Re-Educating My Children

Little Miss ChatterboxSitting in a doctor’s waiting room for two hours with three children ages 6, 7, and 11 is… interesting, to say the least. Especially when the 7 year old is a voracious reader and will read anything she can get her hands on. Books… magazines… health leaflets… bank promotions… I mean anything.

Little Miss Chatterbox must have read something about healthy eating and losing weight, because she turned to me and said:

Mommy, you cook us healthy meals so that you can get healthy and skinny, right?

Now, if she had said something like that to me a few months ago? It wouldn’t have bothered me in the least, and I would have told her that she was right. That Mommy is an ugly, huge person and would give anything to be skinny and attractive.

But I know better now. I know that I don’t have to hate myself because of my size. I know that my size is and always has been largely out of my control. I know that my size is nothing to be ashamed of, because human beings are supposed to come in all shapes and sizes (and colors, and shades of colors). And in a split-second, I saw that I needed to re-educate my children. Not just The Little Helper, whom I blogged about a while back. But all of them. Because obviously my self-loathing – as much as I’d hoped it wouldn’t have – has made an impact even on the children that I thought were immune to it.

So I looked at her and said:

No, I cook healthy meals to be healthy. Period. Skinny doesn’t always mean healthy, and healthy doesn’t always mean skinny. You can be healthy AND fat.

I hate that I’m going to have to re-educate them about what is healthy and what isn’t. They’re constantly talking about food that is “bad” for you – and because I’m trying to get out of that “good food/bad food” mindset, I’ve been correcting them as well. I tell them that no food is inherently “bad” for you, it’s eating one particular food all the time – even if it’s a universally accepted “healthy” food – is UNhealthy for you.

But I’m glad that they’re still young enough that it might work. They might not grow up believing that they’re a bad person just because they ate some junk food. They might not grow up feeling superior to those people that eat junk food if they don’t. They might not grow up hating their bodies. I’m not dumb enough to think that I’m the only influence in their lives, so I can’t be sure that my re-educating them is going to eradicate all the other messages they’re going to get in their life.

But I can hope, right?

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9 Responses

  1. […] can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here […]

  2. I have a ten year old daughter and have been trying really hard to teach her there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” foods, that food is food. Unfortunately, I spent many years before this hating my body, so I’m hoping she’s young enough for the new, positive stuff to stick. I know girls in her class are already talking about how fat they are. It’s a constant battle. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  3. “No, I cook healthy meals to be healthy. Period. Skinny doesn’t always mean healthy, and healthy doesn’t always mean skinny. You can be healthy AND fat.”

    From one mom to another: HELL yes.

    And, don’t be too hard on yourself about the kids internalizing your angst – it sounds like your daughter picked up on the Healthy And Fat Are Mutually Exclusive message from the very loud, very unavoidable external sources that say so.

    ps: that running rhino picture in the top left of your blog? I’ve got that shirt!

  4. Good on you. I’m trying with my five year old, and a lot of what I’ve been focusing on up till now has been my own attitude and body image. I have been determinedly positive about myself in front of the children (specifically) and on my own (not as successful, but getting there), and I hope that it’s working.

    There is a very fat man in our church who is friends with my husband — she is learning that people come in “lots of sizes” and that isn’t something to get worried about, it just *is*.

    I think I’ll quote you when teaching my own kids, if that’s okay!

  5. Amen! This is exactly why I’m working on changing my attitudes towards food and myself now, a few years before we plan on starting making babies. Every woman in my family has a disordered view of food; I don’t wart my kids to be the same way. Good luck in your educational quest!

  6. Unfortunately their re-education will be lifelong, as society and the media will always be trying to tell them that fat is ugly, unhealthy, and “immoral”. But an intelligent parent teaching them the truth from a young age is the best weapon they’ll ever have in the fight.

  7. Wow. More proof that magazine covers ARE bad for you. Good for you on the re-education message. It is quite a task for all the mothers of daughters in this country.

  8. I sort of wish you were my mother. Mine is one of those women who had always been skinny but then she got hyperthiroidism and gained weight. She is the healthiest eater in the house, yet she hasn’t lost a pound. I am actually the one who is educating her on HAES, size acceptance and IE now.
    Keep on teaching them to love themselves and everyone as they are. Maybe when they get older, you can share some FA/HAES literature with them.

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