Our obsession with weight and the affect on our kids

I’ve read a few things recently that have sent my mind a-whirring about this issue. It all started after a recent shopping trip where a visit to some extremely unflattering changing rooms left me full of self loathing. I came home and wrote a post about my post baby body which was really mean (only to myself). I never actually published this post as after a few days of rational thought and normal lighting I realised I didn’t mean all of it and I didn’t like what I had written. It got me thinking about the amount of time I spend worrying about the way I look though.  And it’s not just me, my husband, my friends, my in laws. It’s a frequent topic of conversation and when I really think about it, it’s just so stupid.

I then read this fabulous post from Morgan at Morgan’s Milieu about how she has had enough of fixation on her weight. She quite rightly says that the way you look doesn’t define who you are. I really admire Morgan for stepping off the merry go round. I have tried this attitude before but I always fail to maintain it and soon go back to the dieting and obsessing about the way I look.

I decided not too long ago that I was going to try and focus on being healthy instead and that is going fairly well. Since completing the couch to 5k over the summer I now run 2-3 times a week and I actually enjoy it. I had to miss a run last week as I was poorly and I actually missed it, I never thought that would happen. As much as I try to focus in that I have to admit I have been disappointed that I haven’t lost any weight. According to friends and family, you can see the difference in my shape but not according to the scales. I know I over indulge a bit sometimes but I don’t think my diet is terrible and I had hoped that the exercise would balance things out.

So have you noticed? So much for focussing on being healthy, here I am once again obsessing about my weight and the way I look. It feels almost impossible to break away from. It doesn’t help that on a recent trip to get a repeat prescription for the pill I was warned to lower my BMI as otherwise they’ll have to take me off it. Thanks for that! (I actually hate that we use the BMI as an indicator of healthy weight, as for so many people it is wholly inaccurate as it doesn’t take into consideration your body shape or muscle mass but I digress).

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, growing up I always knew my mum was battling with her weight and she tried various diets and exercise routines so the obsession is hardly a new phenomenon. The trouble for me is that this isn’t what I want for my kids. I don’t want them to go down the same road of self loathing and guilt if they over indulge. But then I also want them to be healthy and don’t want them to always over eat without a care in the world to the point where they cause themselves problems. It’s such a tricky balance.

Monkey starting school has added a new dimension to this. You see it isn’t only us who influence him now,  and he has already started repeating messages he has been told at school. They obviously talk about healthy eating and he has been saying lots of things about how eating too much sugar is bad and we are keeping a close eye on how this affects him as we want to make sure that he understands that everything is ok in moderation.

I read a fantastic post this week on The Parenting Game about the NHS programme of weighing children in schools. It was a guest post from Sam at A Testing Time about the terrible negative effect it had on her perfectly healthy child after he was branded ‘overweight.’ Now I know that Monkey will be weighed at school and honestly I gave it no more thought than when he was weighed as baby and I seriously hadn’t thought about any negative connotations at his age. Now though? I am much more wary and want to make sure I know what is going on and what is being said to him. As with Sam’s child, Monkey is very tall for his age and has always been at the top of the percentile chart as a result. He is very slim though so if they dare to suggest he is anyway unhealthy I will not be happy.

On the whole I do think that encouraging healthy eating and exercise at school is a good thing, but only if it is done in the right way and positively. If the message focuses on the negatives and causes very young children to worry about their weight unnecessarily then it does concern me.

Interestingly I also read a great post from John at Dadbloguk.com about the practice of sweets being handed out at preschool and school for kids’ birthdays. It’s a practice that bugs me too so it really struck a chord. What interested me most though was the way people responded to him on Facebook. Criticising him for being controlling over his kids’ diets. Um, I’m sorry but as parents isn’t it our responsibility to have a level of control over what they eat? John wasn’t saying his kids were never allowed sweets, just that surely it wasn’t the healthiest practice (especially as in his case about 40 kids gave out sweets in a week as a leaving gift when they left preschool, slightly excessive, no?) and that he would like to be the one to choose if/when his kids have sweets rather than having the decision taken out of his hands. What is wrong with that?

I also find this really interesting in relation to Monkey’s school and the fact they clearly have an emphasis on healthy eating. Monkey has only been there a few weeks yet has come home with sweets from a child’s birthday on more than one occasion. On the one hand I don’t worry too much about the occasional bag of sweets, but I don’t really like the choice being taken out of my hands either and it does feel a bit incongruous for the school to allow sweets to be distributed in class, while also clearly giving the kids the message that too much sugar is bad for you.

When Daddy told Monkey he would be having a donut for pudding as part of his school dinner, which we thought would be a nice treat for him, he immediately started saying he didn’t want to eat too much sugar. While I want him to understand the difference between healthy choices and unhealthy ones, he is only 4 and I guess I feel that it’s a bit of a burden when they are so young and feel it should be our responsibility as his parents to worry about this so he doesn’t have to.

Since I started writing this post Monkey has also said at home “fizzy drinks are bad for you” which is a difficult one. We only have sugar free fizzy drinks in our house but they are very much for us, the kids have the occasional sip but they don’t have it on a daily basis as I don’t like the idea of them having a lot of artificial sweeteners as I don’t think we really know the full story about the side effects they may have. As an adult it’s my choice but I’m not making that choice for my kids. I’m digressing again but it’s the point that we don’t want Monkey to necessarily think about foods in terms of good and bad as we really believe that anything in moderation is ok. It’s obviously more complex than that but then if it’s too complex for a 4 year old to understand then maybe they shouldn’t be given that responsibility yet? I don’t know and in truth no-one does, let’s face it one minute fat is terrible for you but now fat is ok and sugar is bad. I don’t always know what the right things are to eat so how can we expect 4 year olds to understand?

I guess though that the difficulty is that not everyone has the same attitude as we do. That for some kids knowing this stuff from a young age may help prevent them from following in the footsteps of parents who perhaps have an unhealthy relationship with food. I mean let’s face it, I struggle with my weight so why do I think I am equipped to prevent my children being the same as I am in years to come?

It’s such a difficult balance and maybe my wanting my kids to not join this merry go round is futile and it’s part of the world we live in. All I can think to do is to try and give them a good example to follow. To eat a varied and balanced diet and to enjoy getting out and exercising. To hope that my kids will follow that example and do the same.

How do you feel about this? Do you worry about your weight? Do you talk about that in front of your kids?

11 thoughts on “Our obsession with weight and the affect on our kids

  1. Firstly, may I thank you for the mention and glad you agree that, as parents, we should have some control over our kids’ diets. I keep an eye on my weight, but I am fortunate that it has never been a problem for me. I should, however, do more to keep fit. Weight is not an issue that is spoken about in front of our kids, but healthy eating is. You are quite correct, my kids do get sweets at home. More so than I’m entirely comfortable with if I’m honest, but they start each breakfast with fruit and have developed a real thing for nuts, particularly pistachio nuts, over recent months. Yes, we could do better, but I know a lot of my daughters’ friends are allowed to eat dreadful foods and drinks. I would hate for my kids to have body confidence issues in later life. I also know such issues can start when kids are very young so I will be watching out for the warning sign.

  2. I keep an eye on my diet but lot mu weight. We actually don’t own any scales in our house and it means we have to go to somewhere like Boots if we’re desperate to know. It kinda helped us obsessing about it and we’ve cut down on things like daily apple crumble and custard (boo!). It’s a hard one isn’t it? #twinklytuesday

  3. Really interesting post. Like most mums I worry about my weight and know I’m not as healthy as I should be but finding the time for sports is difficult. I think it’s a really hard balance to get with kids and you’re raised loads of interesting points. I don’t think it’s futile to try and manage a balance, it sounds like you’re doing really well. Sadly society will have negative influences on our kiddies but we can minimise some of this. I’m not sure I think weighing kids is the best way to do things at school. I think it’s great they talk about healthy eating. They can make healthy tasty things, get kids moving around and wanting to be active but I don’t think comparing them on such a course marker is the best approach. #thetruthabout

  4. I do worry that the way I feel about myself rubs off on my children, but for me it’s not entirely about weight. I just don’t have time to make an effort with my appearance and that combined with being overweight does make me worry a bit. My mum also calls me fat in front of my children and it has rubbed off, with my eldest telling me not to eat certain things because I’ll get fatter. I tell her that she mustn’t say that to other people because it’s unkind but equally, I like the fact she has an awareness of what is good for her and what isn’t.
    Nat.x

  5. we try and eat relatively healthy and get out for walks whenever possible, but try to emphasize that it’s so that we stay healthy, not to stay skinny. Its a delicate balance between wanting them to learn healthy habits, but not be overly concerned with their looks. Great post #truthabout

  6. I think this is so hard as you worry about what you say and how you discuss healthy eating. We try to say no food is “bad” but the grem knows she only gets a small treat a day like a small Frozen lolly or a bit of scone etc. She has to eat some fruit and her meat and veg as these help her grow. It’s still really tough though and she knows I’m the one in charge when it comes to food!!! xx #twinklytuesdays

  7. I have to say that my kids eating habits don’t seem to have changed at all since starting school although I’m not sure how much ‘healthy eating’ is addressed as I’ve never really been aware of them talking about it. I got speaking to a dad at the hotel we stayed in during the summer who said his kids would only drink water since being at school and he couldn’t understand it but I was jealous quite frankly! My kids are only allowed to drink water at school but at home they would never be satisfied if I gave them water. I have the mixed blessing of having a pretty fast metabolism so even though I’ve got the whole ‘mum tum’ thing going on (unavoidable!) I don’t generally obsess over my weight or talk about it in front of the kids. That said I wish I had more time/energy for exercise because I think it would be great to model a really healthy lifestyle to them. Good luck with reducing the obsession (do you read Wit Wit Woo blog? I love her Slimming World updates – she’s developed the most amazing attitude to healthy living and everything in moderation although she does have the benefit of not having small children any more though!) and well done for getting into running. Thanks for linking up! #thetruthabout

  8. Completely agree in regards to children, that we should make sure they have a healthy balanced diet. A bag of sweets or the odd chocolate bar here and there is fine, but again I agree with not over doing it. My little one isn’t in school yet so I can’t personally comment, however my niece who is now 10 years old, from the age of 6-9 years old became very conscious about what she was eating. At home her mum would offer her a cup of juice or a cupcake and she would say ‘we can’t have that its unhealthy for us school said’. Now I’m all for promoting a healthy diet, but kids are kids and I really don’t like that pressure on them at the young age. Innocence after all.
    I am a naturally small, slim woman. Which to many is seen as ‘lucky’ however despite media ‘promoting’ this image I am hugely unhappy within myself – not so much now as I am pregnant, but normally I worry I look too skinny. That people make comments that I have nothing to complain about etc. I don’t think it matters whether you are perfect weight, underweight, overweight – pressures are everywhere unfortunately. That’s the age we live in now. It’s just up to us as people to ensure we uplift, encourage and support those around us – being our child, peers or family.
    Thanks for the thought provoking post. #bestandworst

  9. I’ve always tried hard to ensure that Grace understands what a healthy diet is – and that she also needs to exercise. I have regularly been on a diet over the past year but explained that it is to help us have a baby. I haven’t been fixated about my weight – just my health. So I hope that has helped her! x #TheTruthAbout

  10. This is such an interesting post and a really difficult topic. I’m overweight myself and, subsequently, feel quite paranoid about my son becoming overweight. He is a fairly healthy child but is very tall for his age, stocky but by no means overweight or fat. However, I live in fear of the letter from the school telling me he is overweight as I will take it really personally (coz lets be honest, overweight kids almost always have overweight parents. Like me…)

    Anyway, all I can do in the meantime is try to get him to eat as healthily as he can (which is does, he loves fruit thankfully!) and keep an eye on him. My husband is slim and I was never overweight as a child so hopefully he’ll be fine xx

    Thanks for sharing xx #bestandworst

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