Today's guest post is from an anonymous poster. She approached me a few weeks ago with a draft. It resonated so much with me: I knew I could not refuse.
I suspect her words, and her experiences and her fears will resonate with many of you. I would like to thank her for her honesty. She asks a lot of questions in her post, so if any of you have wise words to share on this complex issue, I would love it if could comment and share.
When I was four and at Kinder I remember having a check up where my mum asked the nurse about my weight. The nurse said something along the lines that I was fine and would grow out of it. I look at photos of myself at that age and although I wasn't slender, I certainly wasn't fat. My next memory of my weight issue is about four years later when my dad took me for a walk and discussed my weight with me. He said that I was a lot prettier than my best friend, but that she was slim and if I was slim I would be even prettier than I already was. Over the next 10 years, my mum ignored my weight while my dad obsessed over it, varying his approach from taking me to the gym with him at 6am before school, family early morning exercise sessions at home, criticising me, telling me not to eat certain things, bribing and embarrassing me. I actually feel guilty describing my dad in this way, because it sounds so harsh and he is a great dad and I know he had my best interests at heart but oh my goodness, I really think his tactic "shaped" my life!
My weight went up and down, up and down over the years, and still is. I know that now, at 30-something, this is something completely within my control and is not my parents fault. But, as a mum of two, I don't want to relive the mistakes my parents made and I am really struggling with how to raise my kids with a healthy attitude to food and exercise. For the last few months I've been slowly and healthily losing weight and my oldest has been watching me exercise and joining in. At the age of three, he is extremely active and although solid, he is definitely slim and has no weight issues at all.
However, he does have a funny relationship with "naughty" food already and I'm scared that I've "done this" to him! When we go to a party, he will dive in the junk food and if he sees me approaching, he'll grab a handful of something and run away! While this is slightly amusing, I have to be honest that it's a bit terrifying too for me. I did a lot of my eating in secret, and was sneaky about it and I don't want my kids to have the same problems I had. My three year old can now also open his bedroom door on his own and twice this week he has gone to the kitchen in the wee hours of the morning and helped himself to food - chocolate, lollies and biscuits. I too used to do this in the middle of the night. A lot. Part of me thinks I should throw out all of the "naughty" food, but the other part thinks maybe I'm already depriving him of too much and that is what's making him greedy?
My friend has a theory with her kids: she doesn't want them to be greedy, so she lets them eat whatever they want, whenever they want, including chips and chocolate most days. This doesn't sit right with me. Although they certainly don't gorge themselves at any opportunity? I cook most of my kids meals and although they are healthy, they are not extreme. Pasta, meat, veggies, cheese, yogurt, eggs, oven baked home made "chips" and most of their snacks are either fruit or wholemeal vegetable baked "treats" but I also do bake sweet things for them occasionally too. The only reason the items my son took from the pantry were even there was because they were for baking or things friends had brought over: it's not food he's ever allowed to just eat freely at home.
I love food and I love cooking and baking and my three year old loves food too. We never eat take away fast food and the food he eats 90% of the time is very healthy. I know I can easily stop the baking of sweet things and have no treats in the house, but I don't know if that's the right to do either? I have really been trying to model and teach moderation, but after this week's early morning pantry raid, I feel like I've failed and am a bit unsure of where to go from here.
How do you regulate what your kids eat? Do you think you can make them greedy by depriving them of treats? If we restrict "sometimes" foods and junk foods, does that send them into a binge mentality early? Or do we let them eat whatever they want and hope for the best?