Weighty Discussions

I've been doing a lot of pondering on the subject of weight and fitness lately. It seems a lot of my friends are too, and some are starting to write about it, so I thought I'd join the conversation. We have all had such diverse experiences, and I think we can all benefit from hearing different perspectives. This is obviously a huge issue, not just in our personal lives, but in our culture, so maybe we can have some good discussions in the blog-world and when the opportunity arises in whatever real-life circles we're involved in, we can make a difference for the next generation of girls.
I remember that age so well that I really don't like to remember it, if that makes any sense. It's what I remember from that stage that I wish I could block out, because I don't remember conversations about weight or beauty so much as I remember my Mom trying fad diets, or the "magic" diet pills of the moment, I mean it's not her fault, this was kind of the beginning of the era of the latest and greatest quick-fixes. When they worked I remember her wanting to share my clothes, and I was mortified by that. I thought it was SO wrong for a 12yr old to be the same size as a 30 something year old. Wrong as in, I thought something was wrong with ME. I must be fat if my mom who is twice my age can wear my clothes. That's the message I was getting from it. I think my parents would've handled my emotions about it a lot differently if they knew where they stemmed from. The idea of sharing clothes with my mom wasn't fun to me like they thought it would be. Since I didn't have a sister close in age, I am sure that they came at it from the stand point that "Isn't it fun to share clothes with Mom?!" and when I would say "No, it's not" I'd get a lecture of some sort about how they paid for those clothes and if my mom wanted to wear them she had more right than I did to them, blah blah blah. I realize that they weren't really hearing me at the time and I don't know that we've ever had a real adult discussion about it, but there are a lot of things that I would do differently, since I didn't really start expressing myself verbally more clearly until later, I'm sure I could've written a letter explaining my feelings a lot better and they would've 'got it' no problem. Hindsight. From those experiences I learned a lot about how I wanted to address things with my own kids someday, some of those things we are implementing in our house right now, starting with how FAT doesn't really dwell in our home.
  1. FAT-TALK: There are a few phrases and words that we don't really use in our dialogue with the girls around and even when they aren't. I don't describe people as fat and I try not to talk about myself being fat, because I don't ever want to hear them say "so and so is fat", or "did you see that guy? he is so fat". Just typing it makes my stomach turn. Really. When we talk, Steve and I make a conscious effort to use words that are a bit kinder I guess, and that we feel don't give off the same negative connotations, words like "bigger". For kids I think it's a word that isn't as crushing to the self esteem if it's used towards them and understanding wise, I think all they need to understand is that some kids are bigger than other kids. I don't attach certain foods to fat because I don't want my girls to judge people and say "they must be fat because they ate this". I also don't want them to feel like they can't eat certain things for fear that they'll become fat from it. We also talk about gaining and losing weight in our house, not "I'm getting so fat" or "I am so skinny" or "I am too fat" etc...
  2.  FAT IS NOT A FEELING: There is no phrase in our culture that I hate more than the phrase "I FEEL FAT". It doesn't make sense. How does fat feel? Lonely. At least that's what all the fat people on reality tv say. If I feel bloated or gross or gassy or whatever, I try to express it that way, so that my kids pick up on those words and how to use them and what they describe. I don't want to hear them say that they "feel fat" as they grow up. If I ever say it I hope someone gives me a gut check in that moment.
  3. FAT ISN'T WRONG: I think our society projects that fat is wrong and skinny is right. Only one side is ever really put out there for our kids to see and it's confusing. Some people binge and purge to become skinny. Some people obsess over caloric intake and kill themselves in the gym everyday. Some people eat to cope with their feelings. Some people have parents who hand them some cash for lunch everyday, instead of providing them with a good bag lunch to take to school. Some people are on medications that make them retain water. For example, my mom babysits a little boy Kalea's age who was put on medication for seizures, so he went from being around 30lbs to 50lbs pretty quickly. He goes to preschool in our neighborhood. If I were to ever hear a kid call him fat I would want to smack them upside the head because he isn't normally, he just has a health issue that could kill him, so the lesser of the two evils is that he be a little chubbier right now than other kids his age. To me it screams ignorance to teach our kids that if they see someone who is bigger than them, they must be that way because they eat too much or play too many video games or watch too much tv and don't get any exercise etc... It's wrong for us as parents to think those things in our heads about kids or adults too, it's more wrong for us to neglect to inform our kids of all the things that can affect the body in positive and negative ways. I'd rather my kids not be judging people based on their size/appearance and I'd rather not be the one to teach them how to do that, instead I would love for them to learn to look for attributes in people that they admire, regardless of size/weight, if they can do that, the world is their oyster.
  4. FAT FOODS: I don't stock my house with snack food/junk anymore. GASP. This has been a gradual process over the last year, but really the only snack food/junk that I have in my house on a regular basis are nachos and ice cream. We don't make a habit of dessert in our house, but when we do have it the kids are SO excited and when we don't, they don't notice. The other good thing about this is, if I want an after-I-put-the-kids-to-bed-snack, I either have to make it myself or go out and buy it. Tight budget and lack of motivation around 8pm means that usually I lose the battle and end up eating yogurt or fruit, or if it's been a real crazy day, I have both. Kalea this week has been caught writhing around on the couch/floor expressing how badly she needs a snack. There are usually some grapes and cheese sitting on the table waiting for her tantrum to be finished and for her to notice them. I think this is a revolt against me for not having sugar foods readily available to her. I still buy fish crackers and animal crackers, but I don't buy fruit snacks or any other sugar laden snacks anymore, and if I do, they are the ones that all the "experts" say "if you're going to buy fruit snacks, buy these ones". We have a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables in our house now and I like it. Kalea's favorite snack is now apples. If you come over, you will notice that there are various stages of decomposing apple cores strewn throughout our house- she's still trying to figure out what to do with those. Every morning the kids split a banana as soon as they get to the kitchen. I think it's important to have these types of things on hand and I do admit I haven't always been so gung-ho about it, but it really does affect how my kids behave. My kids aren't "calm" children by any means to begin with, so adding a whack load of sugar and dyes to their diet really doesn't do anything for me as the Mom who has to deal with them. I also find that when they are more loaded up on these things, they are slightly mean to each other and less likely to engage in activities that they really enjoy like coloring/painting or even playing in the backyard. Steve has a super sweet tooth but he's been really good at cutting back too and I think we are all a lot better for it. Our kids still get their fair share of sugary stuff and we're not super strict about it, but I'm noticing that Kalea is starting to make healthy choices on her own, for example, when Steve and I got back from our weekend away I had some leftover gummy snakes so one afternoon I asked the kids if they'd like some, Brynlee was all over it but Kalea just cocked her head to the side and said "Um, nope. I want an apple please" and she was dead serious, she wouldn't even take the candy from me when I held it out to her? I'm still shocked.
  5. FITNESS: While we were in Banff Steve and I discussed my new-found motivation to work out, and I finally figured out why I'm so committed to it this time. I am finally realizing that I don't care so much about what size I wear or how much I weigh- although those numbers decreasing is a good indication of my progress. I really care that my girls see me making a physical effort to move my body regularly because that's a healthier message than seeing me pop a bunch of pills or eating ridiculous amounts of lettuce- please don't let Kalea remember the HCG diet! Haha I don't know if it's all the pressure I had to be a good example for my siblings growing up, but lately the desire is ENORMOUS for me to provide my girls with a good role model for health&fitness in our home and, being the parent that's home with them most I believe it's up to me to be that person. Newsflash, working out everyday is not something that has been up there on my to-do list, um, ever, so this is new for me. But it's good and it's fun to try not to kick them when I'm doing a kick-boxing interval, or to have someone to hand me my weights when I need them, who doesn't love assistance? Also, Kalea loves to tell me "Good job Mom!" or more recently "I'm so proud of you!" while I am dripping sweat, so that's pretty motivating. I am really hopeful that these good habits are here to stay because I am feeling a lot of positive side effects already.
Anyways, these are just the things that we've found a lot easier to do for our own family. Everyone is different and approaches things in different ways, but Steve and I have been very deliberate about certain things and I think it's paying off already. We talked about it again tonight and how warped societies view of fat vs. thin really is. We laughed about the fact that Steve is more prone to call himself fat than I am, which is true I am constantly telling him that he is not fat at all, he's just not toned- huge difference and what does it matter anyway? I am making a much more concerted effort to practice "positive self-talk" and "positive others-talk" and I am sure it's paying off now and I think that's the kind of thing that my girls will be grateful for down the road.
Next Time: Body Talk, past, present, future
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    Sheri said...

    So many great thoughts and ideas to really consider.
    I too never use the word "fat" or even talk about weight especially around my kids and I was shocked when my daughter mentioned getting fat from eating too much and "making you as big as a giant". I finally figured out that she had been with my Mom when she was eating Jenny Craig food for the latest diet. I am glad that I too am trying to instill a slightly different attitude/message in my daughter then what was portrayed to me!

    The Staheli's said...

    I read this while driving home from California and it prompted a good discussion. It's interesting how much we took away from what our mothers were doing concerning weight and food when we were young. It's certainly a good reminder to be careful of our choices...and not to judge others on theirs. Thanks. :)