Why I Decided to Tell My 10-Year-Old Daughter I'm On a Diet

scaleA few weeks ago I embarked on a pretty strict diet. It's the first time I've tried something like it, but for various reasons, the time had come. I was torn though, about what to tell my little girl who, I fear, at the age of 10 is becoming ever more susceptible to the messages all around her that thin = happy, that looks are valuable, that beauty equals worth.

As a mom, I feel one of the most important things I can do is teach my daughter Isabella to have a positive self image and a healthy relationship with her body and with food, not just by what I say, but how I treat myself. So I really deliberated over what I should do.

Should I downplay the diet, I wondered? Try to hide it all together?

That would be tricky, even if I wanted to. For one thing, this is one of those diets where you mix up powdered shakes and other pre-packaged foods, and only eat lean protein and certain veggies in addition to that (no carrots, for God's sake! What is my world coming to?). It would be weird to, like, hide my special food and furtively whip up a soup mix and drink it behind her back.

Hiding my diet would also be difficult because we really get in to our family meals. My husband and I both primarily work from home, so we have the luxury of cooking and eating not just dinners together, but breakfast as well. Going out to eat is definitely one of my favorite activities, and I'm never one to turn down a dessert. Isabella loves to bake -- how would I explain not eating her cookies? And summertime has traditionally meant ice creams at the pool and popsicles after dinner, not to mention all the end-of-school events that seem to revolve around brownies and chip and treats that I usually happily consume.

But most of all, I just didn't want to lie. I figured that it would be better to be honest and aboveboard with Isabella, and try to frame this as a healthy, empowering choice I'm making. So one afternoon, as casually as I could, I gestured to the bag of  shake mixes and protein bars I'd brought home that morning.

"I decided to go on a diet," I said, nonchalantly. "I'm going to be eating some special food mixed in with our regular food."

A look of complete and utter shock.

"What?" she cried. "Really?! WHY?!"

Yikes! I suddenly wanted to take back my words, gobble them up and pull out a package of Girl Scout cookies.

Why AM I doing this?

The truth is that I don't feel good about myself, mentally or physically. I've had a very difficult time recently, coping with grief and loss of my sister just after Christmas. I've been eating too much and drinking too much wine, and I knew it all along but didn't care. It's been bad, and my body has taken the toll ... but to be even more honest, the weight gain has been creeping up on me for the last few years. I'm 37 years old, the heaviest I've ever been, and I feel like it's time to make a drastic move and get back into shape. I'm not good at "moderating" so I figured I'd try something really strict. Now or never ... or something like that.

I ended up telling Isabella part of the truth. I told her that I've gained some extra weight lately, and it's not healthy for me. I told her that it was just going to last a little while, and it would help me have more energy and be in better physical shape.  

I didn't tell her that I can barely fit into any of my summer clothes from last year; I didn't tell her that I know I've been eating and eating (and eating) to dull my grief and shock; I didn't tell her that I was dreading bathing suit season and feel terrible that though I ran two half marathons in the last two years, since last summer I've gotten to the point where I can barely run a quarter mile.

"It's ok honey," I said. "I've just gained a little extra weight and I want to get back into healthier shape."

Isabella seemed fine with my explanation. Her panic turned to mild curiosity over what snacks I had in my bag, and then she moved on to the next topic of conversation.

But I'm worried. I hope it was the right thing to do. I hope that I'm presenting Isabella with a model of how to take control of your health and your body, and not a model of how to be neurotic about what you eat or ashamed of how you look. I hope I'm doing something that's healthy for both of us.

I felt OK about our conversation, but when Isabella reached for the fat-free dressing the other day at the salad bar, I wasn't so sure.

body image, girls, tweens, kid health, diets


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Cherr... Cherry_Paulson

It`s great to inform, not so great to pressure. Have faith in your kids judgement when they know whats up. Learn about dieting at choppysreviews.com

NatAndCo NatAndCo

I hate the word "diet". Why not just say you want to eat healthier so you can feel healthier? Unfortunately "diet" has taken on the meaning of "change in eating styles with the intent to lose weight" which it isn't. Don't focus on the weight loss aspect of it. Focus on the healthy aspect of it.

nonmember avatar Monica

Maybe everyone should just change what you all eat. That seems like a lot of ice cream just to eat cause it's summer. My girls know how important fitness is to me. So when I do push ups they think its cute to do them too. If we get ice cream its every once in awhile.. seeing mom goin on a fad diet to lose 10 pounds then eat like a pig again is probably doing more harm than good. Also eating one cookie won't kill you if baking is that important to your daughter.

Cel7777 Cel7777

I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to be honest with your kids about working on healthier eating/lifestyle habits, but I agree with the poster who said the word "diet" has a fad-y connotation and makes it seem like it's just a short term thing to lose a few pounds. I think it would be better to work on developing healthier eating habits overall and as a family, rather than having her watch you mix all kinds of shakes and powders and prepackaged "weight loss" aids. These thing scream "short-term diet!" and don't really help her to understand healthy, long-term lifestyle choices.

Jessica Paul-goss

she needs to understand that you are older is one of the reasons you must do the diet because you have gained weight and at your age your metabolism is slowing down assure her this is only healthy for you where it would not be for healthy for her because she is young strong healthy and has perfect metabolism so dieting would only rob her of the nutrients to stay at a healthy weight and energy level, emphaize often your doing this to become healthier not societies idea of skinny and maybe even include her in walks and invite her to eat vegetables or healthy snacks with you putting emphasis on how healthy it is for her and how much energy shell have how clear her skin will look how healthy her hair and nails will become etc wo mentioning weight loss or slim while starting her off on healthy habits that will stick with hr,i know how hard your dilemma is i too have 10 yr daughtr who is very thin naturally and i struggle w obesity so im no expert. good luck

nonmember avatar Think!

I wish people would understand that their comments would be taken much more seriously if they PROOFREAD them first! If you have time to comment, you have time to PROOFREAD! Spelling, grammar, and punctuation DO still apply!

bills... billsfan1104

I dont like the word diet either.  I always say that is is a "lifestyle" change.  AEverything in moderatio0n.   And I am really sorry for your loss.  It must be tough and I do understand the emotional eating.  THat is how I gained weight.  God Bless on your new journey in weight loss.

redK8... redK8blueSt8

I think you should have talked with your daughter about all of that stuff you said you didn't mention. All of them would have been great teaching opportunities and cautionary tales from you, her mom, on unhealthy relationships with food. Using food to dull the emotional pain is not unique to you, and your daughter will probably struggle with that at some point in life. Explaining what you've done the last few months with food, the emotions behind it and what you should have done instead, wow, what a powerful message that could have been from you. Still could be, it's not to late!

2cent... 2centsCDN

I've read and re-read this article, not once do you mention exercising. Thats just teaching your daughter that fad diets will do all the work for you, not how to be healthy all the time.

I get the emotional eating. In the span of 10 months my father passed away, my sister was diagnosed with MS and I discovered a large lump in my thyroid which thankfully I found out was not cancerous after surgery. So I get the eating for comfort but I feel like you've missed an opportunity to have some great conversations about feelings with your daughter. She'll understand a lot more than you think.

Nelli... NellieAthome

A diet will not work - sure, you may take the weight off temporarily but it will not last. The ONLY weight loss method that works is a lifestyle change - eat in moderation and exercise. You can still eat the cookies your daughter bakes, just eat one not six, have ice cream less often.... basically eat like a responsible adult instead of eating for emotional reasons. Oh, and go get therapy for your obvious depression.

Teach your child the value of eating right and exercising and reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for both of you

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