Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bariatric Betty says "What are we doing to our kids?"

Those of you who have read my blog before know that my children are a large part of the reason that I want to have this surgery.  I don't want them to grow up without a mom, or with a blind mom, or with a disabled mom if there is anything I can do to help it.  Being morbidly obese (actually now just "obese" with the pre-op diet) and diabetic means that those conditions are in my future - it's just a matter of when. 

It's also because I don't want my kids feeling like they have to defend or protect me.  When I hear that my kids have heard someone call me fat, or laugh at me, it breaks my heart.  It's never fun to be insulted or the butt of someone's joke.  But the big thing is that kids aren't supposed to defend and protect their parents - their suppposed to be protected and defended BY us. 

Then there's the fact that I want my children to be healthier than I am.  Having parents that always struggled with their weight and body issues, I want to be a good example.  I don't want to just say "go outside, play some basketball/ soccer/ run around.." - I want them to see me DOING that stuff.  To know that I will have the energy to join them and inspire them to be more active.  To see me eating healthy, and have healthy food for them to eat as well.  To know that a great way to have one-on-one time with me is to go biking, or swimming, etc. - not just cuddling up on the couch. 

My kids are overweight.  Not obese, but overweight.  One of them was in great shape until about 1 1/2 years ago, when we moved.  He is a black belt in Tai Kwon Do and was incredibly active.  No matter what he ate - he burned it off.  Now that he's just moderately active, it has started to accumulate.  My other son has always been heavy, in addition to have developmental delays and low tone.  We have always gotten them into community sports, and started taking them to the gym twice a week 5 months ago - and it's making a difference.  My husband has taken the brunt of that - he committed to getting them there no matter what - and it's rare that they miss a Tuesday or Thursday.  Their clothes fit differently, and the scale shows that they've leveled off.  Our pediatrician said that he would like them to be active and work on "stretching" their bodies out - getting taller without gaining much, not putting them on a diet.  But we have cut change their preference to graze to having defined snacks, and my personal battlefront has been serving size.  My 8 year old now knows serving sizes of many of his favorite snack foods.  He double checks the amount of Cheerios or pretzels he puts in a bowl with me.  He knows that he can have 5 crackers with his cheese.  It's still hard though - because there are times he just WHINES about wanting to eat more.  I usually don't give in.  He still gets treats - just not everyday, and when he does get them, they replace a snack.  That's important I think, because I want him to learn moderation.  I don't want him to end up like me. 

So this morning while I was working out I watched Toddlers & Tiaras.  It's easy to feel morally superior and snarky when you watch an editted "reality" show like that.  Usually when I watch it I cheer for the underdogs and girls who actually seem nice, and hope everyone else finds a good therapist some day.  Today, my heart hurt as I watched.  A big thrust of the episode was about the girls' weight.  As the pagent director put it "girls who aren't really pretty or are a little chubby should just find another hobby".  OK, I think all of the girls there should find another hobby, and a small percentage actually enjoy what they're doing, but it was the overall message she was giving that blew me away. 

The girls she was talking about were under 10.  Most were 4-7.  Choosing a girl as "most beautiful" from a group is one issue.  Telling girls that young that they are not pretty enough or too heavy to even be IN the competition appalls me.  Most of the pagent directors in other episodes talk about "building up girls' self  confidence" and "being proud of yourself".  This director from Arkansas held up no such illusion.  "These girls should look like Barbie". 

If I was a reporter, I would now insert several links to studies that show how young girls body images are damaged by dolls like Barbie, or reference other articles about how a woman actually built "like Barbie" would be incredibly unhealthy, almost grotesque to look at, or at women who have had dozens of plastic surgeries to approximate that "Barbie" look.  But I'm just an opinionated mom, not a reporter, and you can look those things up if you haven't heard of them.  And I think that if I had a girl I would let her have Barbies, I would just also make sure to point out how weird their proportions are, and make sure she had other dolls as well. 

Perhaps even harder was listening to moms who put their daughters on diets.  At 5 and 7 years old.  These children were not overweight, let alone obese, but they were going to "eat lots of salads" so they would look better in their beautywear.  One mom who was hyper about it, ended up having her daughter's beautywear dress be TOO LOOSE because she had lost more weight than she thought.  Think about that.  A 7 year old who probably weighed 60-70 pounds to start lost about 10 pounds to prepare for a pagent.  And then the judges ended up deducting points because her dress was too loose.  Or the 10 year old girl who won the Ultimate Grand Supreme (translation: the biggest prize) who stood in front of a mirror, probably weighing 65 pounds in this beautiful dress and said to herself "This dress makes me look big". 

The United States has a big problem with obesity.  And the kids are starting to catch up with the grown-ups.  The government just finally changed the school lunch programs to say our kids have to be offered a fruit AND a vegetable at each meal.  However, they also caved to lobbyists and said that pizza can continue to be counted as a vegetable.  Read that last line again, I'll wait.

I heard about a contest that Disney is running where you submit pictures to show changes your family is making to try to improve their health.  LOVE IT.  Way to go, Disney!  The grand prize winners get all expense paid trips for 4 to their new Hawaiian resort.  I told my kids that I'm bringing my camera to the gym tonight to take pictures to show how well they're doing and submit it for the contest.  I'm telling you about it because I would love for everybody in the world to know about it.  Tell your friends, tell your neighbors.  Because even if it increases the number of entries ten fold and decreases our chances of winning, it increases our children's chance at healthy lives.  And they deserve that.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe that we are doing these things to our kids. Way to go, Disney!