Maria Shriver & Cameron Diaz Talk To Moms & Daughters About Body Image

Cameron-Diaz

As part of her new role as the Today show’s women’s issues correspondent, Maria Shriver will be talking a lot about body image amongst young girls. Since actress Cameron Diaz just released her ‘Body Book’ they two decided to team up for a special report on how mothers affect the way their daughters view their bodies.

Are mothers a help or hindrance? Do generational differences have a huge part to play in the messages that get passed down?

Maria and Cameron sat down with a focus group and talked about these issues.

Cameron’s book is all about getting to know your body in ever level: spiritually, physically, and emotionally and using her advice as a tool to better your understanding of yourself. Of course she shares her own experiences, including how she had severe acne on her face for most of her young adult life.

“I literally had 50, I’m not exaggerating, 50 cystic acnes all over my face,” she said. “You come to the place of starting to think, ‘What is this really doing? If it’s doing that to my face, what is it doing to my innards?’”

The feature was part of the ‘love your selfie’ series on Today, and they wanted to dig deeper into how a mother’s behavior can influence her daughter.

“The answer of how we can be who we want to be and who we’re meant to be is really having the knowledge of knowing what’s going on within our bodies,” said Diaz, 41.

Cameron said she wrote her book about building a healthier, stronger body because she believes “there is not one generation yet of mothers who have raised their daughters understanding the actual science of their bodies.”

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One of the mothers, Dana, 51,  says the best advice she gave to her daughters was not to be an emotional eater like her. Her daughter, Emily, 23, says “I was taught always, always, from day one, that beauty comes from within.”

While it is interesting to see the different perspectives, Cameron says it has to go even deeper on a scientific level when mothers teach daughters about their bodies.

“There is not one generation yet of mothers who have raised their daughters understanding the actual science of their bodies.”

A Today survey found that 57 percent of mothers worry about how their body image impacts their children, while 45 percent of women ages 16 to 21 felt a parent’s body image affects how they feel about their own bodies. So it is not just a media problem, but a family problem.

Charlotte Alter wrote an article in Time magazine admitting that when her mother told her she was getting a little fat as a 12 year old, it was the best advice she had ever been given. Sounds a little shocking? It wasn’t intended to be a general statement for all women out there.

“The conversation around young girls and weight is so fraught that many mothers avoid having it altogether, or opt for gauzy platitudes about unconditional love. But girls aren’t stupid, and tip-toeing around the body talk just reinforces the idea that weight is some kind of all-powerful force to be reckoned with…My mother decided to name the demon and teach me how to deal with it, which demystified the weight loss process and made it a lot less scary.”

She goes on to cite a study which found more young girls’ self image are influenced by their mothers, than the media, so for Charlotte her mothers words were held dear.

“Body-image theorists are right that we as a society need to develop a greater acceptance of different body types, but my mother wasn’t concerned with society, she was concerned with me.”

But she is an anomaly in that her mother had positive intentions. She genuinely wanted her daughter to feel her best and used that comment as a way to follow through with actions that showed a healthy lifestyle meant more happiness and less self-loathing.

We can’t all be so lucky, however. For those girls whose mothers haven’t been the best influence, of course you would look to other, more powerful messages of communication (the media) for some sort of reinforcement, right? There isn’t just one answer for all, like one size fits all. It is a matter of being aware of the issue within a family dynamic and finding the best solution for your needs.

Some say “never talk about dieting!” but there are more children at risk today of heart disease and diabetes. If that is your child, your solution would be different from, say the mother who is trying to encourage her painfully shy daughter to try a team sport to overcome her insecurities.

The conversations in the video below are eye-opening and should be used as a guide to talk openly about body image.

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