I saw one of the most horrific-looking things I have ever seen at the beach this weekend. I was certainly not alone in my horror, because heads were turning and mouths were dropping all around me. Sadly, it was a woman who was so disturbingly anorexic that she looked like she had crawled out of a coffin to sunbathe at the beach.
I’ve seen many talk shows on the topic, but I have never seen a person so skinny in all my life. This woman honestly looked like a walking skeleton with bones protruding throughout her entire body. She literally had not one ounce of muscle anywhere on her. Her skin was so tanned that it looked like leather stuck to her scrawny bones, and her face was so sunken in that she looked like she was dead. I am not exaggerating when I say that she was lucky to have weighed 50-55 pounds.
She had placed her towel right at the end of the main walkway that leads down to the lake, so everyone who came to the beach was pretty much forced to make eye contact with her. You could see the looks of utter shock on each person’s face who passed her by. At one point, she somehow managed to walk to the water to cool off. She was so frail, though, that it took her a while to muster up the strength to even move her stick legs. It was painful just to watch her. The sight of this obviously very sick woman caused quite a stir, particularly among kids. I was talking to another dad whose pre-teen daughter had asked what was wrong with the lady. He simply told her that she wasn’t feeding herself enough food, which can make you very sick. He told me he was kind of glad his daughter could see the detrimental effects of eating disorders up close and personal, since girls are pressured at such a young age about their body images now days. Surprisingly, my kids didn’t ask any questions, but they did take a good, long look at her.
I had another conversation with a mom who said she was considering contacting the park district to complain about the lady. She said she was disturbing the community and that she should be asked to leave. She was concerned that the woman was showing young girls that this image is acceptable. Now, I personally don’t agree with that line of thinking at all. No matter how upsetting someone’s appearance might be, it is a free country, and you can’t ban people from a public place. Do I want to stare at a skeleton of a woman who is clearly on the pathway to her own death? Of course not! Do I want my kids to have to see such a disturbing sight with their innocent little eyes? No, I most certainly do not! However, I can make the choice to look away, and I can tell my kids to do the same. I can also use it as an opportunity to talk to my kids and educate them if they ask questions.
Even a day later, I still can’t get the image of this poor woman out of my head. I honestly don’t know how she is even alive, and I wonder if she has friends or family who have tried to help her. It also has me wondering just how soon my own daughter is going to start becoming more self-conscious about her body. This is a real concern of mine, because I really think our society has gotten totally out of control with weight issues. Undoubtedly, the woman at the beach was a victim of this herself. I know I have to catch myself sometimes when I say things like, “Ugh, I feel so fat today” in front of my kids. I don’t want to initiate any of these unhealthy thoughts in their heads. Building their self-esteem is one of THE most important parental responsibilities I have.
So, how do you talk to your kids about body image? Have you found it difficult to protect them from societal and peer pressures to be “skinny”? How do you teach them to appreciate what they’ve got when they look in the mirror?
Filed under: mom blog, mom trying to stay sane blog | Tagged: anorexia, beach, body image, bones, confidence, eating disorders, family, health, kids, moms, motherhood, parenting, self-esteem, skinny, weight | 4 Comments »