I was reading an older post by another blogger about what we teach our children about food/weight/dieting. And it made me think about my own daughter. She's 11. Lately she's said some things that have really made me think.
I have tried to never make weight a moral issue with her, if an issue at all. My mom never actively dieted around me, but my dad did, and both of them commented on my weight often. I'm sure they never thought of it as harmful, at all, but all I heard from them was "You'd be better to me if you lost five pounds." I started dieting in the 6th grade. I had horribly disordered eating habits between the ages of 14 and 19. At 19 I lost a pregnancy, my second one, while I was still actively starving myself and binging/purging. I stopped. I had tried to stop many times before that, but this time I really stopped. And I gained 50 lbs in just a few months. My weight fluctuated by about 40 lbs for the next decade, but it didn't go under 165 until less than a year ago.
My parents, mostly my dad, continued to bug me about my weight until I was 25 and newly divorced. I was at their house eating lunch and my dad looked at what I was eating and started saying how much happier I would be if I just lost some weight. I just looked him dead in the eye and said, "Why can't you just love me the way I am? Why am I not good enough for you?" He sputtered some stuff about wanting me to be happy, but he never brought it up again.
So all of that background is my way of explaining why I am VERY uncomfortable with diet/weight talk around my daughter. She is a very healthy weight, and she has a very good handle on eating normally. I do my utmost to not interfere with that. When I say "eating normally" I mean that she eats when she's hungry and stops when she's full. I can keep some junk food around and she eats it a little bit at a time. She fixes her own breakfast and lunch during the summer and winter breaks that she stays with me, except on the days I'm off work. Sometimes she makes things that are utterly bizarre (peanut butter, maple syrup and Captain Crunch sandwich anyone?) but mostly it's good healthy food. She'll happily dig into cold leftovers from dinner when we have a drawer with cookies and goldfish crackers available. So, no. Not worried about her at all right now.
But last Christmas she said something that made me pause. My boyfriend was telling me about what Paula Deen had made on her show that day and my daughter said, "Jeremy, I have a question. If you want to lose weight then why do you like Paula Deen so much?" Yes, it was quite funny, but I had several thoughts shortly after she said it.
1) She has evidently picked up that my BF would like to lose weight (not too hard to do, since he talks about it constantly, but pretty much just loses and re-gains the same 20 lbs).
2) She knows who Paula Deen is and what kind of food she makes.
3) She recognizes that that's not the kind of stuff you should be eating if you want to lose weight.
At another time we were having dinner at a restaurant for her birthday. After we were finished and about to leave she patted her stomach and said "It's a good thing we're walking home because I need to burn off some calories!"
She has a far better understanding of how this works than I did at 11. She may be getting it from her dad or someone else, but she has picked up quite a bit. She also once told my boyfriend that her dad had lost a whole lot of weight eating nothing but canned soup. I had to bite my tongue from telling her that her dad is a ----ing moron. She was 5 and not living with him at the time this happened, so somebody had to have told her this, and I'm betting it was him.
So she seems to be very aware of the concepts of gaining and losing weight, and even knows that her dad had done it at one point. But here's the part that's sort of weird to me. She's never seemed to notice any changes in my size. Even though she doesn't see me for several months at a time, and I look VERY different. She seems totally oblivious. Last summer she was laughing at me because the shorts I haad had for years and often wore to bed kept falling down. "Why did you even buy those shorts mom?! They're way too big for you!"
When she was maybe 6 she pointed at a little red dot on my skin and asked me what it was. I told her it was a cherry angioma and that sometimes fat people get them (I'm not even sure where I read that. It may not even be true.) I told her my (now ex)BF, who was there, had some too, and he showed her one on his head. She was utterly incensed. She said "You're NOT fat! I don't think you're fat either, Joel!" I was close to, if not, 200 lbs. Joel is around 300. I really honestly had no idea how to respond to that. But because of that I have to believe that she has just never seen me as being fat.
It really has made me wonder when I watch weight loss shows on TV, and some of the people have young kids, I wonder if their kids even notice the weight change, let alone care. They always seem so coached when they talk about it to the camera. The parents say things about how they want their kids to be proud of who they are, but I've never gotten the sense that they weren't proud of them already. I think it's more of they weren't proud of who they were so they didn't see how anyone else could be either.