Friday, May 25, 2012

Red Cardigan's Guide to Mommy War Skirmishes

The latest shot fired in the never-ending mommy wars came from a gun held by popular mommy blogger Jennifer Fulwiler:

I'm done with snacks. I'm ready to limit my kids to mealtime eating only, and to reject the entire concept of food that is not eaten as part of a meal. Whenever I voice this idea, however, I am met with some mix of bewilderment and concern. For example, shortly after our pantry apocalypse I found myself at the park with some other moms, and I mused that I am seriously considering banning snacks from our household. I explained a vision in which we eat hearty breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and outside of those three mealtimes, the kitchen will be closed. Based on the other women's reactions, you would have thought that I'd announced that I was finally going to implement that longstanding idea about getting a time-out cage. After they determined that I was not, in fact, joking with this crazy talk, they seemed to be wondering whether they should alert child welfare authorities.

Am I crazy for thinking that my kids might be just fine without snacks? Am I the only parent who finds it to be difficult enough to get the kids out to scouts and sports and dance classes without the added responsibility of having to bring food? Am I missing something when I look at evolutionary biology and think that the human body is probably not designed to require a near-constant influx of calories?

And now as a public service I will offer Red Cardigan's Guide to Mommy War Skirmishes:

1. Mommies everywhere do "A." They may love "A," they may be comfortable with "A," they may reluctantly accept "A" as the dominant cultural paradigm and stifle their own misgivings about "A," or they may simply think of "A" as Something Mommies Do.

2. Somewhere, some mom publicly takes a stand against "A." No more! she cries, waving aloft a battle flag. "A" is bad for kids! "A" is bad for families, especially mine! I will no longer be part of the unthinking herd that does "A!" I reject "A" to "A's" face! etc.

3. All the other mommies choose sides. The ones who were just doing "A" sort of unthinkingly or because everyone else did it may decide that they, too, want to be free of "A" forever! They grab the battle flags and join the cause (though some of them, poor things, may handcraft their battle flags because they didn't get the memo that crafts are one of those "A" things against which Real Moms have declared war, because everybody knows you can't craft things and still have time for your kids, though hours spent on Facebook and Twitter are still fine). Meanwhile, the ones who actually like "A," who find that "A" works for their families, or whose kids actually seem to need "A" and to thrive when it's being done, go to DEFCON 5 in their impassioned defense of "A." This is because they see what's coming: if those opposing "A" are sufficiently popular and sufficiently vocal, all of a sudden it will be de rigueur to hate on "A" and declare one doesn't do it, or to sheepishly admit to still doing "A" and accept the moral superiority of those who don't, even if your reasons for doing "A" are entirely wise and good for your own family.

Let's take this snack skirmish, for example.

Already in Jen's comboxes we have people cheering loudly and other people defensively pointing out that six small meals works better for some, or that some kids are hypoglycemic or diabetic, or that some families value the family dinner and since dad doesn't get home until seven p.m....The noise will likely increase as other mommy bloggers pick up the theme, and some analysts will break the discussion down further into the question of whether it's the frequent eating that's the problem, or the use of prepackaged snack or "junk" foods--and does that mean that the mom who allows food between meals but only fresh fruits and raw organic vegetables is morally superior to the "no snacks" mom who feeds her children pizza for dinner three nights out of seven? And on and on and on.

[Some still, small voice may suggest that if random hurricane-style child-led snacking in the face of parental "no" repetitions is a huge problem in your house, the problem might actually be one of discipline, and not of snacking at all, but that person will be shouted down and ignored as having nothing of value to say (which is right and proper).]

Eventually, parenting experts may weigh in, but since some of them will point out that a toddler's tummy is as small as her little fist and thus frequent small meals are a good idea, while others will insist that French children don't get fat because their daycare providers only give them Brie and crackers at lunchtime, never in between, their input will be less than helpful. And the end result of all of this will make mommies shy away from other mommies and their "friendly fire," and ask anxious questions about the homeschool group or mom's morning out parish activity (is it a no-snack zone? Should it be? Has a committee polled the likely mom participants to find out what the preference vis a vis snacking is these days? etc.).

And that's just one skirmish, one battle, in the never-ending Mommy Wars. When you look at all the different battle fronts in this War, is there any question about why moms these days are exhausted?


Maureen said...

ARRGGHH - What about do what works for your family and don't worry about it? It's not a matter of faith or morals. Why are parents so overwrought about so much? God gave us specific kids, we should trust our insticts and not try and be any other mother or father than ourselves.

GeekLady said...

You left out the commenter variety that implies any no snack policy, (however suitable to the particular situation) is analogous to the deliberate lack of a devotional life.

Red Cardigan said...

Gosh, GeekLady, I haven't seen that one! Snacking/not snacking has something to do with one's devotional life? Um, not in my experience, unless I've been doing a late-night holy hour...


Dawn Farias said...

Among my friends I call this dilemma The Color Principle. You can't go around saying anything like "I sure do like blue. I think blue is awesome (or awful) because..." without someone coming along and yelling about Orange being left out. Or how you're a Green hater. Or you judge everyone who really likes Red. Or whatever.

Oh, and I do think it's crazy the amount of snacks required to make it through children's soccer games. Especially when you have several children in soccer. I wonder how much pressure I'll feel next year, when the kids are in school, to Pinterest-out the classroom cupcakes and such. Hopefully not too much.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Let a hundred flowers bloom!

Let a hundred mommies compete!

Rebecca in ID said...

Live and let live, but I have to say it looks like she may have invited such a skirmish *just a tad* (not necessarily at the park but on her blog), by this bit: "Am I missing something when I look at evolutionary biology and think that the human body is probably not designed to require a near-constant influx of calories?" It's not fighting words, exactly, but she's taking a bit of a position there and seems to be implying that in general we would all be doing better not to be snacking up our kids. Which is totally okay with me, I'm just as okay having a good hearty argument about evolutionary biology as having a theological argument (in the pleasant sense of argument). But I do think if people *want* to go beyond, "hey, this seems to be working for my family" and talk about what might be better in general, or whatever, then they should still keep it friendly and assume the best of intentions on the part of the person they're speaking to. That's where it gets tricky I guess. So it seems like the two extremes are--either get nasty and hold yourself and your ways to be superior, or insist that everything is completely relative and there is no room for charitable disagreement or discussion on any level. And the mean lies somewhere between.

To the question of snacks (I can't help it), I have to say I'm surprised at the reaction of the other moms in the park. If I were there, I would have been calling her a goddess. I have been studying for *years* how it might be possible to prepare only three meals a day, alas to no avail.

Susan Miller said...

Exactly Maureen! My family won't look like anyone else's. I do what comes naturally to me and what works for my family, which won't be the same as what comes naturally to another or works for another family. Maybe her kids don't need the snacks, and that's fine! I joke that I'm a hobbit because, with my low blood sugar, I eat breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, etc. but my parents and siblings aren't like that, so what they do is different from what I do. And that's great! I'd hate for us all to do things exactly the same. How boring woud that be?

L. said...

...and then there are moms like me, who let their kids "free range" in our cities -- and to every salvo fired in the "mommy wars, we say, "WHO CARES?" And mean it!

JMB said...

Good for Jen! I'm so over the snack thing too. I actually put my 12 year old daughter on a diet this past year and she lost close to 15 lbs. I cleaned out the pantry and put her on a 3 meal a day diet with dessert only on weekends. She looks great and feels much better about herself.

Red Cardigan said...

JMB, if that's what works for you and your daughter, great! But I had a different experience. I'm 5'2" and most of my teen years weighed between 115 and 120 pounds. Because my mom never weighed more than about 105, and because my two skinny sisters also weighed about that much (one of them still struggles to be 100 pounds!), I was harped at about my weight and made to feel fat because instead of being able to wear size 2, 4, or the barely-acceptable 6, I had to buy size 8 and even size 10 clothes (and that last was TOTALLY unacceptable in my home, as was admitting you needed a size medium instead of a small in any clothing item). After I got married and was expecting my first daughter, I was horrified that the scale in the doctor's office said 124--at least, until the pregnancy was confirmed, at which point I was okay with those extra four pounds. But the story of how my mom actually *lost* weight with her first baby stayed in my mind, and I felt pretty worthless as I gained weight like a normal pregnant woman.

I still struggle with food, weight, and self-image issues. I probably always will. But I can tell you right now that there's no special magic in the three-meals-a-day approach; the last time I tried that diet, I *gained* weight. Again, if eliminating snacks has helped your daughter, that's great, but there's a reason I'm so insistent on people doing what works best for their own families individually, instead of cheering a "yes, snacks!" or "no snacks!" approach in every situation.

Rebecca in ID said...

Yes, everyone is four daughters are bottomless pits; they eat about six good meals a day and are hungry in between. They are all beanpoles, but the skinniest one, whose ribs I can make out most clearly, eats more than her three sisters combined, licks the grease out of pans, and I have to hide the butter from her.

rdcobb said...

Let the Hunger Games begin. And may the odds be ever in your favor!! LOL

JMB said...

We are all different Erin. I've been the same weight my entire adult life, even after 4 children. I don't snack between meals and I work out regularly. I would be lying if I said I don't work at it because I do. My daughter needs to learn how to control her appetite. I don't expect perfection from her, but I do think we do our children a disservice if we don't put any constraints on their appetites. I think if you can learn how to control your appetite in one area _ food/drink, hopefully that will spill over to other areas - like sexuality.

Red Cardigan said...

"I think if you can learn how to control your appetite in one area _ food/drink, hopefully that will spill over to other areas - like sexuality."

Honestly, JMB, I think that's a false notion. I never engaged in premarital sex, despite my food issues. Do you really think all the skinny, self-disciplined, well-sculpted girls out there who exercise regularly are paragons of sexual morality? We have such weird Puritan notions in this country, and the idea that food "virtue" is equal to sexual morality is one of them.

The Sicilian Woman said...

Ha! Erin, the last time I was a size 10, I was an embryo.

Though, I still have X-rays of the lower part of my torso from years ago. I look at how far apart my thigh/hip bones are and know there ain't no way I'll ever be less than a size...

Never mind.

As for the "mommy wars," I just laugh at them. Maybe because I don't have children, and/or maybe because I realize they're nothing more than women competing for a "best mommy" medal that they aren't going to win.

I'd like to think that I'd still laugh them off if I had a kid. As a childless person, I still do hear things like attachment parenting and stuff like that, and it seems that there are gurus galore to tell how you should raise your kids. What happened to plain (for lack of a better word) parenting? Feed when hungry, make sure they're clothed, discipline them as necessary (including corporal punishment), teach them morals, manners, personal hygiene, and that the world doesn't revolve around them and life isn't fair, that sort of stuff, rather than adhere to a particular parenting mindset. Whatever happened to children having downtime at HOME, instead of being on overdrive and involved in tons of activities (including the ever-present soccer)? Again, all speaking from the luxury of being an observer.

LarryD said...

I bet Mary let Jesus have snacks...

Barbara C. said...

The problem Sicilian Woman is that parenting is HARD. And sometimes you don't really know if you're doing it "right" for years. It makes parents, especially mothers, extremely insecure.

Add to that, that a lot of women are not parenting the way they were parented. For instance, my mom never breastfed. I didn't know anyone who breastfed their babies my entire childhood. So, I was kind of on my own there.

During my childhood, my mom worked full-time and I went to traditional (Catholic) schooling. Again, I didn't grow up with the model of a stay-at-home mom, much less a homeschooling mom.

Also the world has changed radically even since I was a kid. My parents friends are raising their granddaughter (now age 13). They have no clue about technology, and she almost ran off with a 20-year-old guy she met online!

The other issue is that there is no such thing as "plain old parenting". It can vary widely from culture to culture, because how parenting is done often reflects the dominant values of that culture or family. (See the book: Our Babies, Ourselves).

Right now I'm reading Parenting with Grace by Greg and Lisa Popcak and they begin by talking about how/why Catholic parenting should/would look different than the parenting of non-Catholics (for one thing it should be "virtue-based" rather than "values-based").

Believe me, I thought I knew everything about parenting (having babysat a ton and having helped raise my nephew for the first 5 years of his life)...and then I had kids. LOL

The Sicilian Woman said...

Hi BarbaraC,

I did not mean to imply that parenting was easy; I would try to not to make it even harder on myself by falling victim to the time-and-soul-sucking drama of Mommy Wars, nor self-flagellate if I felt it necessary to stray from or bypass the Next Best Parenting Method. (Note I said, "Try.")

My mother said more than once, "Children don't come with instructions." I became an aunt at nine, and, for several years, helped care for babies and young children, usually daily. My glimpse into motherhood was enough for me to tell my mother and sister that I didn't want any children. They'd say, "It's different when it's yours." Exactly...any way you wish to read that comment! Ha!

I haven't had the opportunity to have children, but I'd like to think that if I had, I know how I'd raise them, based on my experience growing up and observations. (Cue all moms reading this falling over with laughter. "Yeah, we did, too, sister!")

Unlike you, I was raised in a traditional home (no homeschooling, though). Ironically, and with few exceptions, I'd plan to raise my children very differently from how I was raised. Normally, it appears that could create a Mommy War between us, but my attitude would be, hey, do what works for you, good luck and God bless, I'm going to do what works for me, end of story.

Indeed, the wars are about the insecurity you mentioned (like the "best mommy" medal), and I'd pray I'd be secure enough to click away from them. The comments on the Net about Time cover story were crazy enough...but having wars about snacks?

Happily sitting from the sidelines,

PS If ever I announce I've had a child (although highly unlikely at the point), kindly point me back to this comment. Thanks!

Barbara C. said...

Sicilian Woman, I must admit that it took me a minute to process what you meant by a "traditional home". I'm thinking, "But I was raised in a home with two married parents of opposite sexes." LOL

It's funny because I didn't make my parenting decisions differently based on my experiences and observations growing up. Really up until the point where I was pregnant with my first child I thought I would follow my mom's example in my childhood. (She actually was a SAHM with my older sister, but for economic reasons felt she needed to get a job after I turned one.)

But then I started reading about options I would have never considered before (breastfeeding, homeschooling) and life circumstances required me/allowed me to make different choices. (For instance, any job that I could get with my lack of career specialization would barely cover the daycare expenses for my kids.)

But I try not to get to caught up in the Mommy Wars stuff. I'd like to think that I've learned a little more humility over my almost ten years of parenting.

JMB said...

No Erin, I don't think that skinny girls are not having sex. My point is that I do think self discipline with food does carry over to other areas of one's life. I'm tired of this notion that a person who keeps gluttony at check is "lucky" or it's "just genetics".

Red Cardigan said...

And I, JMB, am tired of those who think that anyone who is carrying five or ten pounds more than some "ideal" weight chart says he or she--usually she--should is automatically a glutton who is not self-controlled about eating.

I like the definition of gluttony here:

which points out that people can commit the sin of gluttony by eating "too soon, too expensively, too much, too eagerly, too daintily..." We seem to think that eating "too much" is the only way to sin that involves food.

Red Cardigan said...

In other words, an anorexic or a bulimic is more likely a glutton than some person who tries his best to eat healthy foods and to exercise frequently but who gained thirty pounds during an illness which left him bedridden for six months and who has tried everything short of surgery to lose it, without success. We sin greatly when we judge everyone by their outside appearance alone.

GeekLady said...

JMB, bearing has a really excellent set of posts up on gluttony, that if you're going to have a discussion about gluttony and weight, you need to read first. Fat people might struggle with gluttony the same way teenage boys struggle with lust, but lust didn't create puberty in the teenage boy, and gluttony doesn't create weight problems.

Erin, relatively early on in that comment thread, some guy said that we were lucky our heavenly Father permitted the 'snacking' of prayer and Adoration between Sunday Eucharists. It was too far out in left field to watch go by without a little snark. There might be lots of facets to the snacking controversy, but that is NOT one of them.

L. said...

JMB, some girls who keep gluttony at check really are just "lucky," or it's "just genetics".

I was one. When I was a teenager, I believed in satisfying all of my appetites, including the sexual ones. I experimented with boys the way I experimented with different cookie recipes.

You can condemn my behavior, but not my appearance -- I', 5'4" and I weighed under 110 pounds and was a size 4, for all of my teenager years. Effortlessly.

Tony said...

I wish I could be put on that diet! I need to lose about 50 pounds, and I notice my dog is a svelte 22 pounds. That's because he only eats what someone else feeds him.

I'm thinking of asking my wife to dish out my food for me, and not touch anything that hasn't been given to me. Then me and the dog can be thin. :)

beadgirl said...

I'm not trying to pile on you, JMB, but I want to point out that just as not all gluttons are overweight, not all overweight people are gluttons.

I am quite overweight, but gluttony is not my problem -- I make a point of eating healthy foods, I get at least a little exercise every day, I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full, I take pleasure in food but don't obsess about it or abuse it.

There are a whole host of factors as to why I am overweight, and some are controllable. I seek a middle ground where I take steps to make sure I am healthy despite the excess weight, but don't focus on losing weight at the expense of the rest of my responsibilities and joys in life. Obviously some women will make a different calculus, but that does not make me a glutton, that just makes me different.

JMB said...

My point was (before it got hijacked) was that in my particular situation with my particular overweight daughter 5'2" 135 lbs, I was obliged as her mother, who loves her more than anybody on this planet, to make it clear to her in no uncertain terms that she couldn't come home from school and shove every last cookie in her mouth, then have dinner two hours later then top it off with some ice cream every single day. So I put her on a diet. And yes, she is involved in sports throughout the year, so she is getting physical exercise on a regular basis.

I'm tired of this accusation that if a mother puts limits on her teenage daughter's overeating, she will turn that daughter into an anorexic or bulimic. Anorexia and bulimia are mental disorders. Do we blame mothers if their adult children become alcoholics or clinically depressed? I'm doing my daughter no favors by ignoring her gluttony. Just as my teenagers are expected to show restraint when it comes to sexual urges, I expect them to show restraint when it comes to overeating. How can we expect our children to show restraint in one area - sexual appetite - and allow them no restraint in other areas? That's all. I'm very clear with my children that they don't have to satisfy every physical urge that they have- whether it is smacking a sibling, polishing off last night's left overs, or heaven forbid, having sex before marriage.

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...


Did you even once stop to ask your daughter why she feels the need to "shove every last cookie in her mouth" when she gets home instead of just assuming that it's a gluttony problem? Is the school providing an adequate lunch (ala the <a href=">NeverSeconds</a> blog) or is she feeling hungry all day and over compensating at home? Is she being teased? Is she feeling social pressure to conform to certain more adult standards of behavior others of her friends have accepted like kissing, petting, etc... when she's still really only interested in little girl things like playing and having innocent fun? Is she feeling like an outsider? Is the cookie shoving perhaps an emotional eating response to an emotional problem? If you've never been an emotional eater, then you have no idea how food numbs the hurt and pain associated with adolescence. For a lot of people who struggle with emotional eating, it starts at that young age. I'm not saying that teaching her self-control isn't something a mom should be concerned with but a child who suddenly begins to overeat might be covering up a more serious problem that she's having difficulty dealing with.

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

Sorry the link didn't come through. Here is the blog I was linking to.


Rebecca in ID said...

Charlotte has a good point, and from the other (physical) side of it I would highly, highly recommend (I know I've done it here before) Gary Taubes' "Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It". He is a very well-respected science writer who is challenging the ingrained thinking about the cause of obesity and even what obesity is, in a very concise and compelling way. His thesis is that the disease/problem is a problem with allocation of fat and is not primarily a problem of gluttony or overnutrition. What happens is that the overweight person is literally starving--they are malnourished--and they suffer terribly hunger pangs for that reason, but often what happens is that they go for the foods which will continue the cycle of malnourishment (i.e. cookies and ice cream). Those foods can trick your body into thinking it will be satiated and nourished if it just has more of them! If the same people did not have white flour or sugar available to them, but had an unlimited amount of meat, fat, veggies, and some fruit, their appetite would self-regulate and they would no longer suffer from malnutrition. Some people are *much more sensitive* to those simple carbs than others, and will suffer from obesity much more readily than others. With teen girls, too, with all the hormone changes and emotions and things going on, I think it is easy to fall under the sway of sugary things because they make you feel good in the moment; you get a hit of endorphins, etc., and it is almost like a drug--but then comes the low, and because of the down-swing you need more of the drug to feel good again.

L. said...

I would say, 5'2" 135 lbs is not seriously overweight - my own 15-year old daughter is close to that (unlike her mother, she has very wide hips and much of her weight is there).

Teenage girls and weight is SUCH a loaded subject.

I will recuse myself from any conversations about sexuality, since I am not on the same page as everyone there, but I will say that in our house, we don't focus on "controlling your appetite." People should eat when they're hungry. We focus on "healthy food choices."

We live in Tokyo, and my daughter usually buys her lunch at school, and she has lately been buying her own dinner on her way home from school (she prefers to do this rather than eat with our family, and I have not opposed it). If she were consuming cookies and ice cream, I would certainly intervene. But from what she throws in the garbage can, I can see she is buying a healthy variety of Japanese take-out food. She is making good food choices, so I leave her alone about them.

However, I DO nag her to get off her butt and get more exercise.

We all have to what we think works best for our own kids. I think this is the point of the original post, right?

freddy said...

Our Pastor (FSSP) noted that true gluttony -- as a serious sin -- is in fact very rare. The person still has to know that what they are doing is wrong, it has to actually be wrong, and they have to decide to do it anyway. Hunger, emotional problems, conviviality or lonliness and family habits all tend to have a mitigating effect on gluttony.

In a society overly concerned with body weight, image and food, parents have to be careful to teach their children healthy eating, exercise and self control.

In my experience; however taking a negative approach can have a deleterious effect on a child. The teenaged years are difficult and support and understanding from parents is essential. Thinking that "even Mom and Dad think I'm fat" can stay with a child even through his adult years and continue to cause hurt and pain.

Charlotte said...

I'm not sure which side I come down on in terms of this topic in general, but since I am 5' 2" (like JMB's daughter), if I were 135 pounds, I'd run through the streets naked in celebration of how THIN I was. There is no way I can support the notion that 135 pounds at 5' 2" is even remotely near being overweight or even chubby. Not even close.

Alice said...

You're 5'2", Char? From your blogging presence, I always assumed that if I met you, you would tower over 5'4" me. Apparently one can't judge a blogger's height by their blog. LOL

I would be very careful talking to a teenager about her weight too. My mother was...not and it landed me in the hospital with pneumonia when my body couldn't take losing 15 lbs in 3 weeks and got my 5'10" sister down to 90 lbs. My mother's comments about the other women at church could be pretty mean too. "Have you seen Mrs. "Smith"? What is it with all these women gaining so much weight during pregnancy? Obviously they're using NFP because if they were being chaste, they would have the self-control to avoid weight problems." This about the mothers of large families at the TLM we attended. I'm not kidding.

Charlotte said...

Alice, I'm a total fat ass! Ha! I weigh about 200 pounds, wearing a size 16/18. Now, every person's genetics and bone structure is different, etc. But that's how I know someone who is 5'2" and 135 pounds is NOT overweight. That is likely a normal weight, considering current adjusted height/weight charts - not the ones I grew up with that said I was supposed to be 100 or 110 pounds at my height.

I have been severely psychologically damaged from people calling me fat in middle school and high school and I have never gotten over it. It doesn't matter how nice someone says I look, I can't see it. About 8-ish years ago, when I was a size 14, I literally thought I was a WHALE with no prospect of ever being married. Now I'd give everything I am and have just to get back into a size 14.

People who are normal weight who don't have to work at it don't understand. People who flip out over an extra 10 pounds just make me roll my eyes. Maybe that's not nice, but...........

Charlotte said...

Can I just mention here that I HATE that you are moderating comments. I think it is so unneccessary, given your regular readers. Just my two cents and I wish you'd reconsider. The people who were trouble have probably been deterred from coming here.

GeekLady said...

First, and it must be said, that while 135 pounds may be fine for an adult, it is quite heavy for age twelve. It's approximately 95th percentile for weight/age, and (remaining on the curve) at age twelve a girl's weight is, roughly, 75% of her eventual weight at twenty. Whether this weight is either unusual or excessive requires interpretation that can't be done over the Internet. I merely note that it is, in fact, heavy for twelve. And that's the end of it. We don't need to be discussing any third party's particulars in such detail.

JMB, my objection is not that you aren't trying to look after your daughter's best interests, but in your choice of words. Saying you "put her on a diet"... It sounds like you're talking about a pet dog or cat, and it took me aback a little. It's easy to interpret that you draw a very harsh line on your daughter's diet from such a phrase, whether it is true or not.

My second, and more general, objection is the use of diets for minor weight loss. Dieting like this is not good for anyone, and I don't think we should teach children (deliberately or inadvertently) to use them as such. The changes caused by a dietary change will only last so long as you maintain the diet itself. If the diet is intolerable, long term, it will do more harm than good.

JMB said...

Geek Lady,

I originally commented on the "no snack policy" skirmish. I briefly stated that I put my daughter on a diet which I did by eliminating refined sugar and processed junk food from our house. This happened to be during Lent which we as a family gave up desserts. I'm a little disturbed that everyone is so willing to bash me on the head because I finally got my HEAD out of the sand and acted like a mother. Apparently, it is only acceptable to act like a mother with every other issue under the sun except for dieting, in which grown adults impose their own weird body/diet issues on other people. I get it now. Bad habits aren't to be broken. Good eating habits and regular exercise shouldn't be encouraged. Discipline with food is a no no.

Alice said...

I hope you didn't think I was commenting on your weight, Char. I'm just surprised that you're shorter than I am. It seems like most of my favorite bloggers are.

Red Cardigan said...

JMB, I don't think discipline with food is a no-no or that all attempts to guide children to eat healthy foods and exercise well are somehow bad or wrong.

I'm just aware, having been through this myself, that weight regulation among teen girls is a hugely loaded topic--probably one which deserves its own post someday.

Look at it this way: society tends to smile when teen boys are endlessly hungry. They're growing, they're active, their appetites are seemingly endless--and we (as a culture) tend to find that amusing, such that jokes are made about teen boys polishing off the weekly shopping before Mom has finished unloading the groceries from the car. Nobody seems to fret when teen boys put on ten pounds or so, because everyone is sure they're still growing and "filling out," and that these are good things.

Girls are a different story. I have a vivid memory of being openly mocked by a family friend--an adult woman who was tall and thin and whose daughters resembled her--for having a "tummy." Of course, unlike her daughters, I was a short-waisted vertically challenged girl who had already begun her monthly cycles, and my "tummy" was simple bloating; at the time my five-foot self (I had not yet reached my towering 5'2" height) weighed less than one hundred pounds. But thanks to my family friend and others like her, I spent my teen years convinced that I was fat, ugly, and worthless. My bad relationship with food began around that time.

Teen girls generally need more calories than adult females, because like teen boys they are often still growing, and because during the years when their menstrual cycles are just starting and beginning to regulate themselves a girl actually needs slightly more body fat than she will need as an adult woman to maintain those cycles.

At the same time, though, teen girls are bombarded with messages from society, from their peers, from popular culture, and even from their own families which tell them that they must have perfect slender figures, perfect skin and makeup, perfect hair, perfect (expensive) clothing, etc. in order to be worth anything. Let a teen girl admit to wearing a clothing size bigger than a six, and she might as well be wearing t-shirts emblazoned with "fatso" across them, as far as her peers and family are concerned. Let her face the menstrual-cycle related issues of acne or other skin problems and she might as well add "ugly" to the shirt. Let her fail to measure up to the image of the fashion models on "Seventeen" magazine, and she may question her self worth to a degree that adults may find shocking.

So, no, restricting treats and trying as a family to embrace healthy eating is not bad for anybody. But that's not really what I was talking about in the original post, which was the notion that eating between meals makes people fat, and that there's no greater tragedy, especially for a woman, than to be fat.

Alice said...

Please do write that post some day! I only have boys right now but I hope to have a daughter or two some day and I have no clue whatsoever how to help a girl go through the teen years without totally hating her body. I was unaware that girls going through menarchy actually needed more body fat than adult women. I just remember my own mother blaming my "bladder control problems" (really cervical mucus) on all the extra weight I was carrying on my tummy. (I was 125 lbs on a fat day at the time and never had much of a tummy until I became a mother myself.) And, boy, it hurt. I still have trouble talking with my mother when I'm pregnant or for about a year after the baby is born because I don't want any comments about my weight. I'm probably making my mother sound like an ogre -she's not- just a woman who has serious, serious issues with eating and refuses to face them.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Okay, I know I"m super late, but I'm 5'2 and weigh 135. I'd like to lose ten or fifteen pounds, but it's hard exercising with a chronic illness. But, I'm not fat! I do have wide hips and a curvy backside, but I wear a size 6... Hmmm...

As for snacks, we didn't get too many growing up. An apple, a glass of chocolate milk, some cereal... And my mom was a SAHM. My parents just didn't go in for it. We drank a lot of water and ate three solid meals, but I didn't expect a bunch of snacks all the time. Even now, when I snack, it's probably a banana or grapes. Maybe popcorn. I'm glad I never got into snacking.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Okay, I know this is late (agin) and off-topic, but can I say I was teased for being too skinny in my teens? I was 5'2 my senior year of high school and 103 pounds. I was repeatedly told by classmates, teachers and even my Dad that although I was "cute" most guys wouldn't look at me twice because of my lack of curves. That haunted me for years. I always felt like being too skinny or too big was horrible... And I'd ne'er measure up. :–(

I'm grateful God has been healing me of this pain the last few years. Teasing as a kid can burn for years.

Sorry I'm off topic from the post, Erin!