Growing up, I had a mom who loved me with food. When we were happy we would celebrate with food, when we were sad we would comfort ourselves with food, when it was Christmas she would bake cookies. I was never fat as a kid, I ran around like a banshee and climbed the tallest trees. I never understood how to diet because dieting was never something that was discussed in my house. When I was older I started dancing and decided the best way to lose weight was by existing on Saltine crackers and Diet Coke. When I was older than that, I decided the best way to lose weight was not to lose weight and to totally not give a fuck anymore. I’m not saying that my method now is good or healthy or right, but it’s where I am at present. I wonder if I had been taught how to deal with my weight like Charlotte Alter‘s mother taught her if my years and years of starvation and weight gain and weight loss and disordered eating and binging and vomiting wouldn’t have defined me for the majority of my life.
When she was 12, Charlotte writes on Time.com that:
“I don’t want you to freak out,” my mother told me one morning when I was 12, “but I think you may have put on a little bit of weight.”
“It’s only 3 or 4 pounds, and it’s not the end of the world,” she said. “It happens to everyone. I’ll help you figure it out.”
Her mom’s solution was that she cut out desserts for two weeks and run a few laps around the park every night. Charlotte claims that this gave her the tools she needed to deal with gaining a few pounds here and there throughout her life, and that it’s vastly different than the advice of Leslie Sim of the Mayo Clinic who told USA Today that she recommends “zero talk about dieting, zero talk about weight.”
Her mom felt that Charlotte was sad about her weight gain, and gave her practical solutions to deal with it. I see nothing wrong with that, and it may be a better solution than how I have always addressed weight issues with my own kids, by telling them they are perfect no matter what. The same things my own mother told me no matter what I weighed.
One day my nine-year-old daughter asked me if she had “fat thighs.” She doesn’t, she skews on the underweight side as far as her growth percentile chart at the pediatrician’s office is concerned. She isn’t alarmingly underweight, but she takes after her father who has the metabolism of a hummingbird and has always been skinny. It upset me that she was worried about this already at such a young age, but I know it isn’t uncommon.
I’m a horrible role model when it comes to this entire topic. I don’t know how to talk about weight and dieting because the idea of my own kid growing up how I have, with this giant pile of self-loathing and angst and insecurity and disordered behavior scares me to death. I never want her to be at either end of where I have found myself throughout my life, either calculating the exact calories in half of a yogurt or throwing up her hands and having another cupcake because losing weight seems pointless. I don’t know a single adult woman who has a truthfully healthy relationship with food, who eats mindfully and joyfully, who can exist on kale and skinless chicken breasts and quinoa and then skip desserts for a few weeks and run around the park in order to lose weight. I don’t know these women, I am not this woman.
I think the majority of women I know grow up either with a parent who told them they are perfect no matter what they weighed, or with a parent who poked them in the side and signed them up for Weight Watchers when they felt they weren’t. Maybe having just an honest and practical discussion about the whole thing is the right way to go. Charlotte writes in her article:
The mystical amulets of “self-love” and “inner beauty” sound nice and progressive, but they’re little comfort during a meltdown in the bathing suit store. And these ephemeral ideas leave girls stranded between two worlds, unsure whom to trust; their mothers who say they’re perfect just the way they are, or a world that tells them otherwise. Eventually it becomes too exhausting to maintain total acceptance of the way we look, and the “self-love” gets drowned in a wave of self-doubt fueled by everything from the media to the kids at school.
I want my own kids to have these mystical amulets. I don’t know how and why we have gotten to this point in this great big world where being fat or even slightly overweight is seen as the worst thing. My own personal beliefs and views are that I like how people are different, I like how people are different sizes. My own aesthetic principals are that I don’t see weight as being a determining factor in someone’s physical attractiveness. More so than that, I just really don’t care what someone weighs. If a person is happy with their weight I do not care. Anything health related to their weight is between themselves and their doctor. It’s not my business.
But when it comes to my own kids, I want them to have a healthy relationship with their body and with their own dealings with food and weight. I never want them to have weight issues that affect their health. I never want them to feel like they are struggling with how to love themselves because of what the number on the scale says or how their pants fit.
And I never want them to have this “dressing room meltdown.”
It’s a tricky businesses, coupling talks about weight and fitness and health along with inner beauty and self-love. I don’t know how to do it, because I was never taught how. If being honest and practical with my own kids about these things is the right way to parent them in regard to issues of weight, I’m willing to give it a try. I’ll do anything to keep them from the unhealthy and dangerous relationships I have had in my own life in regard to what the number on the scale says.