P.T.A.: Talking to my Daughter about Dieting

I do not want my daughter to be afraid of carbs.
I do not want her to believe fried food is evil.
But I also do not want her to solve her problems, or avoided them, with a pint of ice cream.

I want her to have a healthy relationship with food.
I want her to stop eating when she’s full, rather than absent-mindedly munching on mediocre French fries because they’re there.
I want her to relish her ice cream, but not every day.

And I want to be the woman who teachers her these lessons.

But last week, when I stepped on the scale, the number staring at me was one I had sworn I would never see again. So, I’m back on Weight Watchers. No, I’m not endorsing the diet. It just happens to be the one that’s worked for me in the past and so requires the least amount of decision-making.
Yes, I’m sure that whatever diet you followed to that 10 pounds is amazing and will work for me too. But I don’t care.

I just don’t want my eleven-year-old girl to have a mommy who’s always on a diet.
I don’t want her to spend the rest of her life feeling like she’s the wrong size.
I don’t want her to know that when I’m thinner, I feel better about myself.
I don’t want her to ever think what I do when I look into the mirror: “god, I’m fat.”

I really don’t want to screw this up. It’s so easy to do just that. One in five school aged, American kids is obese. Over 50% of the girls in this country will go on a diet before their eighteenth birthday.

I want my daughter to have a mother who is active, comfortable with herself, and only eats when she’s hungry. A mom who doesn’t eat a box of cookies because she’s stressed or sad or bored. Instead, she’s got me, a mother who knows that whether you start your day with spin class or waffles, if you’re a woman who grew up in 20th century America you’re a little crazy when it comes to your weight.

At this very moment, half the women in the U.S. are on a diet. Last week, I became one of them. My goal for the next few months is to lose 20 pounds, without setting up my daughter for a lifetime of body image issues. Right now, she’s perfect in that department. She doesn’t really like sweets. She stops eating when she’s full. Her favorite food is salad. She’s my hero.

I tell people that I’m dieting because I want to be healthier, have more energy, take better care of my knees. But it’s a lie. If I could eat chocolate chip cookies everyday and look 20 pound thinner on outside, I wouldn’t care about what’s going on inside.

My tipping point wasn’t anything a doctor said or even my jeans getting a little too tight. It was some photos from my college reunion. There’s nothing like a double chin on Facebook to make kale and a protein powder sound yummy.

But I don’t want to tell my eleven-year-old that I’m on a diet because I looked fat in picture. I can’t even tell her for the last six months, I’ve been doing a deep dive into emotional eating because I’m anxious about a long list of things, including her.

I don’t have much time left to influence my daughter. Puberty is peeking out from under her stuffed animal strewn bed. Soon peers and media will speak louder than any of my actions or words. What I can do today is model the behavior I wish for her, while I’m counting my Weight Watchers points.

If it’s too late for her to have dessert; it’s too late for me too.
If an apple is a good afternoon snack for her; it’s twice as good for me.
If protein bars and diet sodas aren’t “real food” for kids; then they’re “not real food” for me either, sadly.

And to the dinner guest who presents me with a chocolate cake saying, “I’m sorry you can’t eat any of this,” I will respond, “I can, but I choose not to.” While I imagine dumping the sticky mess on her perfectly coifed. skinny head.

What I eat is a choice, not compulsion. Tomorrow, I may have eat that chocolate cake, but this evening I’ll have a peach and when I look in the mirror, I’ll remind myself that my daughter still thinks I’m beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Maud Kersnowski Sachs

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