“There is not a woman or girl in my life who has not struggled with her relationship to her body. Worrying about having the perfect body keeps us from working on the important things – relationships, goals, creativity, and big dreams all get pushed aside when all we can think about is losing weight. Changing the way we think about our bodies starts with our conversations with other women, and I can’t think of a more powerful influence than the one a mother has on her daughter.” – Sarah Koppelkam

That’s what the 21 year old, college senior shared with us when we asked her why she wrote the following piece. We thank Sarah for so graciously allowing Women You Should Know to republish her powerful words here.

How To Talk To Your Daughter About Her Body
By Sarah Koppelkam

How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.

Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.

If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:

“You look so healthy!” is a great one.

Or how about, “you’re looking so strong.”

“I can see how happy you are – you’re glowing.”

Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.

Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.

Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.

Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.

Teach your daughter how to cook kale.

Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.

About The Author

Sarah KoppelkamSarah Koppelkam is in her last year at Wesleyan University, where she is studying English and Studio Art. She writes about all kinds of women’s issues, from sexual health to body image to feminism, on her blog Hope Avenue.

Her writing has appeared on Greatist.com, The Huffington Post, and now Women You Should Know. Follow her on twitter @skoppelkam.