When I was 16 my mom worked and my parents were separated, so I ate dinner a few nights a week alone. Only I didn't actually eat my dinner -- I wrapped it up in a paper bag and tossed it down the sewer across the street. Before I did this, I was careful to smear the residue of my meal on a plate and leave it unwashed in the sink. When you're young it's easy to think up a hundred ways to deceive, especially when you need to trick everyone around you in order to hold on to your eating disorder for dear life. I am a normal weight now and eat almost everything -- almost everything that is healthy, I should say. The truth is I still have food hang-ups and "rules" that I follow to maintain control of my weight.
It's crazy, it's unhealthy, it's a horrible way to view food. And it's one I know I'm inflicting upon my 2-year-old daughter. These are five ways I fear I am screwing up my daughter's attitude toward food.
When I make dinner, I often place my portion on a smaller plate than my husband's. If I've made soup, I eat mine with a teaspoon and give him a tablespoon. I haven't eaten cereal or oatmeal in a bowl since I was 10 -- nothing bigger than a coffee mug since then. In my mind, doing this is a simple way of controlling portions so that I'll never overdo it. But unless I stop this now, here's the message my daughter is going to get in a few years: her appetite is supposed to be slight, especially when compared to a man's. She needs to suffer just slightly, to never be fully satisfied, because that's all part of being a woman who can fit in a size 4.
I call frozen yogurt "ice-cream." My daughter doesn't know the difference. And this is a damn shame because the difference between fro-yo and real gelato is the difference between visiting the Bellagio in Las Vegas and touring Lake Como on the arm of George Clooney.
I often buy two different versions of the same food -- one labeled "low-fat" or "fat-free." At this moment, my fridge is filled with a million examples of this, including fat-free cheddar and full-fat, amazing cheddar. How long is it going to be before my daughter questions why we aren't all eating the same cheese in our house?
We never, ever, ever eat fast food. I know some people might think this is wonderful, but it isn't. If my daughter grows up believing fast food is poison because that's my extreme attitude, what exactly is going to happen when she's 12 and finds herself in a McDonald's with friends? Is she going to feel guilty? Overindulge because I never allowed it when she was young? Hamburgers aren't the enemy -- an over reliance on hamburgers is the enemy.
I don't eat birthday cake at parties -- not even at my own party. I've started to force myself to take a bite, for my daughter's benefit, but I'm only fooling myself if I think she isn't going to see through that in a few years. Why would she grow up believing food can bring joy if her own mother won't give in to delicious temptations on special occasions?
Are you doing anything that you fear is going to mess up your daughter's healthy attitude toward food and eating?
Image via Lisa Fogarty