‘Mummy, I hate my body’ How my 6-year-old daughter’s words made me reassessing body perception.
I am Karen Ellis, formerly a midwife turned Postnatal Rehabilitation Coach. I help new mums’ in my membership have a body that allows them to pick up their growing children, jump on a trampoline with their toddler and have awesome active adventures with their little ones without having to worry about whether their bodies can keep up.
I want mums to get lost in the precious moments with their children making memories that last forever without having to worry about their bodies.
To achieve this I thought that my only job was helping mums to physically achieve a strong body. My daughter taught me that my job was so much more than this.
At 6 years old Yasmin stood in front of a full-length mirror in her pants and socks, looked at her body and whilst pulling at her tummy and punching at her thighs said ‘Mummy, I hate my body. My tummy sticks out too much and my thighs are too fat.
Omph! That hurt. The guilt. What had I done, or not done, for Yasmin to feel this way? The fear. If she already hated her body at 6 years old, how was she going to feel as an adolescent and an adult? I went out into the world with the questions. Why does my daughter feel this way and what can I do to help her feel better about her body?
I was shoved very firmly towards the body-positive movement. I listened to all the audiobooks and podcasts. I followed all the influencers and I supped up everything I could about the body-positive movement. I learnt that it wasn’t my fault that Yasmin hated her body. It was the messages that society was giving her that made her feel inadequate in her body which was naturally bigger than the world told her was ideal. The Barbies she played with, my social media that she would scroll, the tiny bodies of the Disney princesses and the characters on all of her favourite TV programmes all showed her one type of body that didn’t look like hers.
I was mad! Mad that the world told my daughter that her strong, amazing, flexible, awesome body was anything but incredible just the way it was. That the world had made her look at the shape of her body and dislike it rather than be in awe of what it did for her every single day.
I took everything I learned about the body-positive movement and started to implement it into my parenting. Slowly over a couple of years, I started to see a change in Yasmin. She was once a child that would pull at her clothes trying to get her dresses to stop sticking out over her tummy and she would tell me she was too fat. She became a girl who made shapes with her body, did handstands and cartwheels and would tell me to stop and watch how strong she was. She would write herself notes about her body that said ‘My body is awesome’ and ‘I am enough’ and leave them on her bedside table. My daughter became a confident, loud, badass girl who wouldn’t be scared to let me and people around her hear her roar.
My job here was done. Or that’s what I thought……..
…. until I started seeing women around me trying to change the shape of their bodies because they too were also being pulled into the world’s bull s**t messages that their bodies should look differently. They would tell me how their daughters and their sons were unhappy with how they looked. I heard the mums in my postnatal exercise membership tell me that their bodies were too saggy, too big, too round, too covered in stretch marks and tell me about their efforts to change the way their bodies looked. Then I realised – my job was not done.
It became clear that my job here was not done. I had to help the women around me, their children and the mums in my membership see the trap they were falling into. They were too, supping up the world’s bull s**t messages that their bodies needed to change. That their life would be better if their bodies were thinner, taller, smaller, shorter, more toned, had clear skin and were moulded into what they were taught was an ideal body, all so the world could sell them products that promised to give them the perfect body. All that at the expense of them missing out on swimming with their children and stripping to their pants when the weather was unexpectedly hot to make memories during an impromptu dip in the sea.
That’s when my business changed. I no longer just taught mums how to physically strengthen their bodies. I also started teaching them how to break free of the ties that come with believing your body should look different. I started showing them the messages that kept them trapped believing that they had to change how their body looked and helping them call bull s**t to those messages.
I started teaching them how to see how their bodies were awesome for what it has done and still does for them everyday so that they can experience fun and adventure. I helped them see the person that they are inside and how awesome they are for what they do in the world regardless of what their body looks like. And finally, I helped them see that they didn’t have to strive to change the way they looked to appease other people’s eyes. They didn’t even have to love their body. They could just accept it. Accept that their body looks the way that it does and is still incredible for allowing them to grow, birth and bring up a baby. And more than that it lets them make memories that they will cherish forever. And that’s what life is all about right?
So now my business looks like me teaching mums to strengthen their bodies so it can physically take them on a trampoline, climb a tree and pick up their growing children. AND I also teach mums to break free from trying to change the way their body looks and instead realise how incredible it is, how badass they are and not think twice about taking their clothes off so they can jump into the sea with their loved ones and be totally in the moment.
That work is entwined in the postnatal exercise membership that I run full of new mums. But it has also released the speaker in me. It is a topic I speak about passionately and a powerful message that needs to be heard by all women. So I also run online and in-person workshops and speak wherever I can manage to have my voice heard.
So as you can see. My daughter has inspired me and my business to move forward and be more powerful, more inspiring and change women’s lives even more.
Find out more at www.karenpostrehab.co.uk
For more information on the body positivity movement visit www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/z2w7dp3