adrienne: the fat kid raising skinny kids

11 May

long blog today – kind of weight loss journey – lots of issues to deal with here

New moms have a lot of aspirations for their kids. They start as inklings of hope—of healthy lifestyles, successful careers, good character. But one of the first things I thought of upon getting pregnant was this: I’m never going to let my kids get as fat as I am.

I’ve heard firsthand stories of mothers pushing their eating disorders on their kids, whether they be restricting or overeating. I’ve seen the results in children, from malnourishment to obesity.

I worry just as much that my kids will turn out fat as I do that I will push my disordered eating behaviors onto them.

A lot of my disordered eating at home happens in private. There is deception. I casually ask my child if he or she is done with dinner before I take the plate away, behind a closed door, and shove as many leftovers into my mouth as I can, over the garbage can like I hope that some will drop in and avoid my mouth. Sometimes it’s even half-eaten food. It doesn’t matter to me. And if there is any left, I will have to cover it up with other garbage to guarantee I won’t go after it later.

This is not okay. And yet the allure of doing it is so great it’s nearly irresistible.

It pains me to throw away that food (“Clean your plate” was something I grew up with, which in addition to poverty I directly attribute to this strange behavior). It’s like cheating on a test and knowing you will never get caught. The only damage it does is to yourself—to your own integrity and well being.

In the past there were a few times when I took the food before my child was completely finished—say they left it on the table to play and came back to find it gone. The first time I heard “Don’t eat my food, Mommy!” I started making very sure that they were done before I “cleaned up” after them.

I know this is behavior I cannot let them see. I don’t want them to wonder why I do it; I don’t want them to think it’s okay.

So I hide in my own house.

My kids have always been healthy eaters, but it’s not because they came out of the womb that way. I pushed them into fruits, veggies, raw foods, balanced meals, out of sheer fear that if I lost that control or if I didn’t impress these values upon them from the moment they weaned from my breast, they would become the fat kid I was.

I didn’t want them to endure the humiliation I felt at the taunts of my peers, the helplessness I felt when I couldn’t get any sympathy from my parents. The feelings that everybody thought there was something wrong with me because of my weight and the need to make up for that in any way possible, even compromising myself for attention. And then, the lack of self-confidence that spawned out of years of feeling inadequate compared to my thinner classmates, even my friends, that led me down paths I shouldn’t have tread.

And the secret eating. All the secret eating. I used to eat my grandfather’s fruit pies and my dad’s Cheez Whiz and his snack cakes, late at night or when home alone, and pretend they didn’t know they went missing.

They never said a thing about it, either.

In high school I once broke down in tears to my mom, so incredibly upset that I was overweight. I cried that I didn’t know how to fix it. My mother seemed blindsided and unable to assist. She told me I should exercise more.

This is not going to happen to my kids.

My son’s BMI when he was five was 17.83 (yes, down to the decimal) and the elation I felt was kind of sick, in a way. I patted myself on the back for it. Here was the evidence—he was a skinny kid, not a fat one.

I stress again, I never restrict my kids—every time they’re hungry, I feed them. Every time they ask I give them something to eat. But it’s healthy fare and we rarely go out to restaurants. We’ve talked about the consequences of eating too much restaurant food and a little bit about the consequences of overeating, but not too much. Because I also don’t want them to hate themselves if they do gain weight. I never want them to hate their bodies the way I’ve hated mine.

It’s a really tricky balance.

I’ve taught myself it’s ok for them to have treats. They don’t drink soda and don’t like it, which is a major accomplishment. I used to water down their juice 50/50 until recently, when calories became more important to my son. My kids are still eating out of their trick-or-treat bags from last year because they don’t care to gorge themselves (unlike me, who would go through her bag in two or three days).

My son’s BMI when he was five was 17.83 (yes, down to the decimal) and the elation I felt was kind of sick, in a way. I patted myself on the back for it. Here was the evidence—he was a skinny kid, not a fat one.

But we do “after dinner treat” which is a small piece of candy every night. At times I feel guilty about this, like I’m getting them into terrible habits. I struggle with the idea of food as rewards, knowing it’s not the best thing to do but doing it anyway because to me, what is the greater reward?

My son’s weight has become an issue. Five months ago a dietician told me he was eight pounds underweight. This is not either of our faults at all; he has food-sensitive sensory processing disorder, which means anything but bland, lukewarm, non-mixed food causes reactions like gagging because it overwhelms his senses. He used to only eat about ten things, mostly fruits and bread. After occupational therapy and food therapy, my son has since been on a regimen of gaining weight and trying new foods.

like this… which he would never touch a year ago

A big fear of mine, then, is that he will gain the weight he needs and then not stop at a healthy level. The way we have gained weight is through healthy calories, like whole milk and healthy fats, not fast food. I know this helps, but the fear is still there.

I still have to ask my mom or Miss A sometimes if they are overweight. In my eyes, they look perfect. But in my own eyes for a long time, I was perfect, until others told me I wasn’t.

All I can do is be the parent I needed at times—supportive and compassionate, proactive in a positive way when it comes to keeping all of our bodies healthy. I can nourish them with good food and love and whatever else they say they need. I can try to cut down my disordered eating in order to live a longer, healthier life for them and to demonstrate healthy behaviors they can emulate.

They know mommy has gotten smaller. They only recently learned that it’s called “losing weight.” One day I will sit down with them and have the brave conversation about how I gained it and how to treat our bodies with respect and not to be ashamed of ourselves, no matter what size we are.

But I won’t be ready to do that until I can have that conversation with myself.

7 Responses to “adrienne: the fat kid raising skinny kids”

  1. Wicked May 11, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    I could have written the first part of this post. I never hated my body though. But I was always a chubby kid and petrified for my kids. Bailey is a health weight and she is just perfect. I still sometimes wonder but all the feedback I get is that she is normal. Brady is overweight. Thankfullly he has maintained his weight for awhile so he’s growing into it. But while we talk about healthy eating and choices and not over-eating, neither of them can control their impulses and would eat way too much given the opportuntity. It worries me. I can only control their meals for so long.

    • icedteainthebag May 11, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

      Self-hate sucks and I’m happy you’ve never had it.

      That instinct to protect our kids is a really strong one and it’s difficult when you know that if they go one way, the risk of them having a hard time in life increases so much. But you don’t want to be crazy, either–you want them to enjoy food and the feelings you have always associated with it. Contentment, satisfaction.

      I hope that Brady leans out as he grows. I know my stepson did tremendously. Impulse control is a really tough issue. How do you teach a child that? How do you get them to stop without fostering resentment and turning them into secret eaters? I know the one time my mom told me to take less mashed potatoes at dinner, I freaked out. Like, really bad. I felt this blanket of embarrassment and shame.

  2. Dasha May 11, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    This is a wonderful post. So many things to think about.

    I think it’s definitely possible to pass on one’s food/weight issues to one’s kids. My dad was overweight when I was a child and very preoccupied with dieting, calories, weight loss, etc. He frequently made comments about what I was eating, how I was eating it, and my weight. (I’m sure my mom will come on here and deny it but that’s how I remember it. Not that he wasn’t a loving, wonderful father. He was. But he had issues with compulsive overeating and didn’t always deal with them in a healthy way around his children.) From a very young age I became similarly preoccupied, started sneaking food, the whole bit.

    But I think you’re doing a great job with your kids to ensure that they’re healthy, active kids. I LOVE that you’re involved the kids in your exercise in a healthy way. I LOVE that you’re not just giving them junk and turning them loose on the TV. I LOVE that you’re doing so much thinking about these issues because you love them so much and want to spare them the issues you faced growing up. Can you 100% guarantee that they won’t ever be overweight? No. Genetics, environment outside of the home and other factors play a role. But you can guarantee that you’re raised them in a healthy and loving way. And that’s a whole lot.

    • icedteainthebag May 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

      It is a post that could have been three posts. But I needed to get all of it out now.

      Thanks for being so honest and sharing the source of your food/weight issues. Disordered eating is a disease (I don’t say that in a derogatory way, but as a classification) that impacts the lives of those around us and is terribly difficult to manage. There is a reason why OA follows the 12-step program. Those behaviors of addiction are shockingly identical. So yes, of course you learned it from your father. I don’t know where I learned mine from, as I was the first person in my family to have eating issues. I feel like it will be a lifetime struggle for the both of us. I don’t want it to be a lifetime struggle for my children.

      I try with my kids. Genetics does play a factor; their father is overweight as well, and we are both emotional eaters to the extreme. I will control what I can and leave the rest up to the kids. I want to teach them moderation (treats are awesome! fast food is awesome! just not all the time) and so many things. You’re right, there is no guarantee. I struggle with that reality so much.

  3. cpageh May 12, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are a wonderful parent. Brava!

  4. actuallyfatt November 24, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    When your actions come from a place of love they are often the right ones. Trust in yourself and your choices, you sound like a fantastic mother and I bet your kids are turning out beautifully.

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