My children are so precious to me. Yes, they drive me to the brink of insanity, occasionally make me contemplate becoming an alcoholic, and constantly have me second guessing what the heck it is I am doing being a mother. But I still love them. I want the best life possible for them. I want them to have the chance to live their lives to the fullest potential both spiritually and physically.
The most important thing I want my children to learn in this life, is to have a real and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. To know Him the way I have gotten to know Him and possibly even better than I have. To have an eternal perspective that things in this life are just things, they’re not worth holding onto with every fibre of our being but that we can live so much freer when we realize the things that are worth holding onto and the things to let go.
The second most important thing I want my children to learn in life is to look after their bodies. To take care of themselves so they can better use what God has given them to serve the people around them. Children do not possess the knowledge or experience to intrinsically know what is good for them and what is not. They need to be guided, they need to be taught. And the people they are going to learn from the most are their parents.
One thing that really, deeply saddens me is seeing my obese peers raise obese children. Every time I see this I hold back the urge to cry out that they do not have to be this way. Do they not remember what it was like to be the overweight kid at school? Do they not remember what it was like to have all the older relatives make they’re “clever” jokes of “do you get better food than your siblings or why are you so much bigger?” (Yes, many older folks have said that to me, usually in the romantic language of low german). Do they not remember the self-consciousness that came through the teen years when all their friends were wearing all the cute clothes and they were left in frumpy, baggy clothes to hide their figure? Do they not remember the nights of crying because they felt like no one was ever going to fall in love with THEM? DO THEY NOT REMEMBER??? And if they do, what on earth are they doing putting their own children through the same misery! Wake up people! Just because you and I struggle with obesity DOES NOT MEAN OUR CHILDREN HAVE TO!
When I started this blog, my daughter was still young enough to not really notice or care what the shape of my body was. She has grown up a little since then. She has asked why my tummy is so big. She has asked why my bum is so big. She has asked why my arms are so big. I chose to be completely honest with her and it has been beautiful. I told my daughter the truth. Mommy is so big because mommy did not eat enough healthy food and ate too much junky food like french fries, chicken nuggets, candy and cookies. Mommy also did not exercise enough when she was young. We then have had great talks about why we say no to too much sugary foods, why I tell the kids to turn off the TV and play outside, why we need to eat our fruits and vegetables, etc. I also always focus these conversations with my kids on health. Not beauty. Not self worth. Health. Obesity is a health issue. I have said it before and I will continue stressing, obesity is NOT a beauty issue. It is NOT a self worth issue. I think if as a society we could finally wrap our heads around this, people may have a lot more success at managing not only their obesity, but their issues with how they perceive their worth as a person. But that’s a whole different topic.
So how can obese parents still raise healthy children? Well, in my opinion, it starts with getting used to the word “no.” First saying no to yourself and the unhealthy choices you feel like making because, well, you’ve been in the habit of making them for years and it is hard to break old habits. Secondly, learning to say no to your child/ren. Children are experts at instant gratification. They want the things they want and they want them now. They want potato chips NOW. They want candy every second of the day. They want to eat meals that consist of fries, deep fried chicken nuggets and hotdogs. Every meal. They do not possess the ability to know that these foods CAN be eaten in moderation, on occasion and it not have a longterm effect on their overall health but that they cannot be eaten on a daily basis and not affect how their bodies function. When you say no to your child for the things they want, they very well may hate you for a moment (I know mine have) but they will love you for a lifetime. When you are tempted to give in to their screams (or whines) of “I want,” ask yourself this question, would you rather have a child momentarily angry with you now, or would you rather have an adult daughter/son who resents you for not teaching them to make healthy choices and giving them the chance to be the kind of person they could have been if they didn’t struggle with obesity? Kids get over disappointment pretty quick. Adults tend to hold their resentments for life. What kind of relationship do you want to have with your children long term? What kind of life do you want them to live?
The flip-side of learning to say no to bad foods and habits, is teaching your children the healthy alternative to the things they want. Keep your fridge and fruit basket stocked with fruits and veggies that you know they like and occasionally introduce new ones. Most of the time (I’m not a drill sergeant, I do let our kids have “normal” snacks on occasion too), if the kids want a snack, they have to choose a fruit or vegetable. If they say no, the consensus is they are not really hungry and don’t need a snack. If they are truly hungry, they’ll go grab that banana and get over it. My kids hate cooked veggies. It’s a texture thing for them mostly. So if I am making cooked carrots for supper, I will save a few raw ones and allow them this alternative to the meal. They still have to eat a vegetable. They don’t get the option of not eating it when it is served. On the other hand, sometimes my kids eat so many fruits and vegetables from breakfast until afternoon that I don’t prepare a vegetable with the evening meal. I’m a busy mom too, I don’t like to make extra work for myself if I don’t have to either.
Sometimes, even healthy weight parents have children on the verge of obesity. I have the same message for you, especially if you’ve never struggled with weight and the associated health issues, please learn to say no to your child. Please teach them how to take care of their bodies while they are still young and forgiving. Please give them the best possible chance to live a full and healthy life. Remember to do it from a health perspective, not an image perspective. I have no idea if my son or daughter will struggle with obesity by the choices they make as adults, but you can bet your bottom dollar they will not struggle with obesity as long as they have me and their father to guide them through their growing years and that we will be watching carefully to nip in the bud any habits that would lead them down the road of a weight gain spiral.
I still struggle with obesity. I likely will my entire life. But I will not give up the fight to regain my health nor will I allow my children to follow in the footsteps that got me here, I will never wish that kind of struggle and pain on any child of mine.
One last side-note for anyone who has been curious of my long silence. It has mostly been related to not having the time or peace and quiet to be able to get my thoughts written down. I’ve written dozens of posts in my head over the past months but can never seem to find the time to get them out of my head. That, and weight loss is currently on hold as we are 24 weeks pregnant with baby #3! I hope to find time to share a few other of my thoughts in the coming months but the tracking and weight loss version of me is on hold until sometime next year, depending on how quick I recover from my c-section.