Hi everyone! I hope you all had a safe, happy and healthy holiday weekend. Mine was fantastic, and I’m not looking forward to a full five-day work week, that’s for sure!
Dara Chadwick, author of the book You’d Be So Pretty If … (Click here for my review) graciously agreed to answer some questions for us here today. Take a look at her interview below, in her own words. Thanks again, Dara! 🙂
1. You speak very openly about your own relationship with your mom, and I just want to say how very proud of you I am sure she’d be. Have you ever spoken with your own daughter about how your mom (her grandmother) shaped your self-image?
Thanks for that…my mom was not just a mom to me; she was also a good friend and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. I’ve talked to my daughter about how her grandma felt about her body, but the subject came up mostly when I was writing the book and in subsequent interviews. The discussions we’ve had have been eye-opening for both of us.
2. What stood out for me most in the book was the notion that we, as women, lay the blueprint for how our daughters view themselves. Could you elaborate here for our audience, many of whom have recovered/are recovering from disordered eating or an eating disorder?
Think of it this way – you’re modeling for your daughter what it means to be a grown-up woman. What you think about, obsess about, laugh about and cry about teaches her what you value, and those values are shaping how she sees herself now and how she’ll see herself as an adult. During my year as Shape’s Weight-Loss Diary columnist, I realized that I wanted to show my daughter that taking care of my health — and being content with who and what I am – is what I value. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, you can model healthy behavior for your daughter by seeking help for yourself.
3. You mentioned you were a gymnast in your early teen years. As your body changed, you were picked on and you ended up leaving the sport. Do you feel athletes, in particular, are under more pressure than average kids to stay a certain size? Do you think being a young woman (vs. a young man) meant you were somewhat discriminated against?
I think that appearance plays an important role in certain sports and that there’s pressure to conform to a certain look in some sports. As for discrimination, I’d say no. I may have faced a different kind of appearance pressure than my brothers did, but boys have their own appearance – and athletic performance — pressures to deal with, too, that can be just as damaging.
4. Addressing teens and conformity — in the book you share a story of when your then pre-teen daughter ordered a swimsuit that you knew in your heart wasn’t going to be the most flattering cut on her, but that she wanted because it was a cut all her friends could wear. As a mom, you’re torn because you know it won’t work, but also don’t want to hurt her feelings. So she buys it … then when she gets it, it doesn’t fit and she is (naturally) upset. You take her to get a suit that fits perfectly for HER. I think a story like this is one many of us can relate to. As a mom, you want to protect your child from hurt, but peer pressure to look a certain way/dress a certain way also plays a role. What advice can you give regarding dressing for your shape?
With my daughter, I’ve tried to point out styles that would look good on her shape by saying, “I think that would look great on you.” What I don’t do is suggest styles that might “camouflage” certain parts. I’ve heard moms (including my own) do this with comments like, “An A-line skirt will take the focus off your hips.” What do you hear when somebody says that? “My hips need to be hidden.” If my daughter doesn’t like something I suggest, I back right off.
I think it’s also important to remember that at a certain age, it’s more about wearing what everybody else is wearing than it is about finding the right style for your own shape. I try to remember what it felt like to need to feel part of a group and unless it’s something inappropriate, I let her wear it. She may not like the way it looks years later when she sees photos of herself, but hey, I think we’ve all got those photos from our teen years. At this age, it’s about helping them feel good about themselves and who they are.
5. During your teen years, you admitted to struggling with varying levels of an eating disorder to lose weight. In spite of you being a positive role model for her, does your history make you hyper-sensitive and/or hyper-vigilent today with your own daughter? Can you elaborate on how you shifted away from those unhealthy behaviors?
Truthfully, I’m more apt to be hyper-vigilant with myself. In times of stress, I’ve sometimes found myself slipping into old eating and exercise habits, but I’m aware of it, I acknowledge that it’s happening and I look for healthy ways to relieve stress. I’m also at an age – my early 40s – when I value my health more than I ever did when I was younger. That perspective makes it much easier to avoid unhealthy behaviors and focus on what makes me look and feel my best. As for my daughter, I think there’s a certain value in her knowing about my experiences. She knows I’ll understand what she might be feeling and that she can always talk to me about anything.
6. Do you see any positive body image role models in Hollywood who are good examples for our daughters?
I can’t point to any one particular person, but I admire those who’ll stand up and say that their photos have been re-touched or that they work very hard to maintain their Hollywood physiques. Being a model or actress is, after all, a job and the women who do that job work hard to maintain a certain look. I like women who are honest about that, and I think they’re good examples for our daughters in their honesty.
7. What advice can you give to women struggling with weight, an ED, or body image issues who are thinking of starting a family?
Take care of yourself above all and know that you’re a role model. Think about the message you want to send to your child. And always remember that your child thinks you’re beautiful and loves you as you are. When you hate yourself or speak critically, it hurts those who love you most. An ED is a serious illness and it’s worth seeking professional help.
8. Anything else you’d like to share?
Forget perfection! It doesn’t exist and pursuing it will only lead to unhappiness. Instead, make healthy choices, treat yourself occasionally and know that you’re beautiful, just as you are.
Thank you, Dara, for all you’re doing in the realm of encouraging positive body image for our daughters and future generations. It might take a village, but eventually, hopefully every little girl will come to love herself exactly as she is. It doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.