know the difference between what’s natural and what’s culturally imposed nonsense.
On that note, this is what my daughter has taught me about my body.
1. You can observe differences in people’s bodies without it being a judgment about their characters
The other day my daughter Violet commented that my bottom was too big for the toilet seat.
As you might imagine, I was horrified by the statement. Then I realised that she was merely observing that, unlike her bottom that almost falls through the hole in the seat, my bottom does indeed protrude over the sides.
Similarly, when she asks something like ‘Why is that man fat?’, as she did while standing in the bank queue recently, she was expressing the same level of curiosity as if she were to ask why he was wearing a red t-shirt.
Fortunately, having learned from the toilet seat experience, I was ready with a response. “Everyone is different,” I told her. “Just as people have different heights and different skin colour, they are also different weights.”
And, having yet to be poisoned by our fat-phobic society, that was all the explanation she required.
Children notice differences in people’s bodies and appearance but we’re the ones who teach them to attribute value judgments to those differences. When we teach them to judge other people, we are also training them to judge themselves.