How would you respond to your 7 year old girl proclaiming that she’s fat? How can a parent successfully navigate this emotional minefield?
Parenting is inherently challenging and emotionally confronting. Dealing with your own weight and health can be hugely challenging and confronting as an individual. Dealing with a child with weight problems when you have body image and weight issues yourself, could be the most challenging of all. Childhood obesity is a very real and massive problem in society. Adult obesity is too. This recent VOGUE article and the massive public backlash shows just how important it is to deal with this issue with grace and emotional sensitivity.
Controversial VOGUE Article.
The article that sparked all the controversy was in US VOGUE’s Annual Shape issue in April 2012 – headlined “Kitchen Controversy: A Mom Fights Childhood Obesity at Home.” Dara-Lynn Weiss, wrote the essay on her thoughts on the obesity of her young child Bea, and the year-long weight watchers type diet that she put her daughter on. The controversy was not so much about the fact that Weiss was taking steps to help her daughter with her weight, which a doctor had given a warning about, but rather the way in which she went about it, clearly instilling her own paranoia, food and body issues onto her daughter. Weiss admits that “no one seems to approve of my methods” and recounts her own struggles with body issues…
“I have not ingested any food, looked at a restaurant menu, or been sick to the point of vomiting without silently launching a complicated mental algorithm about how it will affect my weight,” Weiss writes, noting she’s tried Atkins, juice fasts, laxatives, Weight Watchers and other diets to stay thin. “Who was I to teach a little girl how to maintain a healthy weight and body image?”
“I once reproachfully deprived Bea of her dinner after learning that her observation of French Heritage Day at school involved nearly 800 calories of Brie, filet mignon, baguette, and chocolate,”
“When she was given access to cupcakes at a party, I alternated between saying, ‘Let’s not eat that, it’s not good for you’; ‘Okay, fine, go ahead, but just one’; and ‘Bea, you have to stop eating crap like that, you’re getting too heavy,’ depending on my mood. Then I’d secretly eat two when she wasn’t looking,” wrote Weiss.
Parents just doing their best.
Weiss clearly has massive mental and emotional issues with her own body and weight, however you may judge her course of action, she was/is doing the best she can as a parent, though she is unwittingly passing on the very hang ups she is trying to save her daughter from. Nearly all parents wish the best for their kids and do the very best they are capable of with their own understandings, limitations and emotional capacity.
The importance of sorting your own S#!t out.
Regardless of what you say to your kids, they will model and learn the behaviour that you demonstrate. That’s why it is SO IMPORTANT for mothers to prioritise their own health and wellbeing. Just 3-4 hours a week is all it takes to teach your children how to prioritise their health, and set them up for healthy, happy lives. How? By being healthy and happy yourself! You might think that you don’t have time for exercise and healthy eating and that you are doing the right thing by putting your own needs after everyone else’s, however what you are actually teaching your kids is to put their own needs last.
Childhood obesity & weight issues start or stop in the home.
Kids weight will fluctuate and change as they grow, and they will of course come across loads of junk food, questionable influences and unrealistic expectations of female beauty in the media and real world, however it’s rare that a family with a healthy food culture, regular home cooked meals and parents who have a healthy body image and make activity a priority will have children who are obese. The best way to teach your kids health is to live health. Health comes through valuing yourself and having self-worth, through choosing to nourish and honour yourself with your thoughts and actions.
Kids are the ultimate mirror.
I can hardly claim to be a parenting expert, I am only just embarking on that journey myself, however I do know about human behaviour and have spent close to 10 years speaking to women about their weight issues. 90% of the women I see with weight and body image problems have mothers with weight & body image problems. As you would know from reading my articles, weight issues are mostly a symptom of deeper issues with self-worth, limiting beliefs, personal power and problems dealing with past emotions.
If there was ever a time to sort out your own past ‘stuff’ it is when you have kids (or before), as they will often manifest your own fears and insecurities. The more of your own past stuff you clear up and release, the less of it you unconsciously pass on to them. That’s why it’s crucial to become more self-aware and to process and release your own emotions as they come up so that you can live in the moment, laugh, have fun, work, play and learn, and teach your kids to do the same.
Join the conversation.
Mums! What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear how you deal with this challenge on a day to day basis? Do you have any tips for other mums out there who may be struggling?