AIM: Show Me Your Maintenance and I’ll Show You Mine

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.

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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.
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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!
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13 thoughts on “AIM: Show Me Your Maintenance and I’ll Show You Mine

  1. I am going through this with my son.
    He's six years old.. and a very old soul.

    I recently went from 173.8lbs to 133lbs (In about 6 months).

    Lots of Healthy Eating and a LOT of exercise.

    I thought I was doing this not only for me, but for my family. My son deserves a healthy mom, who will be with him and can PLAY with him… for as long as he wants me to (Teenage years permitting!).

    I thought I was projecting a healthy image.

    He asked me how many calories were in something… I knew I had gone too far.. pushed too hard.

    I had to explain to him that he doesn't even need to know what a calorie was.. and that I was trying very hard to eat as healthy as HE does…

    It didn't quite work.
    We had to see a family nutritionist… So we all could learn how to eat healthy… for each of our ages and sizes.

    So, now, with training and coaching, we are living a healthy lifestyle.. using “healthy” words…

    I would hate for my son, to get a negative body image, OR a weird idea about food.. because of me.

  2. Claire does hear everything we say.

    One thing I do do, which maybe I shouldn't, is have Claire read to me serving size on a nutritional label. Especially when we're doling out crackers or some sort of not as good as it could be snack.

    However, I never say it's because it'll make her fat or something! I just explain that eating too much of a good thing isn't good. And that we have to eat a variety of things, not gorge ourselves on one thing.

  3. Kids sure do hear everything we say. It always cracks me up when someone repeats something clever or outrageous that a kid has said. I always say, where did they hear that?

    Its really interesting that your daughters did not grow up with any body image/food obsessions/problems. Do you think it was because they were teenagers when you started gaining weight, and so they were already formed in that area?

  4. Kateri, I love that you guys went to a nutritionist. How did you find him/her? A recommendation?

    Debby, food was never a big deal in our house and my kids will tell you they loved me at any weight. In fact, they didn't pay much attention to how much I weighed because I didn't make a big deal of it outwardly. They suffered because I refused to go out in public toward the end of their high school years 😦

    As far as setting a good example….that's the hardest part about being, well, an adult! LOL

  5. I try to be really careful of what I say in front of my nieces. They know I used to be really heavy and they know that I like to eat healthy now and will sometimes imitate that. However, they also see how much I love food and I think that can get us into trouble just as much.

  6. Thank you. I needed this reminder as my older daughter is about to turn 5 and does ask questions about my body. A couple days ago she put something on and asked if she was beautiful. I told her she was beautiful, but I don't think I took the time to explain that it wasn't because of what she was wearing. She attends day care, so I can't really be in control of what she hears, but I definitely need to be better prepared to answer some of her questions.
    I know I need to be less critical of my body (I've lost 60 pounds and have another 40 to go). We do try to explain healthy vs. less healthy food types and that it is OK to eat a little of each, but we should eat more of the healthier foods to get a strong body. It is definitely a learning process for us.

  7. I love your post and it is so true that we have to be careful about what we are teaching our children about weight. I have twin 15-year-old daughters who have (blessedly) inherited my husband's quick metabolism. They also have no problem not eating if they aren't hungry. I'm so glad for them that they don have to deal with being the “chubby” friend; however, we still have talks about our bodies and accepting them as they are.

    Funny, but one reason I won't cut all treats out of my house is because I don't want my children to think they are bad foods and then begin to overindulge or sneak them, because I won't allow them around anymore. Instead we are learning about moderation.

    I'll stop now…going to read that article and see what I can glean from it. Thank you again for sharing this month! 🙂

  8. I absolutely love this poem:

    There are little eyes upon you
    and they're watching night and day.
    take in every word you say.
    There are little hands all eager
    to do anything you do;
    And a little girl who's dreaming
    of the day she'll be like you.
    You're the little angel's idol,
    you're the wisest of the wise.
    In her little mind about you
    no suspicions ever rise.
    She believes in you devoutly,
    holds all you say and do;
    She will say and do, in your way
    when she's grown up just like you.

    There's a wide-eyed little girl
    who believes you're always right;
    and her eyes are always opened,
    and she watches day and night.
    You are setting an example
    every day in all you do;
    For the little girl who's waiting
    to grow up to be like you.

    Great post too Lynn, really helps me put things in perspective.

    Maxine
    http://advancedtestoboostwarning.com/

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