One of the great gifts passed down from generation to generation in my family is the unparalleled dedication of turning to food in times of stress or sadness. Or celebration…or maybe any other time for that matter. Another great gift is a nearly insatiable love of sweets. All of ‘em. Even just packages of sugar if that’s all we can get our hands on.
Because life has its shares of ups and downs, and because of these lovely gifts, at various times in my life, I’ve faced some sizable (pun intended) battles with my weight. At one point, I weighed 217 pounds, which on a 5’9” frame ain’t so pretty. (To my defense, it was during the start-up days of TiVo and we were working seventeen hours a day…okay, there’s no real defense.) I’ve gained and lost more weight than (insert famous former talk show host’s name here).
It’s natural, therefore, that I pay close attention to how the kid looks and how the kid eats. As a dad, I want K-Man to love his life and that includes enjoying food. But, I don’t want him to get in a position early in life where he faces a lifelong battle with weight. Because frankly, it sucks.
As K-Man gets closer to his sixth birthday, G and I find ourselves talking about his diet. K-Man eats pretty well, but we’re constantly battling his desire for pasta when we go out to eat, or the pizza that seems to show up at every event. Frankly, he has a little belly. We certainly don’t want to be *those* parents who don’t let their kid have pizza (can you imagine?), but we also don’t want to be the parents who let their kid develop really unhealthy habits early. It’s FAR easier to be healthy now than it is to lose weight later. (Again, trust me, I know.) As with anything related to parenting, there are fine lines to be considered. Coddle him too much and he ends up on the $175/hour couch hating us. Pressure him too much and he ends up on the couch…hating us (NSFW!). More importantly, however, is creating a lifelong healthy relationship with food. I don’t want K-Man to turn to food when times get tough. I don’t want a bad day at school to result in some kind of sugar binge. Alternatively, I don’t want him to think he has to sneak around to get some kind of treat.
Because I’ve been working so hard to get back in shape, I’ve been eating well and working out like a fiend. Since writing this post, I’ve lost a bunch of weight, have gained strength I never had and feel great. K-Man has taken note and often mentions that he wants to have a six-pack (me too, kid!). I asked him how that happens and he said, “You don’t eat.”
Ah, I had my point of entry.
I sat him down and explained that we all had to eat and that getting a six-pack wasn’t about starving ourselves. Instead it was about eating the right things. We talked about fruit, vegetables, fish and other yummy stuff we eat at home. And then…we talked about dessert. Like me, K loves his sweets. I explained that treats are great, but that part of the reason why I was looking better was because I wasn’t eating as many sweet things. I was careful not to tell him he couldn’t have dessert anymore. I was careful not to make it about him. I talked quite a bit about what I was doing. He seemed to understand.
I remember when I was in junior high school. I wasn’t the skinny kid. I wasn’t exactly the “big kid” either, but somewhere in between. I was sitting on a desk in my OP shorts (VERY attractive and terribly short) and my thighs were flat on the desk. It wasn’t pretty. The amount of desk they covered was slightly embarrassing. One of my friends walked by, stopped, pointed and laughed. It was brutal. I probably should have reacted by going from the fat(ish) weakling to the stud, but that didn’t happen either.
All these years later, I have this kid and I see so much of myself in him. I don’t want him to face the same fate and the same battles. I know he’s young, but this is the time when habits start. It’s easy to say, “Oh, it’s not like he’s obese or anything” and offer him another slice of pizza. But, I can’t do that.
It’s bad enough that we often feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. It’s far worse when it’s actually our weight.