Monday, May 15, 2017

Don't Pass It On

Some of my earlier memories were of my mom dieting.  I remember her doing old school Weight Watchers back in the 80's.  Who remembers seeing this ad in your monthly Family Circle or rag mag?

(via Pinterest)
Since I remember going to the little WW approved snack shack up the street, I know I would've been 4 years old at the time.  I would watch her choose these pop chip like bags of chips, they were her favorite.  She used to eat black cherry yogurt all the time and it's where my hatred of yogurt came from.  I remember the smell of it and it made me retch.  I can only stand mango yogurt now and that's with a serious adjustment period of wrinkling my nose and scarfing it for the probiotics.  The smell of yogurt represents deprivation to me as does the sight of those pre-packaged meals.  (I think most of you know many of them are sodium bombs and not the healthiest which is why prep day can be so important.)

I also remember some of the fitness fads, one of them being the sauna suit...

(via Pinterest)

I don't remember her wearing it often but I do remember seeing her in it a few times and that was enough for me to think I should do it too.  I don't remember necessarily doing vigorous exercise in it but I remember being in the front room of my grandma's house, finding her sauna suit and Richard Simmons Reach album (!) and working out in it.

(via Ebay)
To many, these may seem like extremes but they weren't considered so at the time.  Now obviously we are aware that packaged food is not the way to go but that's about the only thing that has changed and our kids are still observing, learning and eventually mimicking.

If you are doing a plan where you vilify a certain food group, your child or grandchild is watching.   If you are obsessively tracking every single thing and commenting on it in front of them, your child or grandchild is hearing it.  If you are pushing your body past its limits in an unhealthy way or if you are constantly in a state of recovery with ice packs, heating pads, they are absorbing it.  Or worse, you restrict yourself to a healthy eating plan while the rest of the house gets to eat whatever they want because "they don't have a weight problem" or "they can eat that crappy food without gaining weight."

To the counterpoint, the Mr learned very different behavior as a child.  When he would regularly swim at his grandma's house, she would make him a batch of cookies and a big chocolate milkshake.  She'd come out and have him take a break and leave it all for him and then was puzzled saying "oh you ate the whole plate of cookies!"  Um, you brought a kid a whole plate of cookies gma, the boy is gonna eat cookies!  Instead if she'd made a batch and brought out 2 for him and split the milkshake with him, she still could've given him a treat made with grandma's love but in a more moderate portion.  There is a bit of an age gap between he and his siblings and when he was little, his oldest brother would get two grilled ham and cheese sandwiches when they went out to eat.  At the time, his brother was one of those guys that could eat whatever he wanted without gaining weight.  Well if the Mr's oldest got it, he wanted it too and his parents let him.  So at 7 years old, he's getting two grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and wondered what other food boundaries could he push?  He would sneak a couple of pieces of bologna when he got home from school or chunks of frozen cookie dough his mom would keep in the freezer.  The statement would be made "how are we out of bologna again?" or "where is my cookie dough going?" but for a long time he was never questioned.  He did get busted on the cookie dough after his mom got tired of it but then she just ended up making a double batch so he could have his own log and wouldn't touch hers.  Those boundaries were something that followed him well into adulthood.  I used to be horrified at the amount of soda he drank.  He could easily knock back five or six big glasses of it when we went out and were first married.  Again, another habit he developed as a kid and nothing was ever said to him despite it being clear that of the three siblings, his health was being the most affected by the lack of boundaries.

Whether your kids or grandkids appear to be paying attention to those things or not, they are on an unconscious level.  They are developing an unhealthy message about what their relationship with food and exercise should be.  Whether it's about restriction, obsession, or perceived nutritional punishment when others don't have to do the same.  I know at 4 years old I never set out to mimic the exercise and food habits of my mom or grandma but I did.  I knew from the misery on my mom's face when she was eating what was on her plan when the rest of us ate "normal" that something wasn't right.  I knew basically wearing a garbage bag while you worked out was ludicrous but did it anyway despite the risks.  It's a very delicate balance when kids are small and absorbing everything like a sponge to make sure that you're not letting them see obsessive behaviors when relating to your health and fitness journey.  It's fine to track your food and push yourself during workouts and such, I'm not saying not to.  But I'm just saying give careful thought to what you let them see and hear because we are adults and have logic and reason (well, most of us-HA!) that kids are not yet able to process.  What is dedication to us can look like obsession and not being good enough to them.  I'm reading about and seeing it more and more.  There are many wonderful things we can pass on to the kids in our lives leading by example.  Let's not let our own complicated relationships with food and exercise be one of them.

Did you inadvertently learn dieting and exercise behaviors from other people in your life as a kid?

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  1. Diet yes! Lots of pepsi, lots of salt, only veggie was iceberg lettuce.

  2. My parents actually modeled pretty good behavior all around, including in terms of food. We went out to eat pretty rarely and didn't have much junk food around the house. As I got older though and had my own money, I kind of threw those good behaviors out and started buying my own junk food. I try to model reasonable behavior, and have discussions with my son about why certain foods are healthier than others, but that moderation is the key rather than complete restriction of food groups. He also knows how to read a nutrition label. The problem I run into that I'm constantly working on is that when I run short on time or energy we eat way too much fast food and I want to do better by him than teach him that habit.

  3. Excellent post - you've perfectly described things I absorbed as a kid. We rarely ate out also - my mom cooked all our meals. We didn't get dessert every night - usually just Sundays and special occasions. We weren't allowed to drink soda - drank milk or water with our meals and had Kool-Aid for a treat in the summers.

    But when I started babysitting - all those families had TONS of junk food! And I was told to help, yes please! And then I'd go home and eat supper and thus began my love affair with food. My mother couldn't understand it since my sister and brother stayed thin, but I kept gaining weight no matter what she did (diets, doctors, AIDS candy - anyone remember those?). I don't know why I couldn't tell her I was gorging myself while babysitting, but I just couldn't. But she must have known what was happening. But that bad behavior led to worse behavior. When we could drive, my friends always wanted to go out to eat. But I had to eat at home and bless her heart, my mom thought if she made sure I ate at home, I wouldn't eat at Micky D's. Wrong. It took many years and many tears, but I finally overcame my addiction to food. I don't deprive myself, but I don't go overboard at all. Moderation is the key to my happiness at this point.

  4. Yep, I think about this a lot. I watched my grandma constantly yo-yo diet throughout my childhood which had a big impact on me. My mom was the opposite of my grandma: when she would get stressed, she couldn't eat. Since there was a lot of stress in my house (my dad was a bipolar mess who yelled and hit a lot), I would watch my mom go for days without eating. Those two examples on opposite, extreme ends of the nourishment spectrum kinda messed me up about food. I'm just now learning to view food as fuel which has helped me tremendously with portion control and eating healthy foods.

  5. Oh yes, I remember these commercials well! I went to my first "diet doctor" when I was 9 years old...then was taken out to Portillo's afterwards. 1200 calories was the be all/end all for how much you could consume not matter what year it was. Avoiding sugary snacks was stressed, but no limits on bread, rice, pasta apparently. And I was criticized for weighing myself on Mondays because "why would you do that to yourself?" And oh, the comments when I stayed on track...those were even worse because, you know, "now you're just trying to make others look bad." Yeah, it was definitely a no-win. Pfft.


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