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January 09, 2008



My Junior High and High School did not require us to shower after gym classes. Some of the girls chose to, but I did not.

Even now in my mid 20's I still don't shower in the nude at my gym because of my poor body image, despite the fact that I'm not overweight and I've been told that I have a nice figure by many of my friends.

I will often go swimming with a group of 4 or 5 of my girlfriends at the local Y. The showers in the ladies locker room are those group showers like in schools. All of my girlfriends that go swimming with me were all required to shower after gym classes in Junior High and High School, and now that their in their 20's they still chose to shower in the nude after our swims together. They always tell me that I look silly showering in a bathing suit in the locker room, and that I'm drawing more attention to myself by showering in a bathing suit than I would if I was nude.

I never would have thought this back when I was in school, but I now think that it was the kids who did have to shower after gym classes that were the fortunate ones. I think they all got over any shyness and body image issues at a young age, and now as adults they can shower and change clothes without the slightest amount of shyness or shame.

I have a three year old daughter who I sometimes take swimming with me on the nights that I go without any of my girlfriends. I kind of feel like I should probably start showering in the nude and changing out in the open so that I don't send her signals that suggest to her that the female body is something ugly that needs to be hidden from the sight of other women. But I still don't know if I have the guts to do so.

My sister has said that she is willing to go swimming with me and my daughter sometime and also shower in the nude in the locker room if it will make me feel better having someone there with me that I'm close to. My sister used to play on sports teams in High School, which I did not. So she got over her locker room shyness in High School much the same way as my girlfriends did.

Deep down I know that were all women with the same body parts, that no one has anything that the others don't have, and nothing that we haven't all seen a million times before. I guess I just need to listen to my head and not my emotions?

I do admire the ladies who are comfortable enough in their own skin that they can comfortably walk around the locker room in the buff. That's also the way that most European's are too.

Unfit Mother

Vicky - Both men and women (boys and girls) learn to eat to compensate for emotions. Maybe women more so, but I've witnessed it across gender lines. We will always worry about the messages we give our children, but we ARE doing the best we can. You, especially =;?}


Hi Melissa,

So much of what you write rings true for me. I find with boys the body image issues are there too, but different. With boys, they seem to compare themselves based on their height and strength. When we get all our boys' cousins together we used to line them up to weigh and measure them. It was fun to see how much they had grown. We don't do it anymore, since Andrew began to feel bad that he didn't weight as much as Elias. He felt bad that we were commenting on how small he is. Once he cried when he got home.

The food issues are there too, but also slightly different than what I internalized as a girl/child. Elias' ability to cope with anything is directly related to how much food is in his belly. He's also an extremely picky eater. Last year when we were camping we were talking abou sending our tender kids off to kindergarten, and I was worried about hwat Elais would eat and how he would cope with a full day. I said (in front of some of the other mamas) "when you're feeling sad or frustrated you just need to eat! Just get some food and put it in your mouth". What was I thinking?! The other moms looked horrified that I would encourage him to eat when he felt sad. He does not (yet) connect food with rewards or as comfort. Like his father, he views food as fuel. I've never really seen Ethan eat for comfort or boredom. My big butt proves that I do that alot. I know I did as a kid too. Is that taught to us by our families? Our culture? Is it a gender thing?

I can see mistakes I've made already about food and body image with my boys. I thinkw e ahve to keep talking about it.


Thanks for bringing this all up. As I try and loose a few ponds before going ot mexico I know I need to be careful of the message I send to my boys.

Unfit Mother

Karrie, ahhh. YOU LIKE BIG FACE? BIG FACE LUV YOU. (Big Face has "that" kind of voice.)


I think Big Face manages to look cute AND fierce!

My body is what it is. I try to be comfortable in my skin, but occasionally when I catch someone looking at me with a stink eye because I dare to run down the beach in a bathing suit, well, I hate my gut then.

Unfit Mother

Kello, I know "someone" who praises her daughter for being skinny. It worries me that this is some sort of achievement when it is actually just genetics in puberty. And if it should even be worth the such gross adulation. The woman offering the comments has also struggled with an eating disorder for 30 plus years.

BS, I agree the problems with self image are deep, but I do think it makes a difference if a mother censors these criticisms with her daughter. I kind of like the battle / war connotation. It evokes a sense of achievement with one's body; motherhood is a very physical role. It often feels like a battle against the world (not against my children though - yet!). I can honestly say I've never worried about the size of a penis. =;?}


As always I read your blog and I have a few thoughts:
(Not about what you wrote, but about the comments left by your readers because these are the most telling.)

One person says that "I fantasize about a tummy tuck." Another says,
"but I have to admit
I fantasize a weenzy bit about a tummy tuck."

The basic problem with these statements is that these people harbor a desire for something and are ashamed of wanting it. Further, I would say that
these statements are just as damaging as the body image stuff they hope to avoid. I might assert that they are far more negative and psychically damaging in fact.

I take issue with the concept of “war wounds.” Not that I want to take anything away
from stretch marks and the in/external changes that occur to a woman’s body, but this is
not a war. This is not a battle even. It is the natural effects of procreation on the
human female at this point in our evolutionary development. If we can't start from this
point how will we ever get to addressing the image related issues

Now you might counter that I’m fat white uncaring male pig that is once again showing how
clueless I am to the role of women in this male dominated society.Fair enough. Please
keep that in mind the next time you are concerned with size of a man’s penis.

Kelly O

Though I know my loose skin is an unavoidable result of having babies, I fantasize about a tummy tuck, too. But I would never say it in front of may daughter. In front of her, I'll grab my midsection with both hands and give it a good shake while yelling "I love my squishy belly!" She'll laugh and knead my belly, too, and I'll pretend that I'm confident and happy.


Nylonthread and I have a friend who is pretty thin and yet still talks about how fat and gross she is in front of her daughter. I want to say something to her, but her doctor has already chastised her for it. And frankly, she's not going to listen to someone as fat and gross as me, anyway.

Unfit Mother

Jen, I think the most important aspect about helping our daughters define themselves is being aware of our contribution as mothers. You make a great point of seeing ourselves in in our children.

NT, I am proud of my battle scars, but I have to admit I fantasize a weenzy bit about a tummy tuck.

MT, I am glad Ivy has started Karate. Like yoga did for you, I am sure being aware of her body will had a level of confidence I never had as a child.


Occasionally I'll see myself in a photo and think "my lord" but strangely enough I just don't think about it much anymore other than those occasions. I guess because I spent so long worrying about it and I just can't seem to be much smaller than I am despite what I do. I went hiking with a friend who is 27 a week ago and kicked her wimpy, skinny little butt.

I want to get my girl into yoga ASAP. I think how different my life would have been if I had done yoga consistently as a pre-teen and young adult. It is hard not to love your body after yoga.


Speaking of locker rooms, after baby #2, I had an odd conversation with another mom while dressing in one (I forget how it got started, but whatever). We were getting back into civvies after swimming (her)/aerobics (me) and we were talking about our post-kids bodies. I was complaining about the saggy hood that covers my bellybutton, and while I made sidelong glances at her perfect bellyb, she told me offhand, "Oh, I had it done." Like that was nothing. Surgery freaks me out.

I like how Kelly (O for Obsessive) calls those types of imperfections war wounds. However I might be disappointed about how having kids changed my body, I also revel in the differences, how they got there, and my amazing kids that resulted. Be proud of your war wounds! You worked very hard to get them.


I am finding it so hard to be as heavy and lumpish as I am and not complain about it in front of Lucy. But every once in a while she reminds me that body hatred is learned, like when she pointed out my stretch marks and asked what they were. My first instinct, embarrassed, was to cover them with my hands, until I realized she wasn't saying anything bad about them. She just didn't know what they were.
Daughters can be the best mirror in which to see ourselves.

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