I have two amazing children. My son is 12 years old and my daughter is almost 11. Yes, they are close in age and things got hectic when they were younger but now they are good friends (most days) because of their close ages. Anyway, my daughter has been feeling a little self-conscious from a small bout of acne on her forehead. We of course have had conversations about puberty and the awkward teen years but I also think she suffers from irritations from dairy. I myself have had some dairy intolerances as a child.
A close friend of mine asked me why I don’t just restrict dairy from my daughter to see if any physical signs dissipate. I thought about doing the elimination of dairy for a little bit but stopped myself from doing it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on my hesitation until I sat with myself quietly and really asked myself why. I realized given her age and remembering insecurities I had as a young teen I thought about what a slippery slope I would possibly go down. I worried that if I talked about restricting food that she might somehow get mixed signals about why she should eat some foods and not others. Then I thought 'Oh my gosh, what if I create an eating disorder or something?' I thought better about whether my conversation about acne could lead to an eating disorder and realized, holy cow, being a mom is scary especially during these ages. What I did decide to discuss with her and my son was the difference between wanting to be healthy and why so many people want to be skinny and how they are two totally different things.
It’s no secret that I am fascinated with health and wellness. I have always been intrigued as to why some foods make your body work more efficiently and why other foods make us feel bloated and tired. I guess I like the science behind it all. One of my friends laughs at the different food creations I make and will roll her eyes as I’m eating it. She often will say, “We are all going to die eventually, I want to spend my time eating whatever I want!” She is 100% correct with that statement. We are all going to leave this life at some point and I love her zest for life. My argument to that is, I actually enjoy eating fresh foods that I prepare AND while I am here I want to get the most out of my days. I don’t want to get to the point where I can’t be active with my kids OR when they are adults. I know this theory is true because I am 40 years old and I actually feel as healthy and limber as I was at 20. Two decades have gone by with lots of life in between and I still feel good. I am proud of the research and work I have put into making my body a top priority. This is the message I want to send to my kids. Here is the conversation I want to have.
Every BODY is different. No two are alike. While you are so young and impressionable, I want you to remember, comparing yourself to someone else is futile. You will always be disappointed if you want to look like someone else for the sheer fact that you are not them! So many young adults chase after the image of ‘skinny.’ That image or ideal body type stays with you for so long that you realize 20-30 years have gone by and you are still chasing that body image. Diets have been tried and self loathing and other negative talk has been set on repeat in your brain. All that negative talk keeps you from coming to this massive realization. Trying to be skinny or looking like someone else means you aren’t loving yourself. You are in love with the idea of looking different. Acceptance of your true body type was never achieved. A harmful relationship around food develops. Preparing food is not exciting and learning about nutrients and their values goes out the window. It is a less than ideal cycle that is extremely difficult to break.
I plan to tell my kids that once they accept the amazing bodies they were born with (awkward stages and all) they can start to understand just how extraordinary humans truly are. I want them to understand all the organs that make them able to eat, digest, grow and move. And just because you can’t see your kidneys or bladder doesn’t mean you should mistreat them. I want them to know why a piece of broccoli helps individual cells grow so their skin and bones are strong and vibrant. How chemicals that were designed to keep food on a shelf for months isn’t doing their digestive tract any favors. How too much fried food and other junk becomes so addictive because a chemical is actually released in their brain that gives off this euphoric sensation that keeps you coming back again and again. That their body will keep telling them it's hungry if you are eating junk because it is searching for nutrients and hoping that the next thing you eat will give it the vitamins and minerals it craves.
As a mother, I can not be afraid to have a conversation with my children about food and the difference between mistreating their bodies and a healthy love for themselves. I can’t take away the embarrassing stages of growing up, but hopefully I can enlighten them a little on loving themselves and help them realize there is only one Cameron and one Avery on the planet and how remarkable and unique that is.