There is no doubt that childhood obesity has become a major health issue that seems likely to get worse. However, it is also the case that eating disorders also represent a significant and growing issue among kids. It sometimes feels that we parents are navigating between two perilous health issues, both of which can have a debilitating effect. My only hope and dream for my kids, and all kids for that matter, is that they can find a balance in a healthy and sustaining lifestyle. It's a difficult balancing act for parents, and I've found it to be a difficult one for me.
Let's start with me and how I am. Everyone who knows me well would be pretty quick to point out that I can tend to be a little over-the-top in how I approach life. When in doubt, my inclination is to charge up the hill with both guns firing. I am also pretty vocal and open about what's on my mind and how I'm feeling. I am very much one who wears his cardiovascular system on his sleeve.
This has certainly been the case when it comes to my weight. For the most part, the behaviors I am modelling tend to be pretty good ones. My kids see me eating healthy meals while also finishing the great majority of what is on my plate. They see me going to the gym, going for walks, and going for bike rides. My operating assumption is that this is a big net positive.
However, I am also aware of the fact that I can be a bit obsessive about my weight. I am no stranger to vocal self-flagellation after a bad weigh-in. I am also aware of the fact that I do talk about losing weight and keeping weight off. I worry that my kids can see me becoming anxious if and when I'm falling off program.
|Me in my kitchen...|
All of my concerns are amplified by knowing what kind of environment my kids live in outside of our home. They live in a town where obesity is far from the norm. They, in fact, live in a place sometimes referred to as Stepford, CT. I see their schoolmates, and they are almost universally thin and fashionable. It sometimes looks like Mean Girls, the massively extended version. Blond and thin is very much the aspiration in my town. I cannot help but believe that the peer pressure the girls in their schools face is to look a very particular way. I cannot help but recognize that this peer pressure has a truly unfortunate side that manifests itself in a host of negative ways.
So there you have it. My daughters live in a very thin town, and their dad is the CEO of Weight Watchers and who is prone to bouts of self-obsession about how he looks. Pretty scary, and something I really need to be aware of and to take seriously.
The good news is that I am unbelievably lucky to have two daughters who are confident, independent and not afraid to laugh at themselves. I cannot imagine having half the confidence they possess when I was their age. I am also lucky that they routinely laugh at and deride me for all of my many peccadilloes. They know that I am a walking midlife crisis, and they routinely mock me for it. They can never know how grateful I am for their goodhearted scorn.
For my part, I do my very best to keep my weird obsessive thoughts locked in my weird head, because frankly, most of them really don't need to see the light of day. When I do talk about food, I studiously attempt to talk about it as fuel the leads to health. I NEVER ride them about eating too much, and I try incredibly hard to be careful of the whole "eat your vegetables" routine. Frankly, my wife is better at that this than me, so I let her take the heavy lifting on this topic (among many others).
Ultimately, as a father, it's my responsibility to be a healthy role model for my kids. It's also my responsibility to be a father, not a peer who shares every self-doubt in front of them. My aspiration is to demonstrate common sense and confidence. When I'm with my kids, my job is to not be selfish and self-absorbed, but rather to be present for them. I am a thousand miles from perfect on this front, but I know it's important and I know I need to work constantly to seek to achieve this state. If I can, then maybe they will forgive me my fancy threads.