Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Best Reason? The Worst Reason? I Honestly Don't Know

Confession: I don't want Eve to have any memories of me being fat.

I don't ever want my daughter to be ashamed of her mother. And I am afraid that if I don't lose weight, she would be.

(Now, okay. Let's be real. By the time Eve turns 11, she will be embarrassed of me because of how I breathe.  Or, you know, how I blink. I remember being 11 and I remember that my parents were utterly mortifying simply because they had the nerve to exist.  But that's not what I'm talking about exactly.)

I don't want Eve to have to deal with other kids making fun of her because of something I am entirely responsible for and can entirely control.

But I'm not sure I'm right. I'm not sure that's a good reason to lose weight.

I KNOW that Eve's own body image will be based less on what I tell her and more on what I show her.  I want to be healthy, I want to maintain a healthy weight, and I want to eat good foods because I want to show-by-example great eating habits that she will hopefully employ throughout her life.

On the other hand, I do not want to teach Eve that being fat is inherently bad. I don't think growing up with a "fear of fat" is a healthy approach to living. (Case in point: Me.)  Isn't body acceptance -- at any weight (or appearance, for that matter) -- the ultimate goal?

I have noticed this: in my life, the people who are kindest and most accepting of my size are generally those who aren't overweight themselves but who have someone in their immediate family who is.  Maybe if I never lost weight, Eve would be one of those kind people.

But then, maybe if I never lost weight and also never seemed unhappy about, diminished by, apologetic for, or embarrassed of my body, my daughter wouldn't have to be, either. And maybe that's the healthiest goal of all.

Except...how do I do that?  How do I want to be totally not weight-conscious and totally weight-conscious at the same time? How do you encourage "health" without encouraging "fear of fat"?  How do you make one good without making the other bad?

And I mean, it's not like my losing weight will suddenly make Eve not have body issues. I'm just having trouble reconciling the notions that:

a) I am not happy as an overweight person and do not like being identified as fat. The idea of being someone's "fat mom" is horrifying to me;

and

b) I don't want Eve to ever feel horrified for how she looks, however she looks.


How do you do it? How did you do it?  How do you wish you could have done it?

38 comments:

  1. Check out Lessons From the Fat-O-Sphere... it'll change your life ;)

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  2. I don't have an answer for you but I can tell you that my grandmother struggled with weight to the point that her daughters both became dangerously anorexic in response to her own self-loathing. I don't remember my grandmother as being fat. I remember how soft her arms were when she held me. No one has ever given me softer hugs in my life.

    You're beautiful, my friend. It shines through.

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  3. I think I have a pretty good brain around being "healthy" and I credit my parents with that. One, there were always cookies in our house but they were homemade, and the difference between homemade/processed was explained. We had to ask for snacks (the answer was typically yes) which made us think before we ate. Our food was typically from scratch & well balanced. We played sports and we induldged in the occasional ice cream cone. That and we were grounded for all time if we were mean to others, be it fat, slow or annoying. Between all those lessons my brother and I enjoy good food AND healthy lifestyles- which means I don't berate myself for the occasional McDonalds trip but it isn't a habit either.

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  4. I struggle with this idea every once in awhile, when I think about having kids. How do I pass on the message that my child is gorgeous the way he/she is, when I can't apply it to myself? How many more years of therapy will get me there? Etc.

    So far, you seem to have a fairly healthy attitude. As in, you want to lose weight, but don't think you're unworthy because you're bigger than society wants you to be. I think that attitude, coupled with your husband treating you and your daughter with admiration for your looks will go far. (Of course not too much focus on looks, then she'll get a complex, and the cycle continues!)

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  5. My MIL has always struggled with her weight, and her daughter has been battling anorexia for over 10 years. Not that I think it's the only reason she's anorexic, but I think it's part of it. My SIL was also a competitive athlete (speed skater) throughout her childhood and early 20's, and I think that's a huge part of the disorder. Without someone telling her what to eat and when to work out, she loses control.

    I feel the same as you do, I don't want to be a fat mom and I want to give my son healthy habits without obsessing over it. I think it's harder with a daughter, though. I look forward to reading through the comments here.

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  6. You cannot have it both ways. I'm sorry to say that. I watched my mom diet for YEARS and I'm still watching it, and I learned that no matter how much she loved me, because I looked like her and she looked bad (fat), I looked bad too. I'm not saying she didn't praise me and tell me the right things. But she hated herself (still does) and that took a toll. I've yo-yoed for years, and for years I ate like a disordered person.

    I hate that my mom is so unhappy with her body. I HATE IT. I adore my mom, but I wish for her the same peace I'm finding for myself--the ability to love my body, fat and all. I've been using the intuitive eating model, and removing all moral value from food items, and it's helped me maintain my weight (my very overweight weight, but still). I haven't done that since high school.

    It's not for everyone, fat acceptance, but I just don't think you can pretend that if you say the right things, and teach the right things, then you can diet yourself right into the next millennium, no harm done. Actions matter, sometimes more than words.

    Also, I was never ONCE embarrassed about my mom's weight. I was more embarrassed by her Jenny Craig meals and uncomfortability in her own skin, and I think that is partly because it embarrassed my dad. I just, point blank, adored (and still adore) my mom. I would have just adored her even more if she could have taught me to love myself, the same way she loved herself. Since she didn't, I didn't.

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  7. Hmmm.

    I grew up on a diet. I literally remember being 7 and eating gross, disgusting "diet" food because all three of us (myself, my sister and my mom) were "on a diet".

    I have not been OFF a diet since. I have a very unhealthy relationship with food, and I really think that the way in which my weight as a child was handled (yes, I was a fat kid) has A LOT to do with it.

    I'm did succeed in losing a lot of weight, but mentally I'm not at peace with food or my body.

    I've always said that if I have a daughter, and she needs to lose some weight to maintain HEALTH then she will go on "a diet", but she will never, EVER know. I will serve her healthy meals with appropriate portion control, and she will do sports and we will play outside for exercise, but that will be our lifestyle - NOT a diet.

    I think wanting to be healthy for your child is a great reason to lose weight. But I think more important is avoiding the entire concept of dieting and "fat" for as long as possible when they are growing up.

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  8. I don't have an answer, but I do have a story. My mother has struggled with weight as long as I've been alive and is at her thinnest now after a diabetes scare. Her constant dieting taught me that meals have a fruit or veggie in them, but now I'd say my regular eating is healthier than how I grew up for a number of reasons. I'm outrageously thin, my two sisters are average sized. We all have our own body issues, only some of which I can blame on my mother's issues. But, my mom's weird diet rules taught me about moderation and balance, principles that I think contribute to my current size and relative body happiness.
    So, uh, I think if you try to eat well and try to teach eve to eat well, and also tell her she is healthy and not criticize her for being "fat" when she isn't (or, maybe, yourself) that is probably the most important. Though, by all means, use this weight loss motivation to develop better habits.

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  9. If you do or if you don't, Eve will be great because of your honesty. Virtues are what form a child.

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  10. Pretty much what everyone has already said, dittoed.
    I think as girls, we all have self image issues because of the world we live in, not necessarily because of what our mothers show us. My mom[named Evie - I smile when you refer to Eve by that name] has spent my whole life telling me I'm beautiful, & telling me I'm not when I mention being chunky. We are both "thick" or "healthy" girls, & my mom has never had a problem with her body. Hell, at 43 she doesn't hesitate to rock a bikini at the beach. But you wouldn't catch me dead in a bikini, much less comfortably. I blame society, & only wish my mom's confidence in herself had caught on with me.
    All that matters is health and happiness, & your weight won't play into that in Eve's life if you show her an active lifestyle & a healthy relationship with food. You seem to be right on that track, so I wouldn't be worried at all. Keep it up, momma. :]

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  11. I don't have kids, like some of the others, but I have thought about how this issue would/will play out.

    I often wish that instead of forcing me to take cello lessons, my mom would have made me do soccer. Or something. But I have a fat mom. And sport was never a priority.

    I might argue that more than body acceptance, a low resting heart rate is the ultimate goal. That if my baby girls and boys only get so many heart beats in a life time, I want those contractions of their hearts to span as long and as beautifully as possible.

    As the fat daughter of a fat mom, whose the fat daughter of a fat mom, I have no idea, though, how I will ever teach children to learn to love their bodies for the wonderful tools of exertion and strength and endurance that they are.

    My current genius plan is to hurry up and get a whole new brain, one that loves sweating!, in my noggin before there are babes.

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  12. I have the fear of being the "fat mom" and I am far from having children. But I know how it can effect both mother and child. To me, the importance is less about body image and more about self-confidence.

    There are two choices:
    1. You believe you're amazing person who happens to have some extra weight. And you are willing to work to shed those pounds.

    OR

    2. You believe being fat makes you less of a person. And the more weight you lose the better person you become. (Note: You will have to teach Eve that you can't change the fact that some people don't like fat people -- and then teach her the some witty retorts for anyone who is mean, about anything! My mom taught me "up your nose with a rubber hose" to use when people were mean to me!)

    Having a mother who wants to stay thin/get thinner is totally reasonable in a child's eyes (it was in mine). It's believing that being thin is the only way you can find happiness and wholeness that is confusing and cause for body issues (it was for me).

    Eve has a beautiful, wonderful mother who has wanted to lose weight for a handful of reasons and now the main reason seems to be that she wants to be happy and healthy for herself and her daughter! Sounds like a healthy body image to me!

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  13. When I became a Mom at age 36, I was not in good shape, I did not like exercise, and was kinda overweight. When preparing for my daughter's arrival (she was adopted) my one thought was: my God, I'd better stay healthy a loooong time because now I've got a child to raise! So, I once-and-for-all made the decision to get in shape, get stronger and stay that way. Forever. I don't know if I would've done it for any other reason but believe me,I'm glad I did it. I think you're starting to see that you're not happy with the way things are and want it to change, and Eve has had a part in that for sure.

    I really don't think you need to be terribly worried about how Eve perceives herself as she gets older. It goes a long way to give your child as much UNCONDITIONAL love and acceptance as you are able to give. You can set her on her way to a good self esteem in the beginning, and she'll follow along.

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  14. oy, this is such a tough one, because you can't move the cultural mountain that made us all put so much value on shape and size. you can't. she'll feel it, she'll know people who have a hard time, she'll want to lose 10 pounds for her wedding day. all the disney princesses are tiny, all the store mannequins are tiny, all the writing on the food at the grocery store says LOW FAT!!!

    as a dancer, over-achiever, and daughter of a dieter, i was bound to have, and did have an eating disorder. i spent a lot of money in counseling and the like, and even just knowing intellectually what was causing my challenges with food didn't make as much a difference as dating a healthy eater.

    my husband has a healthy relationship with food. he doesn't eat it when he's sad or overeat to celebrate his victories. he likes good food, but he eats when he is hungry, stops when he is full, and kinda can tell when he could use some more vegetables. being part of his "culture" around food has made me a much healthier person. not healthy like i eat low fat and small portions (which is what i did when i was trying to make up for overeating), but healthy like- "grilled cheese sounds good," eat it, move on.

    this doesn't mean i don't put on five outfits sometimes and lament that when i'm rehearsing less, my pants are tighter. but i've realized that it's more important to stop and check in with your actual body sensations to know when you're hungry, what you might like to eat, and when you should do something else besides eat.

    i certainly haven't mastered it, but i notice that aside from the whole wanting to be thin issue, we have a weird relationship to eating in general in this culture because every decision we make (including about what to eat) is a decision based on weighing pros and cons, not listening to your intuitive wisdom.

    we are thinking about starting a family, and because this has been the defining challenge of my own path, i worry about passing it along, too. i think it's a truly conversation-worthy topic, and i'm glad you mentioned it, Kristy!

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  15. My father's been obese my whole life. I'm the chubbiest of 3 kids and am finding, as I near 38 years old, losing weight is so very difficult. I tell my husband I married him so that I have a chance of having thin kids with long legs (he's tall, thin and naturally fit). Then I tell him I'm kidding. But really? It's a great benefit. No kids yet, but I'll keep my fingers crossed for my future spawn.

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  16. I've recently come to realize just how lucky I am to have grown up with a great body image, or rather no body image issues. My mom never really talked about weight, or even really how she looked much. She took care of herself, wore makeup when she went to work and wore clothes that suited her. But to be honest, it was the other stuff she did that had the most impact. My mother had lots of other interesting things going on in her life. She had hobbies and goals and fun things going on. She encouraged me to do the same. I also grew up watching both of my parents cook. We always had a vegetable at dinner-not to loose weight but because that was part of a healthy meal. We only had soft drinks as a special treat and most of our baked goods were homemade-frequently by me. We did have ice cream but we had to ask-it was a treat but not forbidden. Food and weight weren't an issue because no one in my house made them an issue, you ate mostly healthy stuff and enjoyed treats sometimes. Years later, my dad struggles with his weight. He is always on a diet and nothing really works. My mom eats the same meals he does but doesn't have problems, and I think most of this is attitude. If she wants ice cream, she reaches for the small bowl and has a scoop or two. If she makes eggs for breakfast, she peels an orange to go with. My dad, on the other hand, can't seem to enjoy food unless its to gorge.
    I do yoga regularly-first just because it was cool and trendy and now because it helps to remind me that my body is cool, it does amazing things for me and I should return the favour by taking care of it. That doesn't mean no ice cream and cake-it just means keep that stuff moderate.

    I have no idea if this will help, but as an appreciative gesture to my mom I thought I'd share and hope it helps you and Eve.

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  17. All the women in my family have been heavy, with the exception of my aunt. She has strictly watched her diet since she was young, to the point where a doctor told her, while she was a teenager, that your body requires a certain amount of fat & oil to function. She she'd eat the oil directly, instead of adding it to her diet in the form of "food".

    Your daughter is going to learn what you show her. Yes, society has a loud voice, but yours will be the constant voice. And it is possible to raise kids who are, largely, "society proof".

    My thought is that you need to be comfortable with yourself, however you are. My gentle reminder is that "healthy" is not, necessarily, the same as "thin". Healthy is learning to love being active, and learning to have less of a codependent relationship with food. It's using food as fuel for your healthy body and not for boredom or stress or anxiety relief. It's listening when your body tells you it needs something or that you're full or that you're hungry.

    Your daughter is going to love you no matter what size you are. Personally, though, I have butted up against that point where the size I am prevents me from doing as much with my kids as I'd like to. But, also, you still need to be very careful of the example that you're setting for her. I want to be able to race my daughter to the car, but I don't want her to think that things like crash dieting are ok.

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  18. I find this VERY DIFFICULT to deal with. The thought of "losing weight so my children won't be ashamed of me," as if fatness is something they could legitimately be ashamed of, is abhorrent to me. It literally makes me queasy. And yet I also understand what you mean. I just wish I didn't, because BARF. How is it that we have come to a place where our fatness/thinness is something we want our children to be proud of?

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  19. I find I'm getting madder and madder about this as the more I think about it. Will we have nose jobs so our children won't be ashamed of us? Will we get Botox so our children won't be ashamed of us? Will we rework our wardrobes so our children won't be ashamed of us?

    I hope that the message we can give our children is that shame is due when we buckle under inappropriate pressures, not when we have a certain physical appearance.

    Seriously, dude, if my children are ashamed of me because I am FAT, they can SUCK IT UP, and their ASSES can meet my FOOT. It seems to me like only a total ASSHOLE would be ASHAMED because a family member was overweight, and I don't want to encourage that point of view. I am coming away from this almost wanting to be DELIBERATELY FAT!

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  20. My parents were various sizes over the course of my life growing up. They would exercise and diet, but they never discussed thier own body issues in front of me that I remember. It was always based around the idea of being "more healthy": healthy eating, more exercise. We ate pretty darn heatlhy to begin with, whole foods, lots of veggies, and dessert was often fruit. And honestly, I had no hang ups about their size (other than at age 11 I was mortified that my mom didn't wear a bra!)
    The best gift you can give your kid is self confidence. If you are always encouraging them to be the best they can be, and not focusing on your own body issues in front of her, you are already ahead of the game.
    Also, I was encouraged to participate in all sorts of activities from art classes to ballet to soccer to swimming or whatever may have interersted me at the time. It gives you a sense of being able to do different stuff, and being capable in your own body. AND that makes a huge difference in my life, being capable and self cofindent. I may be not the optimal size according to society, but who cares? I can change that if I want, but I don't have to talk it up all the time. And I still play soccer.

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  21. The bottom line is this: If you lose weight, you will be healthier. If you are healthier, you will increase the amount of time you get on this planet to spend with your daughter. Obesity is a health issue that takes years off your life. I believe that's common knowledge.

    So in the end, who cares what YOUR underlying motivation is for losing weight?

    If you instill in your daughter how to make healthy, sensible and disciplined decisions regarding diet and exercise (as well as with all other, and more important aspects of life), only good things can happen. Looking "good" is simply a positive outcome of living a healthy lifestyle, whether that's the primary motivation or not.

    Being overweight is your body's way of telling you that you are not making healthy decisions. It's not necessarily about a "fear of fat", it's about health. Teach your daughter the difference between healthy and unhealthy.

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  22. My dad was inactive, but somehow strong. His smoking didn't let him be too active, and I loved him dearly and he would say, "Don't do what I did. Take care of yourself!" And I could feel that he meant that.

    My mom was very thin my entire life and ate raw eggs and took diet pills. I always looked at it like, "why?" and kind of went the other way, like, "I'm going to eat what I want, no matter what, and no one's going to stop me."

    My husband's mother is severely obese. It has changed my husband. He sees a direct connection between what goes in his mouth and his health--I think from his childhood experience with his mom.
    I love her dearly. If she were my age, we'd be best friends. She is the best mom in the world and her kids know it. The saddest thing in the world, though, is that now that she's in her 50's, she has had one knee replacement and needs another, and can't do the things we want to do. Aside from any weird things she could've passed down--and she didn't--because she is just, well, totally honest, loving, and all-around awesome, we only get sad when we want to do things with her--and she wants to do things with us, and can't. It's enough to bring us to tears, actually, because about the only activity we can do together is sit and talk. My son wants her to run around with him, and it breaks her heart that she can't. I worry about her health, and her own quality of life, 10 or 20 years from now.

    This is the stage when we start worrying about how we're going to screw up our kids. We just have to also remember that we're not 100% perfect, you know. :)

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  23. Here is a lesson on what not to do:

    I hate to say it, cuz I love her very much, but my mom messed me up good with the weight thing. She is itty bitty, 4'10" at her tallest, 99# at her heaviest. Then she married my dad....who was not heavy, in fact is/was the thinnest of his household of very large farm peeps in Michoacan, Mexico.

    My older brother took after her delicate featured/small side, looks awesome at 129#s...I, um didn't. When I was 9? I was both taller almost twice as heavy as my mom. At 12 I could have been Hagrid and picked her up and put her on a dresser (maybe I should have because), when I hit puberty she could stand it no more and I started seeing a doctor about my weight. A young doctor. A cute, young doctor. Can we say mortified?

    Was I fat? When measured? I was the average sized 13 yr old with boobs....and hips. But when weighed? I was 20# overweight according to the gov'ment. I thought I was a whale. Then I grew up, got married (all "overweight" mind, because I simply could not get down to my "required" weight no matter what I did) and sailed over 6,000 miles to Mexico and then on to Hawaii and lost so much weight I could see both hip and rib bones... I was still 20# heavier than the BMI/government chart for my height. I seriously have big, nay, heavy bones.

    And now, after a divorce and treachery and serious bad noise? I am a good 55# heavier than I'm supposed to be (or 35# really, cuz of those bones?)...because I use that padding to hide, protect myself, become invisible.

    Knowing is half the battle, but really, don't pull what my mom did and you'll be fine.

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  24. You want to lose weight for your health, which is good for Eve as well as for you. I'm sure you've said before that you want to be able to play with her with more energy throughout her childhood. That is what matters! How you look is seperate to your health and how Eve learns to think about weight.
    Think about it: If your weight was something that looked different about you, but didn't affect your health or energy or all that, would you change it? You might dye your hair, but you wouldn't worry about Eve's childhood being affected because you were a blond.

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  25. Kristy, there's just no way to know whether or not Eve will be embarrassed by your weight. As you can see from the comments above--different people react differently to the same situation.

    I want to thank you for your inadvertent inspiration, too. I'm new here as a result of the CAP interview and have been reading through the archives (I'm up to Eve's birth and you are one fine writer) and during that reading I thought about how long you've been wanting to lose weight and it got me to thinking about how much time I waste thinking about this very same topic and I don't want to do that anymore. Once I had that thought it's been much easier to eat better and exercise. I'm 60 and was walking 15 miles a week. I bumped it up to 20 miles a week and have almost completely dropped cheese and tortilla chips from my diet and make much better food choices in general. I've lost a few pounds but that was only a side benefit--feeling better about myself was the real benefit.

    I'm pretty sure you'll feel better about yourself when accomplish your goal. I wish you ever success with that!

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  26. My mom's mom fed her diet pills in middle school because she didn't measure up to her standard of thin=beautiful. My mom is just naturally a larger woman - most of the women in my very German family are (I'm on the small end of that spectrum but still struggle with the spectre of becoming a zaftig Tuetonic matron someday).

    Blessedly my mom has an inner strength like few others, so she managed to avoid becoming a wreck at the hand of her crazy mom, has an amazing career, a 35+ year healthy marriage, and two successful kids who she never pressured to look one way or another. She fed us healthy, sensible meals, and still managed to teach me how to make real homemade pies and bread just like her Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother.

    From her, I learned that healthy eating means fresh vegetables, a variety of colors, and little-to-no processed ingredients. Also that dinner is a special time that should focus on interacting with those you love - not just shoveling food into your face in front of the TV like so many modern families.

    That said, she still does struggle with extra weight and the health issues that come from it. She cooks almost entirely from scratch with whole food ingredients, yet still has weight-related high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

    I have never once been embarrassed by my mother - she is my hero. That said, I continue to encourage her to up her exercise levels for one selfish reason: I want her to be around. Heart disease is the leading killer of women, and the risk of heart disease is exponentially made worse by excess weight. I want my kids to have a grandmother. I want that to be the reason she hits the Nordic Trac.

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  27. My mother was heavy all her life until 2 years before she got cancer and died. I was NEVER ashamed of how she looked. What bothered me was that she was ashamed of how she looked. In my mind, she was just Mom. I never knew she was fat until she told me.

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  28. The truth is, you don't know if Eve will be thin, fat, or in between. You don't know if she'll be a chubby kid , or if her weight will fluctuate throughout her childhood, or if she'll have a speedy metabolism all her life. You also don't know if she'll have body image issues or not. I think you should worry less about the potential "what will Eve think of me" and "what kind of person will Eve be like" because you just don't know. If you want to lose weight, do it for yourself. :-) You count, too!

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  29. I can tell you how my mom (and dad) managed to raise me with a healthy attitude toward food and my body. My mom's mother had an unhealthy relationship with food and her body, which affected my mom in negative ways, and she figured out how not to do that to us (me and my sister).

    First, she *never* discussed wanting to lose weight or made disparaging comments about her own body in our presence. I figured out as an adult that she had body issues, but I did not know that as a kid through young adulthood. I think that is huge. Now, as an adult, I sometimes hear her say negative things about her body and it is so painful to me. I am so glad she kept that from us when it mattered the most.

    Second, she and my dad exercised regularly *and* did not complain about it. It was not a chore; it was not something they had to do or something they had to be rewarded for doing. Instead, it was either simply something normal that one did or it was something awesome. My mom treated it more as something normal and my dad treated it more as something awesome -- he would talk about having had a great run, etc. I think both attitudes were powerfully good for me. It oriented me toward finding the pleasure in exercise *and* toward doing it even when it wasn't pleasurable -- simply because it's what one does.

    Third, we ate healthful food - well-balanced meals. My mom loved feeding us nutritious food (still does) -- giving our bodies something good for them felt to her like giving us love. We did get junk food sometimes, but very rarely; it was not a normal part of our lives. It was not turned into something forbidden either; it just wasn't a big deal.

    Their focus when it came to food was health. My dad developed high cholesterol when I was in around 6th or 7th grade, so the food we ate changed. (It had been healthful already, but he had to make some specific changes.) He didn't complain about it or "cheat" -- he took seriously the importance of taking care of his body (for which I am eternally grateful to him because I need him here as long as possible).

    Because of the eating habits and exercise, and maybe a bit of genetics, I was not overweight as a kid and did not feel bad about my body until junior high when everyone but me started getting breasts (*sigh)... I am grateful to my parents for having set me up to be oriented toward health.

    If my mom had shared with me how she really felt about her body -- that she felt she was too fat and how she tried to keep her weight down -- I am *positive* it would have affected me negatively. Even now, as an adult, when I hear her say things like that, it can make me see myself differently.

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  30. Kristy, I think you need to work first on the way YOU see yourself - what do you see and what do you project?

    If you make it about "not being fat" then of course your daughter will be affected.

    Weight needs to be a non-issue. Like "Anonymous" above me, living a healthy lifestyle needs to just simply be "what one does" - nothing more, nothing less.

    It pisses me off to no end to see my sister with her teenage daughter (a daughter who, it might be added, could stand to spend a little less time in front of the TV and a little time at all walking the dog) decide to go on some ridiculous diet herself - her daughter is learning that the way to lose weight isn't to eat a healthy diet, or to get up off your ass and get some exercise - it's to literally starve yourself. (500 calories a day? Really?)

    I've currently lost about 45 pounds (in the last 2 years), and I have about 40-50 to go. Sure, I could probably lose it faster - do something drastic - surgery, starve myself, move into a gym for a few hours a day. But you know what? I don't want to live that way. I don't want my family to live that way. I enjoy food too much to give it up, and I have much better things to do with my time than waste several hours a week at a gym.

    Learn to be healthy, not just thin. It won't happen overnight, but it can happen. Then teach your daughter.

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  31. I could have written what AR wrote above. My mom was always "on a diet" -- eating a lowfat yogurt for dinner when the rest of us had a normal chicken-vegetable-rice meal. We never had chips or cookies in the house -- fruit for snacks. She worried about my weight more than I ever did, and offered to pay for Jenny Craig for me when she was on it. I never thought she was fat. I was never embarrassed by the way she looked, ever. I always thought she was beautiful no matter what she weighed. It was in her head, not mine. But she put it in my head.

    In my house, with my daughter, I treat myself as beautiful just as I treat her as beautiful (and we both are.) "Fat" is a descriptor, like "freckled" or "redheaded," and I teach her that most people don't like you to point and make ANY kind of personal comment; it's not polite. (i.e. "That man's really tall!" is no more welcome than "That man's really fat!") I'm not her "fat mom," I'm her mom. Smart, beautiful, funny, great cook, fat, patient, porcelain-skinned, vegetable-loving, avid-reader, novice-knitter mom. It's one of the many things I am. I wouldn't dream of her being ashamed of it. And your daughter's (imagined) shame is no better a reason to lose weight than some boyfriend's shame, you know. It's still someone else.

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  32. Ok, this is reductionist, but the question seems to be:

    Thin or happy?

    Because, we KNOW fat DOES NOT equal healthy. Thin doesn't equal happy. But hating yourself for being fat, does. And worrying that your kid will be ashamed of you...will make her ashamed of herself. Treat yourself with love and kindness, and Eve will get the right message. Eat food, enjoy life, move your body in ways that feel good. Pursue your hobbies. I think that's it.

    My family: parents always exercised, Mom sometimes dieted. Mom never thought she was attractive and always had food issues as a kid. So, I was told clearly and sincerely that I was beautiful. I was never forced to eat anything. I was never denied dessert if I didn't eat my veggies. We didn't have sugar cereals, soda or chips in the house. I could eat them at friends' houses. No forbidden foods. Meals out at good restaurants. Lots of cooking at home. My folks didn't like fast food (snobs) so I had it rarely, as a treat.

    I'm overweight by published standards. Do I look good? Yes. Am I healthy? Yes. Do I always eat the most nutritious foods? No. Do I torture myself about it? No. Do I move around regularly? Yes.

    When/if I have kids, they will be beautiful to me, just as Eve is to you. She is a reflection of you...and that means you are beautiful too.

    You have so much good in your life-- a wonderful daughter, a loving husband, a home, a great blog. I wish you could accept yourself and stop seeing your weight as a moral failing. It isn't and we aren't judging you. Anyone who would is a fool and not worth your attention anyway.

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  33. Honestly I didn't have body image issues until college. I was heavier but everyone in my family was. It wasn't until my mom started urging me to lose weight and go on a diet with her because I had to be thin to get a good job that I really started to hate myself. So I guess what I'm saying is help your daughter eat healthy by making good choices and show her how to like herself. Oh, and love yourself, yo.

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  34. Wanting to be healthy can be completely compatible with not pathologizing fatness. The trick, to me, is focusing on healthy behaviors and taking care of the body you've got, and not focusing on specific outcomes.

    For example, my first boyfriend was super, super skinny, but was wicked strong. If he wanted to gage how 'healthy' he was by how big his muscles were, he was SOL. But going by what he could lift, he was set. Similarly, there are triatheletes with weights all over the map - go by how you treat your body, not by what the results are, and health can be uncoupled from appearance.

    Easier said than done, though.

    **Warning! Assumptions are about to be made, and as I only know you through the interwebs, I know there's lots of info that I don't have.**

    Based on what I've read through your blog, you're carrying around some feelings of shame connected to your weight. Not self-loathing or low self-worth, but shame around being larger, and most especially about not having 'the discipline' to stay on a restrictive diet/meal plan/ lifestyle for a long period of time.

    I can understand this shame (as I share it!), but choosing to *not* be super-disciplined isn't a moral failing. While I admire my friends who train to run marathons, I shouldn't be embarassed that I luxuriate in bed while they're running at 5am.

    Following an easier path isn't something to be ashamed of, even though that sentiment goes against many current trends, as well as my family's own WASP-y work ethic. But just because I *could* type this message out in morse code doesn't mean that it's a good idea.

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  36. I can tell you that even before my cousin ever got pregnant she was always "big". Even she would tell you that her eyes were bigger than her stomach. She lived in Yoga pants and jersey knit gauchos for the frist year after her son was born because she was convinced they didn't make jeans that big. But, by the time her son was 2 she was the smallest shes EVER been. (A healthy size 6!!)


    She credits her dramatic change to "chasing a 2 year old around all day" she makes sure he stays as active as possible, which isn't hard for a 2 year old and she involves herself every game, every toy on the playground, and they go for walks everyday.

    Another approached, which has slowly (but surely) helped me is keeping a food journal. It makes you wicked aware and entirely accountable of what you eat. It also is a good excuse for NOT eating something, because it's just going to be a pain to try and write it down (is that 4 big handfuls of pop corn or 1/2 a bag?).

    But in all honesty, loose weight for you, your daughter will love you no matter what. And as long as you keep a positive attitude and are secure enough in yourself, your weight, be it heavy or fit, won't matter to your daughter's self esteem.

    -Martha
    From the Vineyard ;-)

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  37. umm...have you *not* looked in a mirror lately. cuz i think you are so effin' gorgeous, it's unreal. yer profile pic blows me away.
    gorgeous.
    on the note of alla this mama/daughter body issue/perception stuff - i agree with ToyLady...my favorite quote ever is "change not how you look, but how you see."
    i'm about to post a little blurp about my own body image deal on my own online journal, if you'd be so inclined to check it out.
    we're gorgeous, mama. we are lovers and mamas and, above all, *women* in the truest since. oh, yes, mama, walk around with it.

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  38. I was a somewhat overweight kid with a very overweight dad. I remember canceling his plan to speak to my 4th grade class at Show n Tell, because they already called me Blubber (thanks, Judy Blume!) and I really didn't want to hear more hurtful things about where I must have gotten my extra pounds. That memory still hurts me in several ways- I'm sure my dad knew why I didn't want him to come to school.

    I guess I don't have an answer for your dilemma, except to say that way down on the list of reasons to lose weight, yes, Eve being embarassed MIGHT be one of them. But as others have said, it's not the best reason. And maybe she'll be so secure with herself that it won't matter either way.

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