Monday, June 16, 2008

Health vs. weight

Recently I've been thinking a lot about kids and weight and body image, partly because I had--and still have, to an extent--a pretty negative body image growing up. And as I go to the gym more and more and find that I actually enjoy it, sometimes even while I'm there, it makes me realize that I never had a positive view of physical activity while I was growing up. Even team sports like soccer that were supposed to be fun just weren't, in part because I was always the most out of shape kid on the team and in part because I felt that I had to do it in order to lose weight, not that I was choosing to do it because I enjoyed it.

I don't think there's a magic way to deal with weight and kids. I come from a long line of people with big bones and weight issues. My endocrinologist tells me it's mostly genetics, that most people eat unhealthy foods and only some people pay for it in the form of being overweight. I know that my parents hoped for me to avoid the issues that plagued them both, and I know that everything they did to encourage me to lose weight as a teenager was very well-intentioned. They wanted me to lose weight, and they wanted to--and did--lose weight themselves.

But I absorbed it in a warped teenage way, as a fragile girl still finding her self-confidence while surrounded by thinner peers that I perceived as prettier, and that my male classmates also perceived as prettier. And I developed negative feelings about my body, and about being fat, and about any attempt to discuss being fat, or to stop being fat. When I went to college, things got a bit better--I was more comfortable with myself, I was focusing on things other than my body, I was making great friends, I was casually dating. But I still didn't like to discuss weight, or my own issues with it, even in a broader societal context that had nothing to do with me personally.

As I joined Weight Watchers and people started noticing that I was losing weight, I had to deal with the fact that I was going to have to talk about it. For the first time, commentary directed toward me about my weight was positive, and it came as a shock. Obviously, as you can tell from the personal and relatively open nature of a lot of my posts about weight and weight loss, I have learned to open up about it. But it wasn't an easy process. And the only reason that I feel that I can talk about it is that I feel like I have justified my own excess weight because I'm in the process of doing something about it. I can't be blamed for being overweight because I'm trying to fix it, and my attempts are successful. People who try to lose weight and don't succeed still seem to be at fault, in the eyes of society, for their own weight issues.

It seems to me that being fat is one of the last personal issues that it is acceptable to stigmatize in society, and it's because we hide behind the issue of health. We can pretend it isn't because we think that fat people are lazy, or ugly, or that they remind us of ourselves and our own insecurities. We can say, Oh, I don't think it's good to be overweight because it's so unhealthy. Designers shouldn't make clothes in bigger sizes because it encourages unhealthy behaviors. It's ridiculous to assume that someone who needs to lose weight would do so only to fit into more clothes, and if they could find stylish clothes in their own size, they wouldn't bother losing weight. Fat people know they're fat, and they know that they shouldn't be. But the societal attitude, the pervasive judgment, goes way too far.

I guess it shouldn't be surprising that the backlash, in the form of the fat acceptance movement, is also extreme. The fat acceptance movement preaches more than just accepting people of all shapes and sizes. It actively tries to cast being fat as a positive thing, to the point where members of the movement get pushed out if they lose weight. I find that equally problematic, but I can see where it stems from--the level of pushback is usually directly related to the level of stigma that exists in the first place.

The thing is that being overweight or obese is unhealthy, because it is highly correlated with other unhealthy conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart problems, joint problems, increased likelihood of certain types of cancer... the list goes on. Fat people are more likely to die young--which you can see independently just by looking around and noticing that there are very few fat old people. It's not good to be fat, because it's not healthy to be fat.

But I don't see how a focus on weight as an indicator of poor health solves the problem. How do you lose weight? You eat right and you exercise regularly. Both of those things improve your health, and not just because they help you lose weight. They're good because they nourish your body correctly, they give you more energy, they improve your bone strength, they improve your heart health. Weight is just an indicator of those other health issues, and it's not always accurate. Some overweight people are in very good condition, and some thin people are not.

So that's what I want to do with my kids. I want to raise them to be aware of health. I want to teach them about nutrition, and about making healthy choices. I want to give them a varied diet of all sorts of healthy foods and meals with lots of different flavors. I want them to grow up used to healthy foods, whole grains, all sorts of produce, healthy portions. I want them to enjoy using their bodies, and enjoy playing sports. I want them to spend time outside, running around. I want them to value their own health and learn to preserve it.

But I don't want it to be in a context of weight. I don't want to ever tell my child that they need to lose weight--if they are overweight, it's because of unhealthy behaviors, and that's what needs to be corrected. I never want my child to be embarrassed to wear a sleeveless shirt because she hates her arms, or feel like he has to join the basketball team in order to lose weight. Part of not discussing weight includes not talking about my own weight, and especially not in disparaging terms. If they see pictures of me pre-Weight Watchers and say something, I'll be open about it, but I'll talk about in terms of health, because that's what it's really about.

I recognize that I can't control the comments that they will hear from other people, and if they hear something that upsets them related to weight, I will discuss it with them openly. But I will always try to re-cast the conversation in terms of health, and teach my children that their bodies are beautiful sheerly for what they are capable of doing and how they are capable of being stretched. That's something that I didn't learn early enough, and it's something I want to make sure my kids never forget.

What about you? How did your family deal with issues of weight and health when you were growing up? And how do you think it affected you, both then and now?


  1. I'm glad you've developed a healthier/happier outlook and attitude about weight. That is a huge accomplishment.

    I think a great thing to teach kids--especially girls--is that your body is amazing not because people find it attractive (or don't), but because it can carry you through a soccer game or up a mountain or propel you through a swimming pool. The way your legs look in a skirt isn't as important as how great they make you feel when you run around with your friends. That's the message I got, intentionally or not, from my parents growing up. I never felt better (and more attractive, as a bonus) than when I was wearing the uniform of an activity I was passionate about--be it my ballet leotard, team swimsuit, or hiking clothes.

    I think the difference between exercising because you want to and exercising to lose weight is also super important--it's so hard to enjoy the latter.

  2. Great post! I often think about how I would handle this situation with my own children. My parents were never pushy, and I was always athletic and not obese, but my mother taught me VERY BAD stress-related eating habits. Now I have a hard time not eating when I am stressed (Or putting something off, or bored). I think being able to talk about nutrition, and explain it, without being too pushy, would be great!

  3. that is a very honest post and very interesting.

    i come from a thin family and being thin/skinny most of my life, i've faced other "critics" asking me (seriously) if i was anorexic, which made me incredibly self-conscious of my weight, being on the underweight side. and being incredibly active while i was younger.

  4. I think you've developed a very healthy attitude towards weight, something that's hard whether you're overweight or a skinny-minnie, which is part of the problem: no matter what size you are, in our culture, you will most likely develop body issues. I've never been heavy but I've always been concerned with my size, one, because I'm pair shaped, which the media says isn't attractive, and two, because my mom always talked about how fat she was, even if it was only an off-the-hand remark or that she couldn't fit in the clothes she wanted to.

    When I have kids, my strategy is to eat very healthily (which I already do), especially when I'm pregnant, then raise them to be active and outdoorsy, so they miss all the media images that their body's not thin enough, so therefore, they're not good enough.

    At the same time, I realize that they'll have insecurities. And you can't beat genetics; remember that "glut" gene people were talking about a couple of weeks ago, that makes you crave sugar? Pretty sure my family has it. I don't want to raise my kids to be the weirdos who don't eat sugar...but sometimes, it's a tempting thought. Especially when I'm having mad cravings for oreos.

  5. First, I want to say that I LOVE YOU. This topic is much on my mind lately, as I have a teenage daughter who is overweight. I don't have time to say what I want to say in this comment right now, but I'm going to come back later.

  6. Jess, this is a great post on a topic I am so interested in, as you know.

    You already know how I feel, and about The Policy and so on. I just want to do what we do, which is mostly healthy stuff, sometimes not, and never, ever frame it in terms of weight.

    I guess I go even more extreme in that I chose not to talk about nutrition or what foods are healthy or not healthy either. I just hate the whole good/bad black/white dichotomy when it comes to food.

    I think of your post about going out to eat with your coworkers and it makes me want to cry thinking that my kid would be so consumed with whether or not that day was "healthy" that s/he couldn't enjoy the moment. (I know YOU weren't, and DID enjoy the day, and I loved that post).

    I really do understand your point of view as well, though, and understand that I'm coming from a different (easier?) place since the fact is that my kids are genetically unlikely to be overweight, regardless.

    Well, as always, I have lots to say on this, most of it making little to no sense.

    Good post! Good Jess! I enjoyed it, and you, as always.

  7. I've decided to adopt Tessie's policy of not discussing weight/body issues. Especially in front of my daughter.

    One of her favorite things to do is to lift my shirt to see my belly. I struggle every time to let her do it and not say anything negative about my belly. When she does it to her dad, he say's "There's Daddy's fat belly!" I have to remind him not to say that. I don't want her to be aware of our body issues.

    I want to lose weight and learn to eat healthfully before she's old enough to know any differently. I want to break the cycle that runs in our family.

  8. Jess, you bring some incredibly strong topics up for discussion. That's one of the reasons I love your blog; I never know what I'm going to get but it's going to be interesting.

    I'm one of those weird freaks; I didn't really have body issues growing up. I was super thin, but I also danced every day and came from a relatively thin family.

    However, watching my dad grow more and more overweight (from the trim guy with a handlebar mustache that he used to be) because he "never has time" has made me more aware of how easily it is for his side of the family to gain weight. On my mom's side, I'm the heaviest, and on my dad's, one of the lightest. That weird imbalance has forced me to become more cognizant of eating healthy and exercising regularly.

  9. You know, it's interesting... these things were never really discussed in my house--because, in a way, they didn't need to be. I was naturally a very active child, I loved to run around and you could barely keep me still for a minute. My mom was a dancer so I started in at a young age taking classes several nights a week and all day Saturday. We ate fairly healthy meals and my mom limited the number of cookies I was allowed to have before bed.

    Then again, I am also one of those people, I admit it. I can eat pretty much whatever I want, and as long as I maintain some semblance of physical activity, I won't really pay for it--or maybe only pay for it a little. I discovered this the hard way my Freshman year of college, surviving on lard-soaked cafeteria food and doing very little in the way of exercise, I gained a considerable amount of weight. It wasn't until I managed to take it off again that I really started paying attention to what I put into my body.

    As a direction toward healthy eating, I HIGHLY recommend "In Defense of Food"... it totally changed my perspective on all the processed foods that are part of our Western diet.

    That being said, I still had a bag of Sun Chips with my Subway sandwich yesterday, but I'm just sayin'...

    Actually, I'm babbling. I'll stop :) But when it comes to how to address the issue with your kids, I definitely think you are on the right track! If I had had a better understanding of the consequences of unhealthy eating, I probably would have gotten a handle on it much earlier in my adult life.

  10. You inspiringly honest!
    I think a focus on health instead of weight is a really good idea. I'm a picky eater and a competitive athlete so as a youngster people used to make anorexia jokes about me. Anorexia as a mental disorder. In grade 9 when we had to, in gym class, to this body fat and BMI thing, the teacher gave me a huge talk on eating properly and getting enough calories. But, my health issues (dangerously low body fat) were viewed as attractive of cool. Dangerously low. And so when I finally started gaining weight when I hit puberty at like, age 17, I had really big body image issues, and felt that by no longer being the skinny girl, I was losing part of my identity. It was really bad. I don't really know what I'm trying to say in this comment. Just. Nice post.

  11. I think the whole thing is nearly impossible to handle. I think kids pick up very soon that "healthy" is just a code word for "thin." I also think it's impossible to deny or to disguise that we live in a culture where thinness is better, and that pretending we don't, or that it doesn't matter, doesn't help.

    I've noticed that childhood eating habits don't seem to affect adult behavior, except that people blame their parents either way: it's either "My parents never let me have sugar so I over-idolized it" or it's "My parents let me have sugar so I got acclimated to it."

    And I think it's very, very, VERY important to realize that fat may or may not be unhealthy (studies are pretty mixed about which way the correlations go, and about whether both things are actually correlated with a third thing) but that it's not the only unhealthy habit: we spend wayyyyy more time and money teaching kids not to be fat than we spend teaching them not to smoke, for example. And in fact I notice that thin smokers are not rebuked publicly and nationally the way fat people are.

    But I don't know how to deal with it correctly. At all.

  12. Oh, one more thing: I've visited a number of nursing homes in my life, and I see TONS of fat old people there. And in fact, MOST old people are at least somewhat overweight, just because people tend to be naturally a little heavier as they age. I think it's a false statistic to say you can look around and not see fat old people and therefore fat is unhealthy.

  13. My mom was completely fucked up about food (she's anorexic now) and it affected both me and my sister. My sister has been anorexic/bulimic for nearly 10 years. While I haven't had her problems, I am certainly a little too concerned with weight and stuff. I am an avid exerciser, and I truly truly enjoy it, but I am too hard on myself when I decide to take a day off.

  14. Hmm. Heavy topic.

    As far as kids and body image, I think that parents who are the most successful about teaching their children good lessons are those that have incorporated those lessons into the basic routine of their lives, so much so that these routines are almost automatic. It is admirable when a mother decides to start eating right because she wants to show her 7 year old how to eat right too, but in addition to trial and error and set backs everyone has when they're learning something new, the stress of mothering and the busy-ness of it tends to set one for ultimate failure because it is very hard, I think, to start a new lifestyle when kids are in the picture.

    So. You are eating healthy and learning to accept your body image and incorporating exercise into your daily routine. This is the best thing you can do to teach your future children about healthy lifestyle and attitude. Incorporate it into your subconscious to the degree that selecting an apple over a potato chip and taking time for the gym is not an every day battle (only a battle sometimes). We teach our kids far more than the things we tell them, you know?

  15. GREAT post, Jess!

    My upbringing gave me a solid foundation in nutrition and healthy choices. However, much of it was in the context of healthy weight, as my mom was (and still is) obsessed with her body shape. This has given me a warped perception of my own body.

    My own kids also learn about nutrition and healthy choices, but I'm careful to never put it into the context of weight, but rather health and energy. They have treats without thinking twice, but they have also developed a taste for the healthy things, so that they are just as likely to go for the veggie platter as the sweets tray.

  16. I was a skinny little kid until about second grade, then everything started going downhill from there. I started gaining weight, and it hasn't really stopped since.

    At one point, I'd lost 60 pounds due to a new job, and was at a healthy weight for a while. It really bothered me when people would come up to me and say, "Oooh, you've lost a ton of weight! You look great!"

    Um... thanks? Yeah, I know I was fat before, and yes, I felt better when I was slender, but I hated having people point it out to me.

    Then the weight came back. And it brought friends. Lots of friends. I'd like to live a very long time, meet my grandchildren, and even my great-grandchildren. Hell, I just want to keep going and going and going... but unless I drop some serious weight, even if it doesn't kill me, I'm so physically uncomfortable, I won't enjoy myself much.

    After doing a little research, I'm thinking Weight Watchers might be a good fit for me, but I have to admit, I'm a little scared. Discussing my weight has never been easy. Having to admit to a room full of strangers that I need to shed a certain number of pounds, makes me uneasy. All I can think about is that group of snotty, skinny girls that tormented me throughout my entire school life, somehow finding out just how much I weigh right now and making that information public.

    yeah, I know, they don't care, but it's a thing...

    Ramble over.

  17. Both of my parents were overweight, and I've always leaned in that direction as well, but to a lesser extent. There is only one time ever I remember weight being mentioned in regards to me, and it was like a slap in the face. I was eyeing a pleated skirt and my mom informed me that "Fat girls shouldn't wear pleated skirts." I am thankful that is the only time she ever said something like that, because it stung. While she may or may not have been right about the whole pleated skirt thing, I'm completely certain there was a more tactful way to divert my attention to another piece of clothing.

    I have a cousin who has always been very overweight, and though we didn't see her often, I can remember several times my uncle made derogatory comments to her about her weight.

    I totally agree that the behaviors are the thing to target, and not the weight. Encourage a bike ride instead of watching TV. Serve carrots instead of cookies for a snack. Really, the topic of weight itself doesn't need to be addressed.

  18. I love this post, and the point you made. It really ought to be more of an issue of health itself instead of weight. I grew up skinny, and because of that was never really taught how to eat healthy foods and maintain exercise and such. It was always just assumed that I knew how to do it, since I was already thin. But in reality, it was the opposite. I couldn't go as far as others in gym class- often trying to get myself out of going, from embarassment- and I didn't know how to fix it. The fact that you're going to teach your kids how to appreciate their bodies for what they can do- and what they ought to do for it and put into it- is amazing and definitely the right way to do it. It'll save a lot of confusion later on, which is what I'm going through right now. It's hard to break habits that have been instilled.

  19. This is a great post, Jess.

    I can't ever remember my parents discussing weight when I was growing up. They were both skinny, but even when they exercised, it was because it was something they enjoyed to do.

    My brother and I were encouraged to play outside as much as possible, and we couldn't drink pop unless it was a special occasion, but the reason given focused more on the health of our teeth rather than weight issues.

    I was pretty active in sports and was EXTREMELY skinny. Probably underweight even, just because of my metabolism and being a runner. I'd get LOTS of comments about anorexia or bulimia, which I'd shrug off with, "That's impossible. I love to eat too much and I hate to vomit."

    One woman even approached me at a track meet and asked if I got rid of my food "the natural way." I had absolutely no idea what the hell she was talking about. Only after she left did I realize she was asking me if I was bulimic. It offended me deeply.

    I think everything you've said, about treating food and exercise as choices for yourself rather than in response to weight, is a great example to set for children.

  20. This is a great post. Thank you for writing it!

    On the topic of exercise: "not that I was choosing to do it because I enjoyed it" stood out to me because I used to like sports but felt like the odd man out because I was bigger and would get teased. But I was a really good swimmer! I let my insecurities fueled by mean comments take away my enjoyment of exercise. I'd like to find a way to combat that, especially before I become a mom.

    In an effort not to leave an epic comment, I'll leave it at that. I have so much to say! ;)

  21. fantastic topic, and so thoughtfully / well written.

    my family had to deal with the opposite spectrum: i was waaaay underweight no matter what i ate, and my sister was a professional dancer, and thus surrounded by girls who were anorexic/bulemic. we're still not sure how my mom managed to keep my sister from falling into that trap, considering the environment my sister was in (where the TEACHERS would tell ANOREXIC GIRLS that their asses were too fat. CAN YOU IMAGINE? i nearly came home from college to berate this woman when i found out. UGH.)

    uh.. tangent much? to sum up: loved the post.

  22. OK. It's later and I'm back. I am struggling with this problem right now with my 14-year-old. Over the last few years, her weight has shot up to the point where the doctor ordered blood tests to check for thyroid problems (which do run in my family, so we have to stay on top of that) and any indicators of diabetes. She was not to the point of being considered obese, but if things were to continue how they were, she would very well get there shortly. To give you an idea, she's only a few pounds lighter than I am, and I'm three inches taller than she is and I'm no lightweight. It was discovered that she had high cholesterol. The doctor thinks that if she just gets more exercise, the cholesterol would correct itself - it wasn't at a dangerous level or anything, just a little higher than normal.

    She HATES sports, ESPECIALLY team sports. Not because she's embarrassed to play, she did when she was younger, but always quit because she just doesn't like them. We finally found fencing, which she enjoys, so she's doing that, but it's only once per week. Better than nothing, absolutely. She's also going to be doing marching band this year, which is supposed to be killer exercise. So by the end of the year, I'm thinking she'll be in better shape and feeling better than she has in a long time. I hope.

    Because other than doing what I'm doing, which is keeping healthy foods in the house and encouraging her to do physical things (which she already gets pissy at me about), I don't know what to do that won't make her feel badly about herself. She's a wonderful and beautiful girl, but I know she's already feeling self-conscious just by observing her choices (such as two weeks ago not taking her bathing suit to the eighth grade picnic at a local lake, where swimming was one of the activities).

    I've struggled with the same issues myself since I was a teen, but I enjoy sports and exercise, so getting into shape and staying there is easier (or at least less torture-like) for me. I really don't want to do her any psychological damage, so I try to encourage her in the activities she enjoys without ever mentioning weight. It does have to be mentioned from time to time however, simply because she has to go to the doctor every 6 months for a weight check and blood work. We just did the doctor appt. last week and have to go to the lab for the blood work this week, so we'll see how the cholesterol is.

    The genetics of it all is working against her as well. Her father has a weight problem, as do I to a lesser extent. What's worse is she has three younger sisters who are all low-weights for their heights. Those three have a different father, but that doesn't help her. Instead it's one more thing she has to deal with daily.

    What to say, what not to say. If and when to say anything at all. How to approach this issue is probably one of the most difficult parenting issues I've faced to this point.

  23. This is hard for me to answer because I was very thin up until I turned 19 and dealt with the opposite—being called “bony” all the time. My unexplained weight gain went undiagnosed for nearly 3 years before my doctor “humored me” and it was determined that I had Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism. I felt like it was out of my control and like “why bother” for a very long time. Once medicated, I lost about 30 lbs before I got married, getting down to around 165.

    Having kids has turned my body and metabolism upside down again though and while it really is in my control, a lot of times I let myself feel helpless. “What difference does a cheeseburger make? I’m not going to lose the weight anyway…” I know that when I eat right and exercise, I can and do lose weight. I did it again after Lucy was born, but I struggle with motivation.

    I can tell you this though- being the heaviest person in my family makes me feel awful. Even though they aren’t, I feel like they’re judging me. There was this whole big deal where my mother lost A TON of weight about 5 years ago, and I think it was a personal triumph for her to be “skinnier than me” and while she never said it out loud, I felt it. That’s probably the hardest thing I’ve had to go through.

    I think your outlook and perspective is a good one, and is the same that I would take with my own children.

  24. I was always tiny as a child (still am) and with beng small I had a little stomach and can't eat a lot of food.

    My aunt would always run this guilt trip on me whenever we ate wtih her. How I did not like her food, she was in the kitchen all day, why do I not eat.

    To this day, at least 20 years later I still resent her for that. It is sad expecially since she is getting old and having medical issues. But I never got close to her because of the guilt that I would not eat my full meal.

    Like many of the commentors, I beleive that it is important to teach kids about healty meal habits. Engage them in shopping and making a meal. It stimulates creativity too.

    It is so easy to buy pre-packaged food but it is just as easy to take the time and make it.

    One friend told me that she forced herself to eat healtier when she was pregnant so her child would love fruits and veggies and so far he does.

  25. Weight is such a huge issue these days, and it's tough. I didn't really have a weight problem until I hit college. My parents carefully monitored what I ate, then I went crazy.

    WW helped me. Then I lost weight and people started saying that I was too skinny. I wasn't, and I think that they were jealous.

  26. This is such a GREAT post, Jess. Thanks!
    You're exactly right about not dwelling on weight in front of you future children. I try not to already because I figure if I start now, it will be easier later. My mom always complained about her weight growing up and I think she saw me as a somebody who understood and could commiserate with her, particularly in my teenage years. It DIDN'T help me. It would have been much more beneficial to be, as you make clear, focused on health.

    This post made me think a lot. Thanks, again.

  27. I make a conscious effort not to talk disparagingly about my weight. My 5-year old knows that I'm doing WW. She even goes to the meetings with me occasionally. We talk about keeping our bones strong and our heart healthy. Growing up in my house, it was never about being healthy but about being thin and being compared to a younger sister who was thin. I have to admit that having children changed the way I thought about my body...I now think of my body as a friend rather than the enemy.

  28. i really liked this post. it's such an important topic. until just recently, my mom constantly told me i needed to lose weight because i was fat. i know that played a big part in my negative body image. i will probably always see myself as fat, no matter what i weigh, because of that. i agree with you...i want to raise my children to eat healthy foods and want to exercise (in the form of playing sports) rather than focusing on weight issues.

  29. Throughout my life, my mom has always been on one diet or another. When I hit puberty and developed her pronounced, pear-like body type, she started to worry about me. The experience wasn't wholly positive, but I do feel that the consciousness helped me to gain less weight in college than I might have otherwise. (Overall, I gained about 20 pounds.. could be worse.)

    On the other hand, my naturally stick-thin father has been a marathoner and triathlete most of my life! Having that example of exercise REALLY helped me once I decided to get healthy and lose the college weight. I know I've said it before, but I focus mostly on the exercise, because that makes me feel great about my body and what it can DO rather than what it looks like.

    I do feel fortunate that because of my mom's dieting, healthy staples like lean protein, veggies and whole wheat bread were always served in my house growing up! That makes the "comfort food" I associate with being with my family a heck of a lot easier to indulge in.

  30. Great thought-provoking post. I think a really important link in the chain of teaching kids healthy lifestyles is being active as a family. If kids learn that sports and other activities are fun, they will benefit from that just as much as learning that fruits and veggies are good fuel for the body.

    I didn't get that (either thing, really) growing up and it has been hard to learn - like you, I always looked at sports and working out as "work" and not "leisure" where as my husband loves doing things with his body just because he can. Guess which one of us has weight/body image issues...

  31. Great post. The hurdle is not only there to lose the weight, but also to talk about it. I think it's about denial, and not putting a serious spin on things, just joking around about how fat you are. I know that's what I do, and it's so stupid. But I worry that if I took myself seriously, and tried to lose weight, I'd fail, and then I'd be a big fat failure, tho I guess I don't see that by not trying, I'm more of a failure than if I did try.

    God, it's so complicated!

  32. One of my first weight related memories was of my mom taking diet peach ice cream to day care for me. all of the other kids got normal chocolate ice cream. I was SIX. Or when she watched me eat M&Ms with my best friend in second grade. She counted each one I put into my mouth.
    It was so hurtful and insensitive. I was pudgy, but also extremely active.

  33. What an awesome post, Jess!

    Although my Mom has struggled with her weight all her life, my Dad was such a negative in my life when it came to self-image. Along with two not-overweight brothers who followed Dad's lead, that led to a lot of ridicule long before I had to face the next risk of being ridiculed at school.

    I would say yay to your outlook, and yay for your plan for your children. For, after all, it is what they hear, from parents, siblings, the media, wherever, that they will filter through as the "truth" about their bodies that might just not be true at all.

  34. Great post. I would definitely do things differently with my kids. Teach them about nutrition/health and encourage them to be active without forcing it. My mom never let us play team sports because she didn't want to be inconvenienced. I would take a different approach.

  35. that was powerful jess. thank you.

    i went on my first diet when i was in the 4th grade. i vividly remember making a chart with my starting weight (90 lbs).

    my entire life i have been on a diet or have thought about going on a diet.

    its exhausting.

    i admire you!

  36. This is an amazing post and as you know- can totally relate! WW is great. Yay for being healthy!

  37. I really admire your views on weight and health. Growing up in my family it was very difficult. First there was a food "pecking order" which meant Dad got to take the first serving, then Mom, then (younger) brother (because he was a boy) then me. I always had to be careful not to take too much in case someone else wanted another serving. Each dish was passed around with this bizarre ritual observed. At any point during the day I could tell you how many calories and fat grams I had consumed. I was never allowed to eat more than 10 potato chips in a single sitting. The cereal was always for my Dad to eat all week and if any was left over (and my brother didn't want it), I could have some on the weekends. It was a really horrible way to grow up in terms of healthy body image and I see behaviors in myself as an adult that I hate, like food hoarding. I never open the food, just feel safer knowing it's in the pantry if I ever wanted it. Bizarre, yes?