It needs to stop: 'Cheat day' lunchbox sends girls wrong message

Photo: Facebook/Sonni Abatta
Photo: Facebook/Sonni Abatta 

When American mum Sonni Abatta came across a pink lunch box with the glittery words CHEAT DAY sewn on it while shopping with her young daughter at a local department store, she was "sickened".

And as a mum to three girls, I share her anger.

"We scratch our heads when we see our little girls struggle with body image, with self worth, with confidence. THIS. This is part of the reason why," Ms Abatta told People magazine.

"Our world is telling our girls that it is 'cheating' if they eat something that's not 100 per cent fat-free and perfectly healthy.

"In turn, that tells them that self-control and denying herself is to be valued above all. And that if she dares to step outside of the foods that will keep her perfectly slim and trim, then she is by default 'cheating' and needs to feel remorse."

I completely understand her fury and applaud her for speaking out. It's important we all keep talking about this important issue.

We need more people calling this crap out – men and women. We need to send a very clear message to marketers and retail outlets to stop selling these harmful messages to our girls.

It's hard work shielding my girls from the onslaught of body negative messages being shouted at them from all corners of the globe.

I'm doing my best to raise girls who don't have a love/hate relationship with their body - who don't despise the way their body looks and who don't spend their life trying to achieve "perfection".

While I struggle immensely with my own weight and body issues, I seldom talk about them with my children. They don't ever see me weigh myself. They don't ever hear me utter the words fat or skinny. I never comment on their body, except to say they look healthy or strong.

I tell them that they must love themselves - that they need to strive for kindness, compassion, intelligence, strength, fearlessness and laughter, not pretty.

So, when I see pink lunchboxes with the glittery words 'CHEAT DAY' emblazoned on them it makes me both sad and angry. Sad, because I know that I can only shield my girls so much from the world around them and angry, for obvious reasons. Restricting food should not be glamourised. Eating something you love is not cheating. Food is not the enemy.

This type of marketing towards girls is damaging. It's working against all the amazing messages of self-love and body acceptance that so many are trying to promote.

There's no place for toddler make-up kits or t-shirts with "honey" and "pretty princess" written across the chest area, nor should girls be asked if their bodies are "beach ready" or encouraged to drink "flat tummy" slimming shakes or wear waist trainers by the Kardashian sisters on Instagram.

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They shouldn't be exposed to magazine racks full of weight loss "success stories", nor should they be bombarded with make-up tutorials on YouTube or girls with fillers, fake eyelashes and breast and lip enhancements posting "make-up free" selfies, layered with filters, on their social media feeds.

Everywhere girls turn there are advertisements for weight loss companies and even girls' kids clothes are sized differently from store-to-store which does nothing for body confidence.

And why are mini-skirts, hip huggers, heeled shoes and midriff tops the norm for little girls?

It all impacts on growing minds. It makes young girls think they have to strive to be skinny to be beautiful, that there's something wrong with their thighs, hips and puppy fat. By the time they're teenagers, they've already been fed a web of lies.

And it needs to stop.

There's no place in this world for body shaming.

We don't want to raise another generation of girls with unhealthy and dangerous body image issues. Do we?

We don't want to raise another generation of boys who think girls should be skinny to be valued. Nor should we raise boys to think they have to be muscly and strong to be attractive.

It's time kids were raised to be healthy and happy and the focus not put on what they looked like, but rather what they've got to say and share with the world.

It's what's on the inside that truly matters and that should be championed every single day.