I was going to post about something completely different today but then I read this post here and it got me thinking. It’s about girls and food and body image. Between the post and the comments I started thinking about my relationship with food and my body image and especially the fact that I too now have a girl. As Jill at Scary Mommy says, “Being a girl is hard, having a girl is harder” never have truer words been spoken.
I had always been a relatively skinny girl. Not so skinny that you would wonder if I ever skipped a meal, but healthy skinny. I was also relatively active. I’ve always hated exercising, but I loved dance so took many a class in many different styles of dance. I was lucky, neither one of my parents was overweight, and they both enjoyed food, so I’m probably pretty lucky genetically. And yet, now I’m definitely over weight, I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life (which doesn’t say much, as it’s all relative, isn’t it?), let’s just say I’m uncomfortable in the body I’m wearing right now. And reading Jill’s post got me thinking. What happened? But most importantly how do I teach my children to be healthy and have a good relationship with food?
A lot of the comments to the post had some variation of I agree with you, don’t have a solution, you’re right, let’s hope we don’t screw our kids up too badly. And then there were the ones about rule setting, and no junk food, and exercising every day and (this really freaked me out) never, ever eating after 7pm. And we’re talking women who’s kids’ ages ran from 1 to 10 years old more or less. I simply cannot imagine my child coming up to me at 9pm saying he’s hungry and me not feeding him anything cause it’s after 7. Really? I mean, really?? I really think this is one way to create negative body image.
I think my parents instilled decent eating habits in us, my Dad was Italian, and my Mom is Brazilian, so food was always pretty important at our house. But it was important in the sense that it had to be good, good quality and well cooked, we never had a lot of sweets because my Mom had blood sugar issues (real or imagined, we shall never know) so we weren’t in the habit of having dessert or anything, and yet there was always ice cream if we wanted it, we were allowed sweet drinks and soft drinks, there was often candy around, it was available, but no undue value was given to it. Since my parents weren’t big junk eaters we were never huge junk eaters ourselves, though we did indulge. And very rarely did anyone diet at our house, or if they did they certainly didn’t advertise it.
And yet, and yet, I’m overweight right now. So my eating habits can’t be that good, can they? And so I wonder what happened, what the hell happened?? And when I think about it, I realize that I stopped caring how I looked, but not in the laissez faire way that I had before, in a ‘the way I look isn’t all that important, it’s never going to measure up’ way. And that’s what screwed me. I stopped exercising, had other thinks to do, and I started eating to manage stress (don’t we all?) and slowly, over the years, I gained weight, little by little… and then I had two kids in less than two years.
So, what happens now, I wonder? Well, for starters I’m going to start doing the things I enjoyed, I’m going to find me a dance class (and who cares if I look ridiculous), and I’m going to find me something else to manage stress, don’t know what yet… though it seems the husband has a few suggestions…
Because I don’t want my children to see me like this, and by this I don’t mean fat, because honestly, we can’t all be skinny and it is infinitely more important to feel comfortable in our bodies than to fit into those jeans from high school (which are, incidentally, hopelessly out of style by now), by this I mean uncomfortable.
I’m not comfortable in my clothes, I’m not comfortable in front of the mirror, I’m not comfortable in my body. And I firmly believe that the best way I can contribute to my children’s health is to teach them to enjoy food, not mindlessly ingurgitate it, to move their bodies to a beat that they enjoy and not that they have to dread exercising like the return of small pox, and to feel comfortable that their body will take them where they need to go, so they can concentrate on other things. This is why I want to lose weight.
Now I can only hope that it works!
And as far as our children are concerned, there are so many things that are going to affect their body image, media, their peers, their lifestyle, their personality… that all we can do is love them, appreciate and nurture them, and teach them by example. After that, che sera, sera.