Thursday, October 14, 2010

Children and Obesity 3-

First Drazil then Amy from the land of cheese and sunkist posted a discussion about children, body image and obesity. I wrote a big old long comment on Amy's post but it was rejected for length (duh). I am posting it here plus additional ramblings added....

I was a chubby kid who felt fat my whole life. My mom used to compare my tiny sister and I by giving me advice on dressing so that I could camouflage my tummy. She would say "us big girls need to do this." She was overweight too. I felt fat as a teenager even though it is exactly what I weigh now. I quickly became obese following the birth of my three oldest daughters. My mom did not intend to make me feel bad as a child. I had to wear kids 1/2 sized clothing and because my clothes were never on sale almost all of mine were home-made by my mom. I did have a tummy as I was a chubby girl. My sister was different than I and that just was as it was. I very likely would have had a poor body image with or without the clothing advice.

Fast forward now to my girls. I am a mom-Three of my daughters were raised by an obese mom (the fourth gets this thinner mom that I have become)and two of them have weight issues. One is obese (as defined by the BMI people)the other yo-yos between healthy and overweight. The third is having trouble keeping weight on right now. I believe that I could have taught them to eat more healthily but I believe they were destined to be fat or not before or soon after they were born. My obese daughter has been HUNGRY since she was a baby. She was like a heat seeking missile when she nursed. She was a human vacuum as a toddler (i pulled pennies and rocks out of her mouth frequently) and she noticably enjoyed food more than her sisters. I believe her weight thermometer is set high.

Having said that, however, I raised her to be proud and that BBW are beautiful and live happy fulfilled lives. I am glad that she has a better self-image than I did but on the down side. I have now found a way for her to feel more energy. Be healthier and not have to deal with the anti-obesity slant of society. She has told me that she is happy as a BBW and is not interested. I feel conflicted. Like all converts (and I do feel like one sometimes). I am excited about this band and want all of those I know who struggle with their weight to share it with me.

My second weight struggling daughter has only a slightly off kilter weight thermostat and has figured out strategies to battle it (sometime winning and sometimes sliding back). She struggles a bit more with her self-image and has felt the sting of words said by unthinking classmates about her weight. She seeks thinness with exercise and dieting. I wish there was a tool that even those who suffer moderate weight issues could have to help them.

My thin daughter has had a strong sense of her metabolism her whole life. As a child she would drop back on her food intake when she was sedentary. My fist husband even brought it to my attention once when we were on a road trip. He said, look she isn't eating. I bet it is because she has been trapped on her backside in a car for two days and isn't burning anything off as she would normally."

She has operated that way her whole life. Sure she fluctuated up 10 or 20 pounds a time or two (like when she had a baby) but she quickly normalizes and has in the last few months with stress, working, parenting and going to school ended up having to work hard at keeping weight on. She battled during her lifetime with different body issues. She is well-endowed and struggled with attention from boys that she did not always want.

So I guess the end wrap up of this is..that I really think our weight is driven strongly by genetics or some other physical issue that is only slightly if at all related to control, emotion or upbringing. I also think that body image is variable and although we can sure screw it up as parents it is much harder to protect our kids or insure that our kids come away with a positive self-image given the varied experiences they all have. I do sometimes worry that too good of a body image can mask our need to protect our health but I am conflicted about this.

As I have posted here before-my grandma pulled me aside when I was 20 to talk to me about my weight just after she lost more than 100 pounds (diabetes scared her skinny) and told me that I needed to take care of it while I was young enough to enjoy being thin. She was right but I wasn't ready. I needed to be in my 40's before I was ready. Perhaps our daughters need to be ready. Ready to change what needs changing, ready to appreciate the assets they have and ready to be what they think their best is.


Something About Kellie said...

Its true, you definately have to be ready. As a reformed smoker I tried quitting several times, I'd seen all the ads, I know it was bad for me but still I couldn't break it.

I told myself that if I quit I would put on too much excess weight (which I did - self fulfilling prophecy??) but I also told myself if I wanted to be healthy I would also need to do something about the weight too.

If I could stop smoking for my health then surely I could lose weight too - NOT. That's why I have rewarded myself with another positive health step - lapband surgery in November.

I grew up feeling similar to Amy W, not fat but feeling it. I don't think that anyone made me think this I just did...

Now I have the opposite, I think I'm skinnier than I am until I see my reflection :( lol

Tina said...

OH I totally felt skinnier than reality when I weighed 304 (and I am sure many in between that and now). I know i had an off kilter body view then and I still think I do now..I have just shifted to not trusting my vision in the mirror until I see a picture.

THE DASH! said...

There does seem to be a lot of talk on blogs about whether we were fat children or not due to parenting. I think each of us can only do the best we can do.
I bet you are a fab mum and I also think you're right... a lot comes down to genetics.. though we can bust out of thinness when older due to poor eating habits. That was my form. Lovely post xx
PS Having grown sons in the house is a spin out. I still sometimes turn when I hear one of them speak thinking its my husband lol. Takes some getting used to with the space/deep voices they use.

Mary H. said...

First off - thanks for reading my long story on my blog! I'm so glad that when I pour my heart out into a post, someone reads it and understands.

I didn't even touch on the whole issue of genetics. I truly believe that genetics is always a HUGE part of it. I think that there is a tie to the physical genetics of obesity as well as the mental genetics of obesity...

I'm not a mom, but I gotta wonder if all a parent can do is try to steer things in the best direction as they can and then let the child grow up and figure these things out on their own. I know that figuring these things out is part of what shaped me into who I am today...

Sandy Lee said...

Great post. My daughter weighs more than me but is a confident caring person and she hasn't let the weight get her down. It's genetics and I tell her that. She's 27 and has watched me battle the weight but she has a different outlook. Not sure how that came about. I don't think there is one true answer.