25 November, 2008

A Weighty Issue

Weight is an issue that plagues this country.  There are reports on the news about the state of our children, the in activity, the bad foods consumed, and the overall general health.  The issue will probably touch every child at one point or another in that they will become aware of their body or their weight especially in comparison to their peers. 

For my daughter, this happened when she was 5.  She came home and reported that one of the boys said she was fat.  The reason for his proclamation, he couldn’t lift her. 

There are some days when I would like to know just how much body fat resides on my daughter – out of pure curiosity on my part.  She was born a hard body and remains a hard body.  While other mothers talk about the little rolls of baby fat and the cute baby tummies, I remain perfectly silent.  My daughter never had the rolls.  My daughter never had the tummy.  She is now and has always been fit – bone and muscle. 

Thus, when this little boy decided she was fat, I was just a tad stunned.  It hurt her feelings and yet I am not sure she understood why it did.  Fat is fat.  It is not necessarily a bad adjective or word.  It is just a word.  We want our pillows to be fat and fluffy.  We fatten up our game.  Yet the word has taken such negative connotations when it is applied to people. 

I assured her that he didn’t know what he was talking about.  WE talked about eating and exercising and being healthy and fit.  We went on with our lives focused upon health and fitness – ensuring our bodies get what they need to work properly. 

And then, the other night… “Am I too skinny?”

As I said, my daughter is thin.  You can see ribs and shoulder blades as well as developed and defined muscles.  She dances hours, walks hours, and runs.  She also eats well.  Too skinny she is not.

“If you are too skinny you can die.”  She informs me.

And so, at bedtime, I found myself discussing eating disorders and the importance of eating healthy and exercising. 

And this weekend I discovered that a ten year old in her ballet school has developed an eating disorder.  His parents are taking action.  His mom is aware and is nipping it in the bud to the extent possible.  

As the Diva refused to eat breakfast this morning (she isn’t fond of food early in the morning), I stopped to consider when it starts?  At what age do parents need to start observing their kids more closely?  How does it start?  But primarily, how did we get here?  How, as a society, did we get to a point where 10 year old kids are starving themselves and worrying about their weight?  Are we, as a society, doing anything to amend the situation?



liz said...

Think it's good that you're already thinking about this, given the state of girls' body image issues in our society (especially considering she's a dancer!).

On your point about little ones with rolls and bellies not being fit...I don't think that is in any way an indication that a child isn't fit. My kids were both rollie pollies (and my younger one still has a little belly) but you've seen Jack, he's hardly unfit.

The Exception said...

Liz - Sorry, I miscommunicated that I think - the mothers love that about babies (the rolls and tummies)and gush over it. It is cute and part of baby-hood... not a statement of health or fitness or anything of the sort. It is one of those "cute" things that I missed so I kept my mouth shut as I couldn't say "Oh the Diva had that..."

SOrry for the miscommunication!

mama llama said...

I am constantly brain-washing my children on the idea of eating well, exercising and lifestyle diseases that develop as a result of the lack of such routines. Both my children had "thunder thighs", fed solely by my milk. I eat well so they eat well and learn that McDs is an extravagance not an everyday occurance.

We have also had to have the conversation about what is and is not appropriate to say to people or within earshot. Although, sometimes it is what others say that might be the greatest motivators for positive change in our lives...

Basic gist: treat your body like a temple. Period. And it will treat you well back.

Be well, TE.

T said...

I too teach my girls about eating well and exercising. The whole "body is a temple" thing as Mama Llama mentioned. My little one told me the other day that her teacher said "fat" was a bad word. I had to explain to her that if you call someone fat it might hurt their feelings but it is not a bad word.

I also teach them not to deny their bodies. I dieted so much as a young adult (20's and 30's) and my weight yo-yo-ed. It was after finally learning that I could eat whatever I wanted in moderation that I became healthier and at my perfect weight. I teach the importance of foods that are good for their bodies but also try to teach them moderation and balance.

There are many societal pressures placed on our kids at such a young age. All that we can do is try to keep the lines of communication open. And also, DEMONSTRATE.

I always loved the quote by Naomi Wolf': "A mother who radiates self-love and acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem."

We need to work on ourselves most importantly.

dadshouse said...

How great that you talk to your daughter about those things. My kids and I talk about healthy eating all the time, since they both play club sports (soccer and lacrosse). But we have plenty of ice cream! :-) They burn it off. Glad no boy is calling my daughter fat - I'd punch him.

justrun said...

I think it's great you talk to your daughter about these things. I can only imagine looking down the barrel of that challenge.
A friend's daughter has a classmate that's anorexic at 10, and wears clothing made for 5-year-olds. She is in treatment but it is so very sad and scary.

Kathryn said...

I have spent way too much time worrying about being too fat or not thin enough - eventually wound up in the hospital at age 12 due to the stress of it

educaiton and open communication is key and it sounds like you and the Diva are spot on in both those areas!

Susan said...

This is a very important topic. My daughter, unlike yours though, is curvy in areas. And I worry about that -- not about who she is, but what others might say to her.

It's also a big problem, in my opinion, that several clothing brands and stores are selling 9 year olds clothes designed only to fit thin types -- and that look like mini-hoochie mamas to boot. Not good! Fortunately, I've found a few options we both like.

KennethSF said...

Since we are all part of the Society, I think it's incumbent upon us to develop new attitudes. If we defy the fashion industry and its marketing machine's insinuations, if we pay more attention to young women's--and young men's--character instead of their cosmetic perfection and outward appearance, we might have a healthier Society, both mentally and physically.

Anonymous said...