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Arianne Brown: Body image is not just a girl thing
When I hear the term body image, my thoughts most often go to young girls. Recently, however, something broadened my view. Body image is not just a girl thing. - photo by Arianne Brown
When I hear the term body image, my thoughts most often go to young girls. I think of these girls wanting to attain what they believe is the perfect body, and I have done my best to teach my own daughters the importance of having a healthy body image.

But something that happened recently broadened my view.

I was downstairs when I kept hearing a loud banging from above. With five boys, I am used to hearing loud footsteps and even jumping, but this sound was different.

I walked upstairs, opened the door to the room my three older boys share, and saw my 11-year-old son, Anderson, lifting weights. He was doing sets of curls, after which he would drop the weights on the floor hence the loud banging sound.

Now, exercise is not new to Anderson. For the past four years, he has been on a club soccer team, he has run many road races with me, and he has recently begun doing speed and agility training with a few weight exercises mixed in as part of his club teams regimen.

However, seeing Anderson lifting weights on his own was out of the ordinary. He is, after all, a normal preteen boy who likes to come home from school or practice and watch TV, play with his brothers and friends, and just veg out something I am perfectly OK with him doing.

So, when I saw him lifting those weights, it was enough to prompt me to ask why.

To my surprise, he held nothing back when he gave his answer, and I was even more taken aback by his response.

The kids at school and on my team tell me Im weak, he said. They say I have noodle arms.

For the first time, I realized body image is a struggle not just for young girls, but for young boys as well.

No, he is not counting calories, checking his waistline or asking me if I think hes fat. And lifting his 10-pound dumbbells in his room may not be a huge cause for concern, but I do need to take the why into consideration.

Lifting those weights had nothing to do with getting faster, stronger or healthier, but it had everything to do with his body image. Anderson didnt want to be called weak.

At that moment, I had to have a talk with my son that I didnt plan on ever needing to have. We talked about healthy exercise versus excessive exercise. We talked about different body types, that there is no perfect body and he need not worry about what other people say about his body because it is just fine the way it is.

I no longer reserve the body image talk for my daughters; now, I've extended it to my sons. And I hope that all my kids will hear the message loud and clear.
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