Healthy and strong


This humbling collage hangs on my refrigerator as a motivator. The picture on the far right was taken a little over a year ago, just before I got pregnant with our second daughter. The other two were taken a year later, after I gave birth and ate half of N. America single handedly. (Check the map. It’s not there anymore!) With the help of Weight Watchers and regular exercise, I’m down 34 lbs and have 13 lbs to go to reach my goal, so my strategy must be working!

My four-year-old daughter Isabella and I were talking about the collage the other day. “Which picture do you like the best?” I asked. She pointed to the one on the far right. It was a no brainer to me. “Why?” “Because I like the face you’re making.” That was not the answer I was expecting at all! “You’re a lot bigger in this one,” she added, pointing to the middle one. OK, she’s starting to get it. “You’re smaller in this one,” she said, pointing to the image on the left. So, my daughter isn’t referring to my body’s size, but the size of the image itself, relative to the others.

She’s so beautifully clueless that even after I’ve lost all this weight and am resembling more and more the fit woman I once was, not once has she commented or seemed to notice the transformation that practically every adult around us has. And for that I’m grateful. I have made every effort to avoid the word “diet,” speaking instead of being healthy and strong. I love that when I’m working out, she wants to join me. And she values the idea of eating healthy foods. I also enjoy that she’s a girlie girl. She likes pretty dresses and painting her nails and doing her hair. And so do I.

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Most days, I do my hair and make-up and throw together a cute outfit, even if I’m staying home all day. After all, my husband is staying home all day, too (he works from home), and he deserves to see me at my best. Why should I only groom myself when I go out, but neglect my appearance when I’m home? I know, I’m preaching to the choir here.

Yet, even as I write this, I must confess that a part of me wonders how to teach my daughters the balance between enjoying aesthetically pleasing things – since all humans are visual, not just our husbands – and cultivating inner beauty. I endeavor to direct my compliments towards her character, her behaviour, her good choices, her kind actions. And, thanks to the semantic range of the word “cute,” I can affirm her on many levels with a single phrase – “You’re so cute!” – accompanied by a big hug. (We Latinos are affectionate people!).

I read a popular blog post recently that argued that we should never to compliment our kids on their appearance. I’d say that’s going overboard, wouldn’t you? Don’t you like it when someone tells you you look beautiful? Why should our little ones be any different? To me, it’s a matter of balance. Yes, we groom ourselves and our children so we look presentable and easy on the eyes. But we also teach them by example to be generous, kind, hard working, dependable, and just an all-around fun person to be around. And in the end, hopefully that’s what they will remember most, how much fun we were to be with, not how perfect our hair was. Because when we’re old and grey, those are the memories we’ll want them to treasure.

After all, beauty doesn’t last and time is the great equalizer. Can you tell the difference between an 80 year-old who was a beauty queen and an 80 year-old who was just like you and me? King Solomon’s mother taught him the same wisdom I want to teach my girls, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30).

I don’t have it all figured out. I have a lot to learn as a wife and mother, so I welcome virtual and face-to-face friends to share your own wisdom with us on the subject.

Incidentally, for anyone interested in learning more about my weight loss journey, I’ll be writing a post soon on the subject. Stay tuned!


10 thoughts on “Healthy and strong

  1. I am a dorm mom at a boarding school for MKs and I often worry about the self=esteem in my girls, and wonder how I can help them. This term I have been focusing on how God sees us, and often our devotions end on how awesome God thinks we are, how he loves us the way we are, etc. One of my girls told me this week that after hearing this so much in devotion times that she checks herself out less in the mirror and isn’t so worried about looking perfect all the time! I think if we teach kids how God sees them, he does the rest in their hearts and the worlds messages don’t get through!

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Margaret! I am told it’s pretty hard for MK girls living in a culture where so many of the women look like supermodels! I can’t imagine what a challenge that would be, since my 4 year-old just doesn’t think that much about her body. It’s more about pretty clips and dresses than about obsessing htat her butt’s too big (or in our case here in Senegal, not big enough! 😉 ). I think that that’s the idea I was going for when making reference to Pr. 31. Beauty is ephemeral, and God looks at our hearts. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I would love to hear more about your weight loss journey here in Dakar and how you balance that with little wee monkeys. During my move from Kenya to here I gained a whopping 35 lbs in 4 months. I though getting back to the gym would be enough… but the stain of settling in left me visiting a few too many gelato cafes (damn N’ice Cream and I love Gelato’s). I have a three year old daughter who has started asking me about my new big tummy and I don’t quite know how to answer her. So far we have made a bit of a joke about it… but I am not sure that is the message I want her to get either. Looking forward to hearing more!

    • Leslie, I’m sorry to hear about your weight struggles. You are not alone. I gained a whopping 70 lbs. (give our take) during my pregnancy and subsequent months in N. America. It can be so discouraging to look at that scale and think of how far you have to go to get where you want to be, healthy and strong. 🙂 I will be contributing an article soon about specific tips on how to lose weight in Senegal with our paricular circumstances. Hopefully it will be helpful to you and others. As for your daughter, answering those awkward questions can be tough. What more can you say but make a joke and change the subject.

      • Angie.
        Looking forward to your tips and tricks post. BTW… did you actually have Weight Watchers meeting here? Or did you use the online version?

  3. Pingback: Losing weight in Senegal | The Gazelle Skirt

  4. Leslie, I didn’t attend any meetings, just used their online tools in the past, then I found the cheap app that I mentioned in Part 1 of my set of articles on my weight loss journey.

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