A few weeks ago, one of our sweet cats passed away. She was older, and she had been having health issues for a few months. My younger girls (they are seven) had a lot of questions about where our cat would go after she died.
“She will go to Heaven,” I told them. “I have heard that in Heaven, everyone is perfect and healthy again, and they are happy and joyous.”
One of my girls said this to me, and it hurt my heart…
“Mommy, does that mean that I’ll be skinny when I go to Heaven?”
My daughter who said this is beautiful and incredible in our family’s eyes in every way. She plays sports, and she is an athletic girl who can hit a softball like a champ. She kills it on the tennis court. She jumps on our trampoline like crazy. She always asks if we can go for bike rides. I know I don’t need to justify her lifestyle, but she’s active. She eats balanced meals, and she does have dessert when we have it because we talk about enjoying food and using food for energy. As much as we talk at home about the importance of making healthy choices (choosing to be active each day and eating well-balanced meals), my daughter is already worried about her body image.
How has this happened, I ask myself. I try not to get too anxious about the question she asked that day, but she’s only seven. And she’s asking if she will be skinny when she goes to Heaven. Where did she get the idea that she has a weight issue? And why does she think the shape of her body is a bad thing? Did someone at school say something about her body? Is it something she heard or saw on a TV show? Did an adult say something? Is she already comparing her body shape to the shape of other kids at school–in first grade?
I want to protect her so badly from going down this negative body image path. I’ve been there, and it can be so disastrous. At home, we do our best to not talk about dieting. I am not crazy about some parts of my body, but I’ve learned to appreciate what my body can do and accept what it looks like. I make an effort to talk about my body positively when I do mention something about it. My husband and I remind the girls that God wrapped us all in different packages, but what’s inside that package, who we really are and not what we look like, is the most important gift.
I want my girls to grow up loving who they are and what they look like. I want them to realize that they might not like their thighs, but those thighs make for a strong runner. How amazing and beautiful their bodies are! I want my girls to be physically healthy and feel secure with what they see in the mirror. I’m doing what I can to promote healthy body image here at home, but those negative images are creeping into our household anyway.
So, when my daughter asked me if she would be skinny in Heaven, I told her, “God chose to make you the way you are. We are all perfect in God’s eyes. He gave you strong arms to swing a bat and tennis racket. He gave you muscles so you can run fast and long. There is absolutely nothing about you that God would change and nothing about you that I would change. I love you just the way you are. You are a gift to everyone here on Earth and you would be a gift in Heaven just this way.”
I’ll keep reminding my sweet daughter (and my other daughters) just how amazing, healthy and strong our bodies are. I pray that any insecure thoughts any of them have about their bodies are outweighed by the positive and healthy conversations we have at home.