Yesterday the kids had friends over. When they arrived, my four-year-old played host and gave our guests, in his best Robin Leach demeanor, the grand tour.
“This is the playroom. Those are Andy’s toys. He gets mad if you play with them. These are my Star Wars guys, the Little People…and that (pointing to the elliptical in the corner) is so my mom and dad don’t get fat.”
The play dates nodded appreciatively.
At first I laughed and thought, I’m so glad he didn’t say, “so they won’t be fat anymore.” Or, “so they can burn off all their fat.” At least in his mind we are grouped under the “trying to maintain” umbrella.
But then I thought, where’s the balance between teaching kids about fitness and nutrition and having them already worried about things like spare tires and muffin tops? How did my little 35lb. guy come to equate exercise on the elliptical with burning off fat?
I’ve never said the phrase, “I’m on the elliptical so I don’t get fat.” But somehow that’s what the kids hear. They seem to be privy to my unspoken desire to zip up those pre-pregnancy jeans.
When it comes to unwanted junk food, my mantra is, “Those foods don’t help our bodies grow and be strong.” Then I ask, “What are some foods that help our bodies be healthy?” I don’t think I’ve ever said the words, “That’ll make you fat.” Or, “Careful with that, or you’ll get fat.”
I tell them, “I’m eating these veggies to keep my heart strong and my body healthy.” I really try to avoid the word “fat” but they inevitably throw it in whenever we talk Food Science Nutrition 101.
“And so you won’t get fat, right?”
“Well, yes. But that’s not the point. You want your bones to be strong and full of energy. Not sick and tired.”
“And not fat, right?”
How did elementary school age kids already become so body conscious? At that age I can remember eating king-sized Snickers bars without one wit of remorse. I can recall surrendering myself to a pillowcase brim full of Halloween candy without one thought towards my hips and thighs. Will my kids ever know such satiating reckless abandon in the ever growing shadow of their inert, video-game obsessed, insulin resistant generation?
I certainly don’t want them devouring anymore junk food than is already lurking at every turn (birthday parties, class parties, post soccer games, holidays…the list goes on, but that’s another article.) But should they already be worrying about paying for those treats on the elliptical?
Perhaps I’m making too much of this. I’ve worked myself into a lather. As long as I don’t obsess about food and weight, they won’t obsess, right? If I fret about my figure, they’ll fret about theirs. So I won’t.
I mean, I’m sure I’ve already burned like, at least 50 calories worrying about this, right?
Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate, returned missionary and mother of four small children. You can read more on her blog at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com