I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. I was always a heavier kid, and I continued to hold on to the ‘puppy fat’ in my teens.
I was always envious of the girls in my class at school who were slim. I would spend hours in my bedroom wondering sadly why I didn’t look like them. I’d also spend many, many hours compiling ridiculous weight journals in my diary comprising of ‘do 200 sit ups’, ‘skip lunch’ and ‘always say no to chocolate’. It didn’t work of course, the more I restricted myself the unhealthier my approach to food became, and slowly the weight crept on.
Fast forward a decade to the day I found out I was pregnant with a girl. I already had a boy, a lovely healthy boy. I felt confident parenting a boy, he would run around, get dirty and eat properly. I felt boys would never be under as much scrutiny for their weight as girls are.
That day when I found out I was growing a girl inside me I made a vow to myself and to her. I vowed that as soon as I had her, I would live a life that she could look up to. I would give her a role model to follow that wasn’t an impossible achievement. She would be surrounded by Photoshop manipulated images of women from an early age, but she’d see me every day. She’d see I had wobbly bits, but she’d also see that I ate properly. And I exercised.
I lost weight, quite a lot actually, and have continued to maintain this healthy lifestyle approach to ensure my children have a sensible approach to food, weight and exercise. We don’t have ‘treats’ – we have food, and they understand that all food is fine in moderation – it’s when it’s out of balance that you can feel unwell. They also understand that to feel good we need to move – so we enjoy football in the park, scootering everywhere, ballet, swimming…
We’ve striven to make them understand that healthy and strong is what you want to aim for. So I felt my heart break a little when my beautiful, healthy four year old girl, told me she had a fat tummy.
First off, she doesn’t. She’s tall and skinny, in fact, she has her dad’s athletic build (with a slight leaning to my ass!) so clearly, she’s not fat.
And secondly, I wanted to howl ‘why do you know about fat’? She shouldn’t be worrying about her tummy AT FOUR. Where has she learnt about fat, and the negative connotations which comes with this loaded word?
I know we’ve done what we can as parents to teach them about healthy food, but it’s the same as our approach to racism, homophobia and stereotypes. We’ve tried to educate our children to understand that our differences are good, our differences are what makes us interesting. It saddens me though that their opinions will be formed by outside sources, sources we can’t shield them from and it saddens me much further to think my daughter is now worrying about her appearance.
It’s taken me over 30 years to begin to like my body, I don’t want my daughter to have to wait that long. I just hope that if we continue to have fun, laugh, move and eat well, she won’t have the need to be preoccupied with weight.