“I think that you should keep doing Weight Watchers,” said my 5-year-old boy. “Then we can be a thin family.”
It’s not lost on me that my sons have inherited my husband’s long, lean build. And it’s not lost on the boys, apparently, either.
I’m not obese by any stretch of the imagination. But, like my mother, my life has been spent yo-yoing between wow-I’m-smoking-hot svelte and if-I-gain-another-pound-I’m-going-to-buy-a-new-wardrobe zaftig. Two pregnancies have just made it more interesting.
In this respect, I’m quite pleased to have boys–and naturally thin boys at that. I’m not eager to bequeath all this weight-related mishugas to a lovely little girl. But that doesn’t mean I get a total pass on questions of food, weight, and self-esteem.
It’s complicated. On the one hand, I want them to truly believe that weight doesn’t matter. People are people, no matter their size, and you must always treat them with kindness and respect. On the other hand, weight does matter. Being overweight is bad for you in a million different ways and exercise has myriad benefits–physical, mental, and emotional–that science is just beginning to understand. I need to emphasize the former, without skipping over the latter–that is, to make sure that they learn that every person is made in the image of God, but that whole grains and lean poultry beat a burger and fries every time. (And that while television is all fine and good, it’s better to play a game of basketball than watch one.)
I sometimes wonder whether it’s bad for the boys to watch me try, over and over again, to change myself. Could it unsettle them somehow to know that I am (constantly) trying to lose weight? Or, alternatively, am I a role model, teaching them that we should always be working to improve ourselves?
Ultimately, here’s what it comes down to, for me: I love myself. If I never lost another pound, I’d be okay with that, and I’d still believe that I’m fundamentally attractive and worthy (though I’d miss how awesome I once looked in that little black dress). I definitely picked that up from my mom, who stills sees her 18-year-old bikini-clad self in the mirror every morning, and I’m hoping that my sons realize this, and learn to love themselves, too, whatever their challenges may be.