The other day my 12-year-old daughter pointed to her legs, stating that she “needed to do something about them.” When I questioned her, she said that she wished to gain muscle in order to have toned legs. My daughter is quite slim and about 5’10 inches tall, with long legs. She already plays soft ball and takes swimming lessons. How should I respond to her desire for muscular legs? Should I teach her to work out or train with weights, encouraging her to be strong? Or should I discourage her early concern with the appearance of her body, which is clearly informed by the demands of popular culture. I want to support a fit lifestyle for her without reaffirming the sexist world of beauty culture.
I would be very open and honest with your daughter about her body so she will feel comfortable with you. She is only reflecting on what she is seeing in social media, from her friends and peers about what society is portraying as the ideal female physique. What I find promising is that she wants to get stronger and more muscular instead of thin and skinny.
Don’t be afraid to encourage a fit lifestyle. Try introducing your daughter to bodyweight workouts that mimic a sport that she likes. That way you will focus on athletics rather than aesthetics, and the exercises will make her stronger anyway! Then after four weeks of bodyweight training, add in some resistance—use medicine balls, bands, kettlebells, and dumbbells. Keep it light and fun, while emphasizing what her body can do, not saying just “do this and you will get ripped.” Lol…you know what I mean!
Once a woman starts eating a proper amount of calories and starts training for strength, an interesting thing happens. Her body will change. Initially, this change may involve weight loss as a result of increased energy expenditure, but it often also involves weight gain. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – adding muscle to your frame will give you a nice shape and usually simultaneously encourage fat loss, resulting in the “toned” look coveted by many.
Also encourage positive mirror talk! At one time I hated to look into the mirror. I used to pinch the skin on my stomach/hips so hard and tell myself how fat and ugly I was on a daily basis. How did I ever expect to feel sexy or confident when I talked to myself that way? When you look at yourself in the mirror, talk to yourself in the way you would talk to your best friend. As silly and perhaps conceited as it sounds, I try to pick out one positive thing to tell myself every morning when I’m getting ready, such as “your hair looks great today,” “your eyes are pretty,” or “you have great shoulders!”
The quotation below sums it up nicely! I hope this helps.
“Is being beautiful dependent on weight, height, bone structure, hair colour, skin colour? Surely every person is beautiful in their own right, simply for the fact that they are alive. There is a difference between wanting to improve your body, and constantly picking out your flaws.”