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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Our children need a healthy body image

I don't believe we can separate obesity from eating disorders in our young. As my friend Monika Mumonthebrink mentioned, they are two sides of a coin. I couldn't agree more with her. When faced with the avalanche of sickly thin models that are plastered all over our towns and printed papers and who seem younger and younger (to the point where they would definitely be under-aged if it wasn't advertising), how can our children, particularly our daughters resists feeling inadequate?

My own daughter was only eight when a girl who had been prepped by her parents to take part in TV talent shows and who wore make up and straightened her hair dared her to stop eating to be as thin as she was. My daughter is naturally slim and has a small appetite to start with so when I noticed she was almost not eating at all, I started to worry. I asked her what was wrong. She said nothing. But me and my daughter are very close so she could not hold it very long: she spilled the beans about the dare. I looked at her petrified but tried not to show any panic. I sat down with her and said to her, very calmly: "Darling, do you know what will happen to you if you don't eat well?" She looked at me with her huge green eyes and said: "No". I answered back: "What will happen, honey, is that your teeth will fall out, your hair too, your organs will shut down and you are going to die". And to my relief, she ran to the fridge and smiled at me and said: "Mummy I am hungry" And I let out a sight of relief. We were out of the woods. My daughter had just had a narrow escape at her first anorexic episode at eight years of age.

Eight years of age???????

This shook me so deeply that it is what motivated me to write my book the Journey of the Slim Soul. I knew I had to do something to stop this madness. I had to do something about dieting and eating disorders. In my own case, it is my mother who put me on a diet when I was twelve because she was afraid I would end up overweight and as a result of her putting me on a diet, I started to put on weight steadily. Before she started to try to fix me, I was an ordinary slim kid. But I was of a slightly stronger built than my sister so I was considered the "fat one" and my mother was almost constantly trying the most bizarre diets and I guess she was lonely so she used me as a companion for her sad journeys. My sister was never asked anything because she was considered slim. As a result, the gap of "weight" between us got bigger and bigger. Don't tell me that obesity and dieting are two different things. In my case one led to the other. Anything that comes in the way of healthy eating and healthy body image and self worth must be put right. And this is why I am writing this blog.

It is by projecting our insecurities and our own sick thinking that we mess up our children. Fast forward four years and my daughter is now twelve years old. She is still perfect in every way with probably not an ounce of fat on her body, although there would be nothing wrong with her if she had. She comes back from school depressed. She is usually quite perky and bubbly. I ask her: "What is the matter honey?" We are still very close and we talk things through. She answers: "Today, in science, our teacher asked us to weigh ourselves to do statistics. Mum, why is it that I weigh ten kilos more than a girl in my class that is two inches taller than me?" I sit her down opposite me at the dinning table and say: "Honey, you are perfect as you are. You are not a number. Why would your weigh be so important to you? There is nothing wrong with you." This time, it is a science teacher. And I am going to complain about this. What was this woman thinking of? For God's sake. Who is going to stop these mindless adults destroying our children??????

I have no doubt that my beautiful daughter is going to continue to be the target of comments and circumstances that will make her feel inadequate despite the fact that she has no weight issue whatsoever. She eats when she is hungry and stops when she is full. But I consider it a miracle that she does. And I am going to make sure with every remaining breath that I have that she does and that no dieting nonsense is every knocked into her. But I am determined to do more than that. I want to be there for all the other girls of her age that are daily destroyed by peer pressure, diets, glossy magazines, chats, facebook pressures, etc to be thinner than nature ever intended them to be.

We must stop weighing and measuring our children. They are perfect as they are. We all have different body shapes and weights and statistics can create more damage than good. We are not numbers. We are not what we weight. Why do we weight our children from the time they are born? Going back to the moment of the birth of my daughter: one of her relatives, seeing her lovely pudgy and adorable little baby legs said: "She is going to be obese" and something in me wanted to scream at her "You are a very sick woman". How many women think this way? How many women hate themselves so much they project their insanity onto their daughters? And by the way, that woman was what you would consider medically obese.

Childhood obesity is just the other side of the coin. There are many causes of childhood obesity but I wouldn't be surprised if one of them was: "I can't meet those impossible standards of slimness, so I might as well eat as much as I want and forget about wanting to be slim". And so the child comforts herself in food... and lets go of a dream that could destroy her but only to feel depressed about getting bigger and bigger than she wants to be. I could be wrong. To me, however, childhood obesity cannot be separated from eating disorders in our young and it cannot be tackled by just applying the superficial command of eat less move more. Those commands only make those children feel even more inadequate. We are the ones who need to change first. Not them. What we are doing is criminal.

Blessings of lightness

Anges de Lumiere

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