There comes a time in almost every young girl's life when she worries about weight. For some, that will come blessedly late, but for others, it comes much, much too soon. A recent piece on ABC News is startling, showing girls as young as 5 who are already preoccupied with weight.
It wasn't until I was 15 that I was even aware one could be overweight. Well, actually, I was aware that others could be, but as a tiny, petite little girl who didn't reach a hundred pounds until I was 14, it was hard to imagine I would ever be one of them. And then, when I was 15, in the midst of developing (I was a late bloomer), I noticed my arm was fat. I wondered if it was even possible to have fat arms since I had never heard of it before.
From then on, an obsession was born. I have been relatively small my whole life save for a brief period after my mom died where I ate to comfort myself. Guess which period of life I feel the most tied to?
I can assure you it isn't the period where I have spent 90 percent of my life -- at a healthy, relatively low weight with little body fat due to marathon training and regular yoga. Nope. When I look in the mirror, I still see the 16-year-old girl who ballooned to a size 10 by eating quarts of Edy's ice cream every night to compensate for grieving.
They say, "A moment on the lips, forever on the hips," but I will do one better. Mine was more like a couple months on the hips and 15+ years on the brain. You can get the pounds off and stop eating the ice cream, but you can't shake the "fat girl" feeling, I am sorry to say, which is why I struggle so much with my own children.
Both of my children are very healthy weights. My daughter is pure muscle and already showing an early aptitude for sports, particularly running, both of which her father and I have spent most of our lives doing. But I worry about how she internalizes messages we send when we talk about weight gain or not having foods in the house because they're "fattening."
I try not to disparage my body in front of her and try to model "strong and healthy" over "thin and dieting." But I know she is becoming aware, even at 4.5.
"Mommy, you are fat," she told me the other day, My heart stopped.
"What does fat mean?" I asked her, trying to gauge whether she understood the term.
"It means sooooo tall," she smiled and hugged me tight around the waist. It was a close call, but I know she soon will know what "fat" means. I will have to do my best to keep it out of her vocabulary so that she can have as much time as possible enjoying what her body can do and not just what it looks like.
How do you keep your children from worrying about fat?