Oh ho ho, see what I did there with the title? You don’t yet, but you will in a second, and you’ll understand why I hate myself.
If you follow me on Twitter or you followed my old blog, you know I’ve been on a diet for a while. It’s been pretty successful. I don’t really want to get into the hows and whys of the success, because, I don’t know, it was just a combination of health stuff and just hitting the point of ready to be on a diet. Kind of like quitting smoking. I halfheartedly tried to do it a bunch of times, but one day I was just actually ready to do it, so I did. So now I’m a non-smoker (6 years now!) and I have also lost 40 lbs over the last 6 months.
I haven’t found it difficult to lose the weight – that is, the diet that finally clicked for me isn’t one I find super challenging and it doesn’t make me sad. I don’t feel starved or deprived and I’m generally doing all right with it. It’s called keto, and there’s tons of information out there if you’re interested, but basically it’s super low carb, which automatically means it’s not for everyone. I absolutely do not think extreme low carb is sustainable for everyone or even most people. For me, though, just a week or two into it made it very clear how my body deals with carbs: poorly and in huge amounts. It’s worked well for me, and that’s that.
So here’s the thing. I have a kid, right, like a ton of you do. And I’m conscious about her health. I’m aware of the childhood obesity crisis. I’m also aware of how fraught weight issues can be for young adults and adult adults and how much of that can start from what you see and hear when you’re younger. I’m not concerned about Penny’s actual weight number right now – she’s a healthy weight for her age and size, she’s super active, gets plenty of running around every day along with organized physical activity. She eats a standard four year old diet – not exactly what a nutritionist would assert is necessary, but it’s not entirely candy and air. She’s got good eating habits, too. She stops when she’s full, no matter what she’s eating, and drinks plenty of water throughout the day. As far as feeding her goes, I’d say we’re doing solidly average as parents.
For a long time, I was really careful not to say the word “diet” around her. I don’t think it’s wrong for her to know I’m on a diet to lose weight, but she doesn’t see my body as anything but her mother’s body, so I didn’t know quite how to frame “mine isn’t okay but don’t worry about yours and if yours ever looks like mine it’s not anything to feel bad about except maybe you might want to lose weight because my body is not an exactly ideal situation but whatever happens you are still an absolutely fine person with no moral failings related to food because that is not actually a thing even though I kind of feel like it’s a thing for me but you’re a blank slate on this front so let’s not put ideas in your head.” Basically, overthinking it entirely to the point where I just said nothing.
She is a nice kid, so she offers to share her food a lot. “Look, Mama, I have two M&Ms, one for me and one for you.” And I’d say, “Oh, no thank you, I’m not hungry right now, but that’s nice of you.” Or she’d say, “Mama, look, Daddy got pizza for all of us, come have some with me,” and I’d say, “I don’t feel like eating pizza right now, I’m going to have this chicken.” And I’m fine with the chicken, I really am. My lack of pizza is not the issue. Sometimes I’d say I don’t like this food or that food, or I don’t feel like eating right now, or that I try not to eat when I’m not hungry but maybe later.
I think, though, at some point, Phil told her “Mama isn’t going to eat that because she’s on a diet.” Or she heard me say something to him, or something like that. Now she has questions. Not super deep ones or anything. Just like, “We’re having pizza, are you having some?” No, I’m not going to have pizza. “Is it because you’re on a diet?” I just don’t… I don’t want pizza. “Do you like pizza when you’re not on a diet?” No — I mean, yes — I mean, I DON’T KNOW.
STOP ASKING ME ABOUT PIZZA.
She said something the other night like, “I don’t have to be on a diet like you because I’m a healthy girl.” And I said something stupid, probably, and half-stuttered in response like, “Right, you’re very healthy, and I want my body to be healthy, too.”
The thing is, I know it’s my responsibility to teach her about making healthy choices and all of that, but the whole thing is so fraught with kids. I mean, they don’t know it’s so fraught, yet, but I do, and it’s been on my mind a lot. It’s very possible – very likely even – that I’m entirely over thinking this. And I think part of my issue has to do with the fact that my diet is so extreme. I don’t know when I’m supposed to start talking to her about maintaining a healthy, active body. I don’t exactly know how to do that in a way that doesn’t place a value on weight, or in a way that won’t make my words stick in her head if she does put on some pounds through puberty or as an adult. I know a lot of us can remember the exact words and phrases and expressions of our own mothers in these situations, and even knowing full well it wasn’t meant to be something mean or that stuck in your head forever, you still hear the exact tone and inflection whenever something to do with your own body comes up.
It’s especially difficult because if I talk about my diet with her, I want it tied strictly to health, because justifiably or not, I am totally all right with myself otherwise, as a person and as a parent (well, you know, as much as you can be all right with yourself as a parent) and all kinds of other things. I am basically my favorite person. So in talking about what I eat for my health, I run into the particular problem of my diet – just about everything I turn down or don’t eat or say “no, thank you” to is stuff she enjoys the hell out of. It would be one thing if it was cookies and cake and ice cream, and I could say to her that I’m just not having those once in a while treats that you have. But it’s bread and potatoes and corn and pizza and bananas and tons of stuff that she loves to eat and there’s no problem at all with her eating them. I don’t want her to think her favorite foods are something negative she should avoid if she wants to be healthy. And that’s not even really getting into the whole thing about talking to a four year old about weight in a way that doesn’t give her a negative self-image or a negative attitude toward weight in general.
I said this isn’t a heavy post up there because I don’t think it has to be. I think if this is on my mind, plenty of parents are running into the same issue or have run into it and dealt with it before. I don’t really know if there are any answers that work for every situation and every kid, and it’s more something you have to come to on your own, so really this was just a pointless meandering ramble like most of the stuff I put here, but my own pointlessness aside, I’d kind of just like to know if this is something that’s come up in your home now or in the past, how you’re dealing with it, or generally just what you think about the whole issue of raising healthy kids, both physically and mentally, when food and diet issues are alive in the household. Even if it’s this same kind of rambling baloney about your own ideas or situation. It’s been on my mind a lot lately, and I just feel like talking about it.