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Monday, March 29, 2010

Fat is a family affair


Bryn, Caelyn, cousin Emily
I have two beautiful daughters. Caelyn, my oldest, is nine years old. Bryn will be seven on April 12th. They are both intelligent, happy children. Being a mother is probably the single-most wonderful thing in my life. I really don’t want to mess it up!

Bryn is a normal eater 100%. She is a little bitty thing. She eats when she is hungry and stops when she is full. She loves sweets and fattening foods, but she won’t finish them.

Caelyn is like me. Or rather she is like I was at age nine. She is bigger than most of her classmates. She is the tallest girl in her class. She isn’t fat, but she has a little tummy and she is starting to develop a bit. She also loves food. A few months ago she got in trouble for stealing 13 candy bars from the vending machine stock at my office. When I was her age, I used to steal change from my dad’s dresser and go to the neighborhood store and buy candy.

I’ve always tried to encourage my kids to eat well and exercise. They both play sports and are vegetarians. I have talked to them about making sure they are eating because they are hungry. I’ve also told them that only they can decide what to eat. Oftentimes if they will ask for a sweet, I will remind them of something they will be having later and encourage them to decide what they want. For example, if we are going to a birthday party where there will be cake and they want to have a cookie or something earlier in the day, I tell them to choose one or the other. I think that when kids get to make those choices themselves, it teaches them to make good choices when they are adults. I also model regular exercise habits and prepare balanced meals. We seldom eat fast food and their lunches at school are brought from home. We always have lots of fruits and vegetables at home and my girls know they can have them whenever they want. They don’t need to ask for a healthy snack.

I can’t help projecting my own issues on Caelyn. I never say anything about her shape, but I think about it every time I look at her. I don’t want her to become self-conscious or to head down the diet path that I went down. After all, I truly believe that diets are responsible for distorting my relationship with food so much that I now don’t even know what is normal eating and what is abnormal eating. It kills me that I’ve passed on my problem to her.

Even as I write this posting, I wonder if I’ll put it up. I’m truly ashamed of myself for harming my daughter in this way. If I knew specifically what it was that I’ve done, I’d stop, but I don’t. Maybe it is just the result of having a compulsive eater for a mother. If so, I hope that she will see my recovery as a model to follow. My own mother is overweight and has been all of my life. She also tried hard to serve healthful meals in our home. She made pretty much everything from scratch when I was growing up. We seldom had soda or fast food. She even baked homemade French fries in the oven to go with our homemade hamburgers (served on slices of bread instead of buns). We always had salads and another vegetable with dinner. We also ate dinner together at the dinner table every night.

When I was pregnant, I really wanted to have daughters – just like the home I grew up in. I feel so blessed to have such wonderful children. I want them to have peaceful, happy lives. I don’t want either of them to go down this road that I’ve taken.

15 comments:

LDswims said...

I think you are wise to make it their choice as to whether they eat the cookie now or the cake later. The only thing I can advise is that if they want Dorito's, don't let it turn into a guilt thing just to have the desire. Let them have a reasonable serving and move on. When I was a kid, I always wanted Lucky Charms for desert. I was not allowed to have sugary cereals. Not for breakfast, not for desert. I didn't want them for breakfast, I wanted them for desert - and as a desert, they were less sugary than the cookies we baked. When I moved out, I promptly went and bought boxes and boxes of Lucky Charms and proceeded to live on them to make up for all those lost years. I was taught the guilt in that little - "no, that cereal has too much sugar". It should have been, "here's a reasonable serving, enjoy this once a week".

I think there is a fine balance between teaching wise decisions and inadvertently teaching guilt for having the desire. My mom never meant to teach me guilt...but I got it.

Just thought I'd share the story...

Stephanie said...

My daughter is 6 years old and is in the 95th percentile on height and the 83rd in weight, as well. She is 49" tall and 58 lbs at age 6. She is not fat by any means, but I am sort of worried that she has inherited my potential for weight problems. Her BMI for a child her age is 17%. She does not eat traditional junk food, loves fruit, but she does love carbohydrates. Bread and ramen noodles are her favorites. I wonder if I am raising a child set up to have a carb additction at a young age. I don't like the idea of flat out depriving her of certain foods as that only makes them want it more, but I am encouraging her to make better choices, even at this young age. Does that make me a bad mom to be so focused on weight at a young age? I don't harp on it, by any means, but in my mind I can't help but think about it...

workinprogress said...

I think it's something we all worry about. I too have one child who can eat anything and is stick thin and another who has a large frame (but actually doesn't eat that much ?!?!).

I think genetics has a lot to do with it.

I'm not sure what the answer is. All I know is that I don't want them to be obsessed with their weight.

At the moment, my strategy is to have lots of healthy food in the house and get them involved in lots of sports. I don't act like treats are any big deal but I do restrict the amount available.

Parenting should come with a handbook shouldn't it!!

MandaPanda said...

I think this is a worry that all overweight mothers have. I have the same one. My oldest = skinny, normal eater. My youngest = eats anything and everything. We try to only have healthy stuff around the house and we allow the occasional treat. My husband is overweight as well and we worry that we'll be passing this obesity thing on to them. It's also possible that some of it is just genetic...the way they process the food, so one will have a smaller appetite and process the food more efficiently than the other. I'm hoping as we get healthier, the habits will pass on to the kids...they alway say to lead by example and that your kids see what you do more than they listen to you. I'm hoping once I've lost the weight that it's true. I also think that's one of the biggest reasons I want the band...to be a good example for my girls. Like you, I don't want them to feel uncomfortable in their skin or worry about their weight but I do want them to be healthy and happy. Great post!

tessierose said...

You have struck a chord with me again. I have two boys, both boys were normal weight,then got heavy and now have thinned out and are quite slim. When they got heavy everyone was telling me that I should limit their food choices and making me feel terrible, but I knew that they were growing and that's what happens to kids, they bulk up and then they grow taller. I have always tried to have healthy snacks around and to encourage my kids to be active and aware that food is fuel, but I never tell them they can't have something if they say they are hungry. I struggle so much with guilt when it comes to food and for years have binged in secret. I don't want to impart that on my kids. Man, it's so hard to do the right things. Thanks for always making us think!

Bonnie said...

It's so hard because we are hypersensitive about our children's weight. I have 2 daughters (11 and 14). They have both gone thru thin stages and heavier stages. My Mom asked me to go to Weight Watchers with her when I was 12 and I know she had good intentions, but I would not do that to my daughters. I agree with so much of what has already been said above. I try to stress healthy eating and try to avoid saying they CAN'T eat something. I think where I really come up short is being able to exercise with them. My oldest daughter likes to jog, but I can't keep up with her. I'll say that I'll walk, but she doesn't want to walk and will leave me in the dust. I can't wait until I've lost some weight and we can run together. My youngest likes to do Wii, which I can do to an extent, but not for a long time.

Camille said...

This is a great post and I am glad you left it. I have a healthy, happy, skinny 2 year old and I am terrified of passing on any food issues. My mom had me on a diet from age 8 and I had weight problems my whole life as a result. Thanks for some food for thought.

Sherry said...

This post is so poignant for me! One of my biggest fears in life is leaving my daughter a legacy of weight battles. I even went back and forth about the band b/c I knew it meant a lifetime of being conscious about what I put in my mouth and I don't want my daughter thinking that has to be at forefront of her every thought and action too. I don't blame my mother for my weight problem, but I do wish she'd made choices similar to the ones you are making with your daughters. The love was there, just not the insight. I just hope that all of our daughters can live healthily and happily.

THE DASH! said...

I don't have daughters but instead have all sons. Like you, I worry also about them constantly in regards to their eating habits. I am very surprised when I look at them that none of them have ever been overweight. Luck perhaps? I don't know.

I have always tried to make sure they eat right even though I sometimes haven't (just as you have with your girls) and I'm a believer in the fact that once they hit a certain age the basics are there - and they will follow these for life. Just do what you can.. you sound like a wonderful mother :)

Jacquie said...

Yes, what everyone has also said. I think you should continue to do what you are doing and lead by example.

My two girls are 23 and 19 and when my 23 y/o was 13, she started to gain weight. She loved her ice cream,thats for sure! She was eating it every night....when I spoke to her about it she said "well, if you didn't buy it, I wouldn't be eating it!" Out of the mouths of babes, huh? I stopped buying it and instead, we would go out occasionally and buy a single serving.

She told me recently that she was thankful that I brought it up about her weight gain but I didn't harp on it. She ultimately got her weight under control and is now at a healthy weight.

Jess said...

I totally understand your concern. I don't have any kids but I have always thought that when I do I will not let them eat like I was allowed as a child. Binge eating runs in my family from my great grandmother all the way down to me and my siblings. They are all under 20 and most of them are having weight issues already. My granny called us "the gravy family" and that says it all!

Kristin said...

Oh boy Amanda, I could have written your post about my 7-year-old son. He is alwayyyys wanting more dessert, more snacks, more everything. It's so difficult. I'm hoping that being aware of it is half the battle. We talk a lot about food that makes muscles strong. But it is more difficult than I anticipated. I am so concerned for him.

Butterfly said...

You have gorgeous girls. You must be very proud.:)

I'm not a mother but I have a mother who was the major contributor to my lifelong issues with food... and I can say that you have one major thing going for you here, and that is that you have awareness and you consciously don't want to pass on your issues to her. My mother was completely ignorant and actively forced her issues onto me. You are more than halfway there just being mindful..:)

I totally agree with you about diets....

Band Groupie said...

Just your awareness of the food issue is more than most mothers do, so don't be so hard on yourself. I've learned coming from a large family and now having three teens/22 that you can always blame everything on our parents LOL, so get used to that now ;-) I love the 'choices' and it's the main quote I use with my kids 'Life is about choices and the results or consequences of those choices...take chances and learn from each choice you make'.

Girl Bandit said...

OMG...I could have written that post about me and one of my daughters. My mother is slim though and put me on a diet at age 8 which I believed screws with my self image and therefore even when I was a great weight I was never good enough. My youngest is overweight and has some food intolerances but also eats too much. She loves healthy food and I do all I can to mirror good eating habits as you said. It breaks my heart to know that soon she will be teased and I don't know where to go now without ruining her great self esteem. I try to puch the good on them without them rebelling like I did. Today watching her at dancing broke my heart and I don't know what to do....I try and try and don't want to screw her up