For this month’s topic, Lori, Debby, Shelley, Cammy, and I chose to take on an aspect of our lives that is unique to each of our maintenance journeys. One thing that sets me apart from my AIM friends is that I am a grandmother to three girls and a boy, and it is from that perspective that I wrote this AIM entry.
My daughter, Cassie, mother to the grandbabies, sent me this link last week: “How To Talk To Your Daughter AboutHer Body
.” After I read it, I thought about how I presented my own perspective of weight to my daughters as they grew up. They witnessed my diets, but for many years – mostly their formative teenage years – I was uninterested in losing weight. In fact, from 1997 to 2004, they witnessed my 130-pound gain.
Looking back, it wasn’t how I talked to my daughters about their bodies that could have fanned the flames of negative body image because there was really nothing to talk about. Neither of them obsessed about the shape of their butts or thighs, and as far as I know, neither of them dieted or thought too much about food. The more likely breeding ground for negative self-image was in how I talked about (read: berated) and treated my own body. I wasn’t exactly kind to myself and I ate too much of even the healthy stuff, thus part of the reason for my incredible weight gain. My girls, on the other hand, knew when to say when, and frequently witnessed me cleaning their plates. They, thankfully, did not follow my example.
In 2005, when I decided 300 pounds was way more than I could handle, Carlene was 21 and finishing college, and Cassie was 20 and working her way through nursing school. They were excited that I was taking my health seriously and encouraged me all the way down the scale, never once comparing how they looked and how they ate to how I looked and how I ate. If anything, they teased me when I became so militant about food that I wouldn’t even eat a slice of birthday cake without torturously imagining gaining 150 pounds with one bite.
I don’t know how I got so lucky, but Carlene and Cassie don’t internalize my obsessions. If anything, they mirror them and help me see how ridiculous I can be.
|Claire, Audrey, Maelie, and Luca
What I like about “How To Talk To Your Daughter…” is the emphasis on creating space for a girl to grow up understanding that her body does not define her, but rather, is part of her strength and her character, no matter what it looks like. This is something I need to let sink in and accept into my own personal body image. It’s not often we get second chances, but this time around, I want to be more conscientious about how I project my body image to my grandchildren, particularly Claire, Mae, and Audrey. Anyone who’s spent any amount of time with a 5-year-old knows they hear everything and forget nothing.
I remember three years ago when Claire was 3, I showed her my driver’s license from when I was 300 pounds. I asked her, “Who is that?” and she said she didn’t know. I said, “That’s Grammy.” She looked at me like my head was on backwards. “Nunh uh,” she said, shaking her head. It didn’t occur to me until I sat down to write this blog that one day my grandkids might construe as obsessive my many sizes and diets and Oprah and People and CNN and my blog and my verbal assessments of how I look and what I eat.
Grandparents are not left off the hook on this subject, not by a long shot, especially those of us who are maintaining a significant weight loss or who were, as I was long ago, ridiculed by their mother/grandmothers/aunts/friends-of-the-family for not being thin enough or pretty enough growing up. We grandparents also need to be especially mindful about how we present our views on our aging bodies to younger generations.
I’ve always said there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my grandchildren. Easy to say, not so easy to do. I need to pull all that diet/weight-loss/weight-maintenance stuff together and clean up my own body image so I can best help my daughter and son-in-law create the healthy space in which their children will develop their own body image. I will seek to incorporate a few of the suggestions in “How To Talk To Your Daughter…” namely this one: “Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your [grand]daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your [grand]daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say ‘I’m not eating carbs right now.’ Your [grand]daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.”
Maintenance is no longer about me. There are four sets of eyes watching and four sets of ears listening to everything I say and do in their presence.
AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!