Jess Weiner is an author, self-esteem expert, consultant, and media personality who inspires audiences worldwide with her authentic take on living a confident life. Jess has a 7-year-old little girl in her life.
As we're all super sensitive to body image and dieting this time of year, we had the pleasure of chatting with Jess about how to appropriately handle our daughters' body issues, as well as our own.
Momlogic: With the most common New Year's resolution to lose weight, is there ever a situation when a mom and daughter dieting together is a good thing?
Jess Weiner: I wish it was as black and white. It depends on a couple factors. I didn't have a good experience dieting with my mom. I was put on a diet way too young (I was 11), and that was not the best idea. As I was not in puberty yet, it sets you up for a lot of misery, and is definitely not an appropriate way to teach a girl about diet and hunger.
With that said, there are always circumstances when empowering -- at a later time -- is appropriate, when you're able to understand that the diet isn't the end result.
ML: For a mom who's trying to lose weight, what do you say when your child asks, at the dinner table, why won't you eat the cookie, or brownie or cake, etc.?
JW: Before you get to the dinner table, it's important to have a conversation with your kids about health -- away from food, so that it's not a surprise. A lot of times girls can see their family members refrain from eating or going on extreme diets and not know it's coming. You must have a conversation.
ML: How should that conversation play out?
JW: It's okay for a mom to say to her child that there are things that are good for your body as a kid that no longer feel good for my body as an adult. "Mommy is going to make choices for her health and they don't have to be the same for you." I always recommend using the word "choices" in place of "dieting" -- this better sets you up for success.
"Mom will make choices for mommy, and you can make choices for you." You can't project your dieting woes on your daughter. You don't want to miss a great opportunity to discuss empowering them about their own health and their own body.
Moms must remember, their childrens' bodies are not identical to their own. Their hunger, their cravings are not yours.
ML: What are the biggest mistakes moms make when talking about their own body image?
JW: The Tourette's syndrome with the fat words. If a mom is dressed and having a meltdown -- "Oh mommy is so fat" -- this can be an appropriate expression for moms to get it out of their systems, but never helpful for us to beat ourselves up in front of our kids. I would advise: meltdowns will happen; rather than focus on prevention -- what do you do when it happens? Always an opportunity (at a later point, away from food) to say: "I want to talk to you about how I have been describing myself lately. I am frustrated because I want to feel better about my body, but I want you to know your body is beautiful." There is always a place to repair with conversation.
Moms beat themselves up because they have already said it.
Just because you dropped the "F-bomb" doesn't mean the conversation is over -- you haven't doomed your child forever. We need to pump ourselves with more forgiveness. Eat more, sleep less, stress out -- everyone has let go, it's about moderating and forgiveness.
ML: What is the biggest mistake moms make when having a daughter who is overweight?
JW: Pushing the dieting button over and over again. People who are fat know they are fat. They are already beating themselves up. That's your own motherly shame and embarrassment.
Get yourself straight before you talk to them about help.
ML: How do you turn the weight conversation into one about empowerment?
JW: I talk to them about taking care of their bodies. Find a fun way to do that every single day.
Tell your child it's okay to feel rundown and hungry -- it's natural. You want to take care of your body like you would a pet. Keep it in the third person. Ask the question: "Have you moved your body today?"ML: What do you say when your daughter asks, "Mom, am I fat?"