Teaching My Daughter Health, Not a Perfect Body

Sarah Cairns essentials

I recently overheard two mothers openly fat shaming their 6-month-old daughters to one another, saying how they couldn’t wait until their girls could walk, so they could lose some weight.

Body image has never been something I wanted to discuss candidly, but I realized it was time for me to open my mouth. I was appalled, mortified and disturbed. I have a little girl, only 5 months old, and the last thing I want for her is to live a life ruled by her weight.

I want my daughter to have brazen confidence about her body. I want her self-esteem and self-worth to exist separate from a number on a scale.

I want her to cherish her beauty regardless of whether she fits into her “skinny” jeans, has a six pack, can run an eight-minute mile, or none of the above. I want my beautiful, precious angel to have mental health encompassing her physical health. Having a reformed starvation diet-lover turned health and fitness advocate for a mother, does my daughter even stand a chance?

It was not until the very end of my first pregnancy that I began to truly appreciate the perfection and masterpiece of my own body. My body has the capacity to grow and nurture another human being – a little child who will one day become her own woman. Creating a healthy foundation for her future is my responsibility – it is of the utmost importance for me to instill positive support for her.

When I was young it was sexy to be skinny – rail thin, about to get blown over by a gust of wind, skinny. Heroin chic. (Sounds really healthy, right?) The look took the nation by storm. Anorexia and binge dieting became commonplace. I followed this trend. I hated my body. I starved myself and maintained what I deemed the ideal number on the scale.

Through many a twist and turn, I found fitness and health in my mid-twenties. Today, my husband and I exercise regularly. We often train for endurance events and have fun competing. We take our nutrition seriously. Today, I have come to love my body and all of its abilities.

Some may call the way I view fitness as a little overzealous. It is a cornerstone to my life. But where is the balance for my little girl?

True health and wholeness changed my life in a spiritual way. It took great willpower, but I forced myself not to worry about my weight when I was pregnant. I chose to eat healthy and exercise solely for the health and wellbeing of my daughter. My mission was to give her the best start in life as possible. I want to share this type of holism with my daughter throughout her life.

As she continues to grow, I want to continue to show her how to be a whole, healthy person – to encourage a mindfulness of her body, rather an “ideal” body image.

It does not matter if she is naturally slender or thick; or if she decides that she wants to be a competitive athlete or if she leads a more sedentary life. In my eyes she will always be beautiful and I will always let her know that. Health begins in the home.


Sarah Cairns is mother to Olivia, now 5 months old. She is currently at work on a Psy.D. in Counseling Psychology at Northwest University.