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?