A Weighty Topic
I recently heard dreaded words come out of my 7-year-old daughter’s mouth, “I think I’m fat.”
Anxiety coursed through my veins upon hearing this and questions swirled in my brain: Where is this coming from? Has she heard me say this about myself? Have I somehow managed to unknowingly pass along my baggage around weight issues to her?
I asked her, “Honey, what would make you say such a thing about yourself?” She couldn’t explain. She just looked down at her stomach and casually moved onto other conversations with her siblings. I didn’t want to pry too hard or make it a giant issue, but as someone who has struggled with positive body image my entire life, her comment was a trigger.
When I had my twin girls, I promised myself that I would not allow my poor body image to taint them and I would try my hardest to not put myself down in front of them.
I come from a family of weight fluctuators, so sporadic and yo-yo dieting has been my M.O. for a good portion of my life.
Since my children have become old enough to pick up on messages and words, I try very hard to avoid negative words around weight and size. Instead, I always make a point to say things like, “I’m just trying to stay healthy and get stronger.”
I want my words to come across to them as I’m taking care of my body rather than focusing on what I look like.
Does this mean all of my body image issues have vanished? Absolutely not.
It just means that I am trying my hardest to build a positive body image for my own children so I can spare them the roller coaster I’ve been on for most of my life. Looking in the mirror is a daily struggle, but I constantly remind myself that my body is amazing. It grew not one, but two sets of twins in a span of eighteen months. It endured several rounds of fertility treatments before being blessed with our first set of twins.
I need to thank my body rather than nitpick its imperfections.
I’ve recently been sorting through old photographs and found pictures of myself at my thinnest and most fit—my late 20’s. (I’m 42 now.) It astounds me as I look at the photos that I was still so self-conscious and critical of the way I looked. It reminds me of all the memes out there that say things like, “I wish I were as skinny as when I thought I was fat.”
I wish I had learned to better appreciate my body back then as I have started to now. It’s still a journey and on every journey, there are setbacks and moments of weakness, but we continue onward.
When it comes to food choices for my kiddos, I always try to point them to healthy snack options, but I’m also very aware of being, as a friend once referred to it as “the food police.”
I know for myself that being deprived of a certain food or foods can sometimes lead to binging or eating in secret. And, if I am to be completely honest, as a mom of 2 sets of twins ages 9 and 7, I’m sometimes just too exhausted to have the snack fight, especially in these COVID times when I am not only a mom but also a teacher to them 3 days per week.
At the beginning of quarantine, each child had a bin and could choose a certain number of snacks to last through the entire day. This came about because my patience was on thin ice, and hearing the words, “Can I have a snack?” multiple times a day was wearing on me.
It worked for a while, but even though it faded out, I do think it gave the kids a better grasp of how many snacks and what types of snacks are appropriate. I am lucky in that 3/4 of my kids are good eaters and are willing to try new meals and regularly eat fruits and veggies.
The fussy eater is my challenge. It is tough getting her to eat the food groups she needs and steering her away from the junk, but like anything else, it’s a work in progress, and my husband and I just keep trying.
This is a hard time we are living in and it’s even harder on our children.
I know that food has certainly comforted me during this time of isolation and deviation from our “normal” lives. I know that this is part of why my kiddos are focusing on snacks. They are home most of the time and when they’ve exhausted their at-home activities, the snacks are there.
There’s a lot to unpack with issues regarding food and weight, especially since our society is so strongly influenced by the media images we see and compare ourselves to. I feel like starting to talk about these topics as they come up with a healthy and honest approach is necessary rather than brushing them under the rug to fester and perhaps turn dark as they get older.
In conclusion, as a result of recent conversations in our household, self-reflection, and evaluating how food figures into our home, I have set some goals for 2021:
- Continue to monitor my own language around weight and fitness.
- Be more vigilant around snack choices and about what types of foods I’m bringing into our home.
- Make sure there are physical activities for the whole family to participate in.
- Continue to reinforce to my children everything that makes them special and amazing and that they are loved and appreciated, because that is what they need most of all.