A friend of mine posted on FB today for us women to be careful how we talk about weight in front of our daughters, because she now knows someone in then hospital with an eating disorder, whose 2 young girls (4-6) are also already showing signs of disordered eating.
Here was my response:
This is a good reminder. It is something I always try to be conscious of, but it is hard to think what to say when we go for dinner and the kids and Adam are having cake for dessert and I am not…etc. Learning to balance my own efforts to get and stay a healthy weight without talking about it in front of the kids is hard since it is a big part of my life and so are they. If course, when I talk about food and exercise I always try to focus on the health aspects not my size, but Zoe is old enough to know exactly why I eat the way I do and exercise the way I do (well, weight is not the only reason, but it is a motivating factor) no matter what I say.
But really it was just a little response. This is an issue that very much concerns me, and my entire thoughts on the subject are much much bigger, and really more questions than answers, like:
1) Is is okay for me, a mother of girls, to value being a healthy weight (and by that I mean thin. Not unhealthily skinny, but thin)?
2) How do it continue to make my health (and yes, by this I do mean, not exclusively but definitely, my weight and size) a priority without perpetuating society’s obsession with women being thin?
3) How do I reconcile in myself the fact that I resent society’s obsession with women being thing thin, with my own desire to stay thin? I don’t want to perpetuate it, but I also don’t want to not be thin (and unfortunately for me, being thin takes effort, I have to actively be trying to be thin in order to do so). I am so happy to not be overweight anymore, for health reasons and, quite frankly, because I am so much happier with how I look. I don’t want to give that up, but I also don’t want my efforts to stay thin to hurt my daughters or any of the other women in our society?
4) Which would make me be a better mother to daughters? Being someone who is thin, healthy, energetic, and confident ,however has to take efforts to stay that way and cannot completely hide the importance of that from her daughters, or someone who is overweight and unhappy with that part of herself (and less healthy, energetic, and confident) yet teaching her daughters that there are other things in life far more important than weight and I am still a valuable lovable person no matter what I weight. Is there a way I can stay thin, yet still teach my daughters the lessons I want to?
Of course, the solutions I can think of are the ones I don’t have! Either to be one of those women who is effortlessly slim (and can therefore talk the “size doesn’t matter” talk without having to walk the “so I am fat and stay that way” walk), or maintain the effort it stays for me to stay slim but hide that from my kids…but neither of those things is really realistic for me. My kids are with me for 1-2 meals a day, and they see me go exercise. I live with them, and even if I never say a word about it, actions speak and if the actions stop, Jill becomes overweight again. And really, even though I don’t want my daughters to be obsessed with weight or to consider me obsessed with weight, I do want them to value healthy eating and exercise and to know that being a healthy size takes effort for most people. and you cannot expect to be a healthy size if you are not willing to live a healthy lifestyle. I was naturally SKINNY until I hit puberty, and thought I would stay that way forever. It was hard for me (a 20 year process) learn to be active regularly and eat healthily and see it as a positive way of living for everyone instead of a punishment for getting fat. I would rather my daughters learn from the get-go, even as the naturally skinny children they seem to be following my footsteps in, that healthy eating and exercise is important both for good health, and to be a healthy size.
Questions. no answers.