- I am a mother of three children and I have always been very careful about the words I use with them.
- I have always been overweight and recently had to lose weight due to health issues.
- I didn’t have a healthy relationship with food, and now I talk about it openly with my kids.
I have always been a believer in body positivity. Having worked with teens for decades, I know how easy it can be to develop body image issues. I know several people who started lifelong eating disorders after a flippant comment was made to them in college. So I’ve always been hypersensitive about what I say around my kids about weight, food, and the body.
I’ve been overweight for most of my adult life, but it never really bothered me. I’ve always had confidence in myself no matter what size jeans I’ve been wearing, and I’ve always been healthy. But about two years ago I found myself in a place where I needed to lose weight for my health. Not to look a certain way, but to be able to be more active with my children.
At first, I tried to do better with exercise, which helped, but eventually I realized that I also needed to look at my eating habits. So I started this pretty intense nutrition journey, which was tough, of course. But what I found much more difficult was figuring out how to tell my kids about it.
I was very aware of the words I used
They were 13, 10 and 8 – prime ages for sensitivity to comments about weight or counting calories. So I was very careful what I said and did, because they absorb everything.
I never used the word “diet” because I know how toxic diet culture is. I intentionally didn’t cut anything out completely – no sweets, no carbs, no wine. I just controlled my portions and replaced high calorie foods with lower calorie options – like a smaller portion of meat and more vegetables, or replacing beef with fish. Yet my 8-year-old held up a cookie and asked, “Is this part of your diet?”
I didn’t use the word “diet” with her, but someone was.
As calmly as I could, I said, “I’m not on a diet. I’m just working on making healthier choices.”
I tried to make it clear that I was healthier
And it only got worse when I started to noticeably lose weight. I can’t tell you how many times a well-meaning friend has exclaimed, “You’re getting so skinny!”
If my kids were within earshot, I made sure to say, “Goal isn’t skinny, it’s healthy!” Then to them, “Isn’t it?”
But then my 13 year old son started asking me how many calories were in things, and I freaked out. “You don’t have to worry about calories!” I said.
But the thing is, I realized that, for me, not caring about calories got me to where I was, which was not a healthy place. Yes, diet culture is toxic, but I had developed an unhealthy relationship with food the other way around. And I didn’t want that for my kids either.
I know it’s corny to call weight loss a “journey”, but that’s what it was for me. Not about numbers on a scale or clothing sizes, but learning why I was making unhealthy choices. It was like going to couples therapy for my relationship with food.
I found out about unhealthy habits that I developed as a child that I wanted to help avoid, and how unhealthy our whole culture is when it comes to food, but how hard it is to see that when it’s is the water in which you swim. I wanted to share this with them in a positive and helpful way that wasn’t shameful.
So we’re not talking about portion control, but we’re talking about listening to your body. I don’t force certain foods, but I try to show them that healthy foods can taste good. We don’t make a big deal out of sweets, but we talk openly about the amount of sugar in sodas, which doesn’t make them “bad” but explains why we only drink them once in a while. My son is getting into weightlifting and we are looking for a healthy way to do it instead of following what TikTok influencers say.
I’m not really sure I’m doing it right. But I try to talk to them about it instead of letting them drown in the toxic water – on either side.