I'd like to imagine that you have a young daughter. if you do already, then great! Think of her. But if you don't... just imagine. Now imagine her age 5... healthy... happy... full of life and vitality, imagine her running around in a garden on a beautiful summer's day... giggling and laughing... a big, bright smile on her adorable little face. Now imagine her age 15...she's upset... crying... but you don't know why. You talk to her and discover the heart of the problem. She was weighed at school and has been told her bmi is too high, and she needs to LOSE WEIGHT. You love her and want to help her, but you aren't quite sure how. Which of the following options feels right.... feels SAFE... feels like you're offering your daughter the healthiest approach now... and for her future?
You suggest to her that she replaces her meals with milkshakes. Instead of eating three meals a day, you tell her it's best to swap one or all of those meals for a processed, low-calorie milkshake that, according to the label, contains all the nutrition she needs. She can expect to lose 3 to 4lbs of weight a week.
You suggest to her that she starts counting points. you give her a book containing all the points for all the foods, and encourage her to stick to a certain number of points per day. You buy her ready meals to eat, that have the points on them, and you can take her to weekly weigh-ins to check her progress.
You suggest to her that she follows a low-fat meal plan, but has certain "free foods" that she can eat as much of as she likes. She also gets a certain number of "syns" per week to use as treats. There is also the option to go to group weigh-ins with awards for weight loss targets reached.
You tell her that weight is not the measure of a human being. Her teachers, the doctors and society as a whole is wrong to judge her by a number on the scale. Instead of focusing on her weight, you encourage her to learn about nutrition and find the balance between eating healthily and happily.
So which feels RIGHT?
obsessing over the scales?
It isn't right for my children and it isn't right for me.
You can already see how this is a very difficult subject. Our nutrition? Who cares... we're adults... And if we want to eat crap and get fat, that's our prerogative.
They are so delicate and vulnerable... And can so easily suffer because of our bad decisions. We worry about them, particularly girls, developing eating disorders. We worry about them growing up... gaining weight... Then getting caught up in the diet industry... as many of us have. As a non-parent I'm not qualified to tell you "do this / do that"... But I've worked with and trained enough children to know this... They follow YOUR LEAD. If you live on a dirty diet... the chances are they will too.
I remember training one woman who was obese, and her teenage daughter was also obese. I trained the mum for several months before she asked if I would work with her daughter as well. It didn't take long for me to work out what was going on. Mum used to buy multi-packs of cookies "for the kids" and I'd see the occasional one or two on her tracker. Soon enough she would admit to me she was binge eating them, and I identified they were the primary cause of her obesity. I suggested she went "cold turkey" on cookies (you can't do "in moderation" with addictive, trigger foods). She refused because she said it wasn't fair to deprive her daughter. Some months passed and neither mother or daughter lost much bodyfat, but I continued to train them both for fitness, and keep gently suggesting the cookies go. Then one session I turned up and mum was mortified. She explained to me she had been cleaning her daughter's room and down the side of the bed she found over 50 cookie wrappers, from whole packets her daughter had been taking from the cupboard, then binge eating in secret. Seeing the visible representation of just how many cookies her daughter had been eating, and how many wrappers had accumulated, was enough. She admitted to me she wasn't buying the cookies for her daughter, they were for her own addiction. She knew her daughter was eating them, but struggled to quit herself, so used her daughter as an excuse for buying them. After finding the wrappers, she realised the damage she was causing and stopped buying them, then went through "the dip". Needless to say, they both started to lose weight and bodyfat.... But it couldn't have happened without mum setting the lead.
So at the end of the day, the EATING DECISION...
The decision whether to EAT or NOT EAT a particular food...
Comes down to your PERCEPTION of that food.
If you think it's "OK" to eat cookies every day as a snack...
It is highly likely your children will think it's "OK" to do the same.
Especially if those cookies are ACCESSIBLE in your cupboards.
If you build all your meals around obesogenic refined grains...
Then they'll be sharing those meals with you.
So it starts with YOU.
Not telling THEM what to do...
Not telling THEM what to eat...
Not bullying them into some military clean eating regime.
Just living on THE SPECTRUM yourself... moving up and down...
But aspiring to hang around THE MIDDLE as a lifestyle.
Yes, this requires time on your part... shopping, preparing meals etc...
But how valuable is your health and theirs in terms of time?
"Liam, I don't have time to prepare clean meals every day!!"
I've said it once... I'll say it again... I'll say it 1000 more times...
Nutrition isn't about being PERFECT. It's about being BETTER.
Nutrition isn't BLACK and WHITE, GOOD and BAD...
It is SHADES OF GREY, BETTER or WORSE.
So commit to be BETTER.... even by the smallest of steps.