Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Perils of Navigating Dieting Lifestyle Changes While Raising Little Girls

So, this article gave me quite the sad, and a bit of rage-face as well.

Mom Puts 7-Year-Old on a Diet in the Worst Vogue Article Ever

Be warned, it could be a bit triggering for both both eating disorders and child abuse.  The article basically outlines how this woman was concerned about her somewhat chubby seven-year-old and instead of taking a reasonable route like buying some healthier snacks and maybe putting the kid into dance lessons or team sports, she decided to send her kid on the path to a life-time of disordered relationships with food by putting her on a strict diet and brow-beating and shaming said kid for going off said diet.

And then selling her story to Vogue.

Little girls are under so much pressure from such a young age.  I have to wonder how much we help perpetuate it.  Hell, half the time we aren't even cognizant of the way the media constantly picks at us and tells us how we can be thinner, younger, smoother, and all other manner of adjectives, so how do we know when we are pushing these same unrealistic ideals on our daughters and more importantly how do we cushion them against the same toxic messages when we DO recognize them?

This is something I've struggled with along my weight-loss journey.  I try to recognize what kind of messages about self-image and self-worth I am sending to my daughters, who are at the particularly vulnerable ages of 8 and 10.  The way I negotiate my own weight-maintenance can have long-reaching effects on their own relationships with food and their bodies.

I try to be mindful about emphasizing how I want to feel, that is, healthier and more confident.  I hate when they see me weigh myself, and I tend to wear a pokerface if they are around, regardless of whether I like the number I see or not. In a house full of girls, privacy in the bathroom hasn't been a huge issue so sometimes they will walk in while I weigh myself.  Point being, I don't want them to get the idea that whether or not I have a good day or bad is tied in with whether I am feeling fat that day.

When dealing with food choices I try to always speak in terms of some foods being 'better for you' rather than relying on a 'good/bad' dichotomy.  I don't want them to feel guilt for having treats, or to berate themselves for not always choosing the 'healthy' option.  I do enjoy the idea of 'sometimes' foods.

If I have to restrict them on some items (for example, we can have cookies.. but we're not going to have six cookies in a day) I don't EVER frame restriction in terms of the "EFF" word (eep.. FAT!) because I want to keep them from worrying about their weight as soon as humanly possible.  Instead, I'll limit them to two or three a day because "Mommy isn't made of money and can't go buying cookies all the time!"

Financial insecurity is better than Body image insecurity, isn't it?  I sure hope so.  I'd rather see them grow up annoyingly cheap than with a life-threatening eating disorder.

I love my mom to death, but I will acknowledge that watching her struggle with her weight as I grew up, as well as the on-going concerns for my own health that were often expressed, not maliciously mind you, in terms of my weight when the real concern was not how much I ate, but the fact that I ate shit, did a number on both my body image and my relationship with food.  And I have tied a lot of my self-worth in with my weight.  I didn't totally internalize it, but I did spend a lot of time under the impression that I was A) grossly fat and that B) this meant I was a less worthy human being.

Just to clarify, because like I said, my mom is awesome and I don't want to pin it all on her.  She never said I was less worthy because I was overweight, but that is how I felt.  The truth is, these are the kinds of messages we are bombarded with every single day so that even many people who don't have a 'weight problem' per se see themselves as potentially fat, which to some is a fate worse than death.

No seriously.

Bea Beautiful posted about a woman a while ago who cited 'getting fat' as her worst fear.  Worse than shark attacks, worse than giant spiders, worse than being bludgeoned to death by an friggin' axe murderer.

That, my friends, is some fucked up, if y'all will pardon my French.

This is what I want to avoid for my children.  I don't want them to fear getting fat.. not because it 'won't ever happen' to them because it totally could.  But if it ever does, I want them to know they are still worthy human beings.  Whether we all here succeed on our respective journeys to lose weight and/or be healthier we are all worthy human beings and deserve to love ourselves as we are and as what we become in the future.

I want my girls to know that they are worthy, no matter their size and I think the longer I can keep them from thinking negatively about their body and reinforcing that they are beautiful inside and out, then maybe the idea of unconditional worth will stick with them.

I can only hope.


  1. Your post really struck home today. Thank you for this! This is a great post about children and diets! I make sure to speak of food in terms of additives and unnatural things rather than calories and fat content. I always have veggies and fruits on hand for snacks and I don't make sweets a big deal. I allow them and tell them that every thing in moderation is okay.

  2. Wow... What a sad example of parenting, raising her little girl by making her feel ashamed. Thank you for your post.

  3. Preach!

    Girl, I am with you 100% on this. My girls are only 3 and 4, but already I worry about presenting a positive body image to them. Most of the time I tell myself I'm doing so well with my lifestyle change that within the next year I'll reach my goal weight, and then I'll be better able to handle weight issues with my girls. I know that's not really accurate. I think a lot of that thinking has to do with me not wanting my girls to see mommy as fat or unhealthy. Does that insecurity ever go away??