YOU’D BE SO PRETTY IF…Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies–Even When We Don’t Love Our Own, Dara Chadwick

You'd be prettyA Conversation with Dara Chadwick,

Carrie:  Why did you decide to write YOU’D BE SO PRETTY IF…?
I learned so much about my body—and about myself—during my year as Shape’s Weight-Loss Diary columnist. But watching the effect that the experience had on my daughter, just at the time when she was beginning to think about her own body, really opened my eyes to the effect that my words and behavior have on her. That led to many conversations between us about why I was doing the column, what I thought about my body and what I hoped to get out of the experience. I wanted her to know that it was all about being healthy for me (my own mom died young) and about becoming the best me I could be. When I talked to some of my friends about their mothers’ influence and their body feelings, I realized this was a universal topic among women and I wanted to really explore it.

Carrie:  What will readers take away from YOU’D BE SO PRETTY IF…?
I want readers to close this book and say, “Wow. I don’t need to be a supermodel or be perfect to help my daughter feel good about her body.” The practical advice and collective wisdom in this book—my story, and the stories of the women and girls I interviewed—will give readers the tools and encouragement they need to change the body image legacy that they pass on to their daughters.

Carrie:  There are a lot of body image books out there. How is YOU’D BE SO PRETTY IF…different?
It’s different because it touches on all facets of a mother’s influence on her daughter’s feelings about her body. The mother/daughter relationship is so complex and the bond is so strong, girls can’t help but absorb everything we say and do and, to some degree, feel—whether it’s good or bad. And while the book will touch on examples of moms who tell their daughters that they’re getting fat or try to rigidly control them, it also tackles more subtle scenarios, such as how moms talk about themselves in front of their girls and how that talk affects their daughters.

Carrie:  What do you mean by that?
For example, if the family decides to go out for ice cream and mom just orders a Diet Coke every time, what does that say to her daughter? Or when the family heads to the beach or pool for a day of swimming and mom refuses to remove her cover-up? My mom was a huge fan of self-deprecating jokes; one of her favorites was, “The first rich blind man through the door is mine.” She also liked to choose clothes that she said, “hid a multitude of sins.” Those words and behaviors aren’t lost on girls. You’re planting a seed with each comment and when her body starts to look like yours, guess what? She remembers, and applies that criticism to herself. The good news, though, is that the stories shared by the women and girls in this book will help readers see that subtle changes can have big effects.

Carrie:  As a mom, how can I encourage my daughter to eat healthy without contributing to the development of an eating disorder?
As Shape’s Weight-Loss Diary columnist, I spent a year working with a dietitian who taught me that healthy eating doesn’t mean deprivation. My daughter watched me lose 26 pounds, but she also saw me eat ice cream and other foods that I love. She saw me eat in restaurants and cook healthy meals at home. Being healthy isn’t about extremes or rigidity, and there’s a place for the foods you love. It’s all about balance.

Carrie:  Girls today want to look like their favorite celebrities, many of whom are stick thin. What can moms do to counteract that?
These are tough waters for moms, and I’ll be the first to admit that. At 13, it’s all about fitting in with your peers and figuring out who you are. These are tough concepts for an adolescent to grasp, but don’t underestimate your own influence. To her, you’re a role model, just like the celebrity she adores. If you take care of yourself and focus on being the best you you can be, you’re teaching your daughter to make the most of who she is—to be the best her she can be. I try to remember that, too, when I’m tempted to brush off a compliment. If my daughter tells me I look pretty, I’ve learned to say, “thanks,” instead of brushing it off. When I accept her compliment without making a self-deprecating comment (this old thing? My hair’s a mess, my arms are too big, etc.), I’m showing her that I can feel good about myself the way I am — and she can, too.

Carrie:  What about media images? How can moms contend with the media’s portrayal of women and our daughters’ aspirations to look like those women?
I know it seems overwhelming sometimes, but you can help your daughter learn to look at media critically. I wish every girl could experience what my daughter experienced watching me go through the Shape program. She’s been to multiple professional photo shoots and she’s seen how much make-up, time, lighting, styling and posing go into creating an image of “perfection.” We also poke around on Web sites like the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty site, which features things like videos that show the transformation of a natural-looking model into a cover model. When you’re talking with adolescent girls about celebrity and media images, it’s so important to help them understand that what they see on the page isn’t real. I’ve got a friend who says she never compares herself to celebrities—they’ve got nannies, housekeepers, stylists, trainers, assistants, etc. It’s just not a fair comparison, she says. I think that’s a great attitude.

Carrie:  What’s one thing you learned while writing YOU’D BE SO PRETTY IF…that really surprised you?
That many girls think their moms are pretty and just fine the way they are. And when we moms criticize ourselves in front of them, it hurts our girls. They don’t understand why we don’t like the way we look. To them, we’re beautiful.Dara_Chadwick_headshot_DaCapo

Five Ways to Boost Your Daughter’s Body Image
Adapted from YOU’D BE SO PRETTY IF…

“Many adolescents are all about fitting in with their peers. But don’t underestimate your own influence. To her, you’re a role model. If you take care of yourself and focus on being the best you you can be, you’re teaching your daughter to make the most of who she is—to be the best her she can be.”—Dara Chadwick in You’d Be So Pretty If…

Here are five tips on how you can set a positive body example for your daughter—no matter how you may feel about the way you look:

  1. Change your Tune: If you’re usually harsh or critical about your appearance in front of your daughter, make sure she hears you say at least one positive thing about yourself each day. A simple, “I like the way my hair looks today” or “I like the cut of these pants” is a great first step toward creating a more positive body image.
  2. Don’t do Comedy: Humor can be a defense mechanism when you don’t feel good about yourself, but your jokes about your body aren’t fooling her. It’s OK to laugh together—even about your bodies, occasionally—but don’t make your butt the “butt” of every joke
  3. Corral your Compliments: Resist the urge to focus on weight when doling out compliments to friends and family. Let your daughter hear you tell a friend she looks fantastic or healthy or happy without it being about having lost weight.
  4. Examine your Example: Don’t refuse to wear a bathing suit or dance at a wedding because you think you’re too big or don’t look right. You’ll be teaching her that only “perfect” people get to have fun in life. Do what you can to look your best, then forget it. Be bold when you need to, and show her that it’s good to speak your mind, take your place and be noticed.
  5. Skip the Mirror: No one’s advocating leaving the house without a glance at yourself. But once you’ve done that, resist the urge to constantly re-check your look in mirrors, store windows or any other reflective surface. You know you look fine, so just let the obsession go.

To Enter to Win a Free Copy of YOU’D BE SO PRETTY IF…:

    • Subscribe to the Words To Mouth e-newsletter (how winners announced)
    • Leave a comment below sharing your story of dealing with your own body image and/or suggestions on how to help our daughters
    • Call 206-309-7318 and leave a voice mail message I can play on-air
    • U.S. & Canada residents only; No P.O. Boxes, please
    • Deadline: June 15th, 2009 ~ midnight, EST


There Are 15 Responses So Far. »

  1. In the six word story contest, I submitted “Big Nose, Big Feet, No Boobs” by Inside Beauty. That pretty much sums up my growing up. I was always told and tried to pratice that it is the inside of a person that matters. I still live by that rule today. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover!
    darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

  2. I think making sure our daughters are beautiful no matter what and that they know it. I tell my daughter she is beautiful and does not need to lose weight all the time. She has become a great adult.

  3. This is so helpful! I’m so aware, reading this, that I watch my daughter too much – I look at her, afraid she’s going to get “chubby” the way I was, afraid she’s not eating enough of the right things…and that I studiously keep my mouth shut. Now I have to keep my mind off of it, too – so she can breathe and be her own person. Sincerely, Rori Raye

  4. Rori,
    I so appreciate your honesty. It is difficult not to put some of our own “stuff” on to our girls, isn’t it? I struggle with wanting to save them from some of that awful teenage angst…lately, I’m seeing I have to “allow” her to go through some of it on her own. There’s just no other way but “through it” sometimes. Who ever said parenting was easy?

  5. I try to stress to my daughters that my wanting to lose weight is for health reasons and not because I’m falling into the trap of the whole supermodel syndrome. Plus, it’s nice to have some curves and the skeletal look is not a good one.


  6. my daughter is only 8. She comes from a gene pool that says she is going to be a “big girl” in one way or another. My family runs tall. I am the shortest of my siblings at 5’11”. My brothers are 6’5 and 6’9. My stock is small on top with thick legs. No matter how thin I am, I have very large calves and thighs.
    Her fathers family runs wide… everyone on his side is very thick chested, more of the boxey frame. With the girls getting hippy also.
    So my daugher? at 8 she already wears a size 8 womens shoe, looks like she is about 12, very broad, and a belly. She is a big girl.
    Does she mind? maybe a little at swimsuit time… but then again, which of us doesn’t?
    She is a beautiful girl, with an outrageous personality, who has been the center of attention in her circle of friends in school and other activities…
    I have always tried to teach my children to love themselves. And if someone doesn’t like them for one reason or another, then it is that person’s loss. We are who we are. We can not change that, only how we look at it.

  7. The sad thing about those “perfect” thin celebrities is that most of them have severe emotional problems-happy girls do not starve themselves or take drugs to numb the pain.Truly happy people enjoy the good things in their lives & that means enjoying food,too. All things in moderation, of course.

  8. Hello, I have two nieces ( they are sisters )! The youngest of the two is extremely thin. My sister and I watch over her very closely.
    She is not anorexic, but the next thing to it. I would love to read this book. I agree with the author wholeheartedly. Many thanks,Cindi

  9. If…. I would loose 30 lbs or if I wore makeup or if I wore other clothing.

  10. Wow I have heard this so much in my lifetime & I just turned 35 Sunday. I’ve always been a big girl, no matter what I did to lose it it only helped temporarily, and to make matter’s worse I have way to much on top in the boob category so that makes me look larger. People always say you have a beautiful face but you’d be prettier if you’d lose the weight…Ahhhh!!! Now I worry about my daughter and what labels she will put on herself to be “pretty if”….Everyone is gorgeous in their own way & society should just step back and take a breather and relax & let everyone just be…..

  11. I am a big girl and I hate the way I look. I have to watch my attitude about my weight around my 6 yr old daughter. I don’t want her to start hating her body too. I’ve joined a gym and have completely changed my eating habits – small portions, fruits, veggies, chix, and sometimes a small dish of ice cream, if I’ve been good! I have lost 30 lbs and feeling so much better towards myself already. I make sure my daughter hears that! And she loves prepping all the fresh produce w/ me in the kitchen…a mommy-daughter bonding experience!

  12. My doughter is only 5 but I am fully aware of how my body image affects her own. I had gastric bypass 2 years ago. She has seen my body totally transform in size and in health. And although I am a much healthier weight, my body is very unattractive due to excess skin. She comments on all of these. She notices when I drink water, or have a snack. She is even more aware than I how many times I have exercise this week. I worry daily how my body struggles will manifest in her and how I pray that she will see my motivation is good, health. However this is a book I need to help both of us to understand how to be positive about ourselves, imperfections and all.

  13. Hey,
    Even though there’s only one book winner, I just wanted to reach out and thank all of you for sharing some pretty personal stuff. Healthy body image can be challenging, especially when we have to model to our daughters. I appreciate you all and encourage you to purchase “Pretty If” if you’re not the winner…to be announced via e-newsletter later today 😉

  14. I’d love to read this book. My four year old already askes me if her clothes make her look fat! And honest to God, I never talk like that… so I don’t know where she gets it. TV? I’d like to hear this authors advice on the topic.

  15. I dont normally comment on blogs but your post was a real call to action. Thank you for a great read, I will be sure to bookmark your site and check in now and again.

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