Is talking about healthy food making us all fat?

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between my time as a child and the world my children live in, is the growing obsession with healthy eating and body image.

As a child my mother stayed at home, and luckily for us was a wonderful cook. Not only did she cook our dinner each day, but she also made dessert (sweet as we called it). To add to that she baked constantly, buns, apple tarts, breads, pavlova, and many other delights which we enjoyed greatly. Don’t get me wrong we weren’t allowed unlimited access to them, but I never remember being told they were fattening or unhealthy. They were something we enjoyed, guilt free.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dearbarbie/437294724/">dearbarbie</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

I now have four children and also stay at home. I am not the cook my mother was, but I do make a dinner every day. I have what you could describe as a very relaxed attitude to nutrition. From the time I had my first baby and she was such a very fussy eater, my mother reassured me not to fret that she wouldn’t starve herself and as long as she stayed healthy I should relax. I found it difficult but I took her advice and who would have thought it, that same child is now a very healthy twenty two year old with a very varied palate.

As subsequent children arrived I continued to pay little attention to diet. They are thankfully sickeningly healthy, but even though they were all reared the same, not all had the same love of food as the other. One in particular survived fourteen years on plain pasta, and as little meat as possible. No fruit of any sort and the only vegetable was tinned corn, (perhaps not the most organic of vegetables!) However, slowly over the past year, she has begun to vary her diet and will now eat curry, bolognaise, different soups, beef stroganof and numerous other “exotic” dinners.

I have secretly prided myself on the fact that my children are not overly obsessed with calories or food. They are all normal weight and even though they enjoy sweets or treats they don’t seem to eat too many of them. Despite my own lack of fruit in my diet they, like their Dad, enjoy some every day. Yet today as my daughter had her head stuck in the fridge she turned to me and said, “Mum, you’re really a disgrace as a mother”. ( A bit harsh I thought!)”You have never taught us about healthy eating or encouraged us to eat fruit and vegetables”. ( I’d like to point out that this was spoken by the same child who ate plain pasta for fourteen years).

I looked at her as she began to eat fresh melon from the fridge, having just finished her chicken curry, and I said, “Do you think so, because I see someone who is never sick, with no weight issues, who eats as she pleases and enjoys what she eats? If you ask me I think not talking about it and eating everything in moderation would appear to be exactly the right way to parent”.

Her words have made me think though. Maybe there is far too much talking on this subject. We live in an age where so many foods are “bad”. It has got so complicated that even low fat food is now seen to be fattening, butter, which was a few years ago considered a shortcut to a heart attack, is now back on the “good” shelf, and the restriction on eggs has also been lifted. What are we to believe?

As an adult I struggle to ignore it all. It is in my face every day. A while ago there was a health drive in this country to alert everyone to the fact that we are a nation who are rapidly expanding in waist size. Free measuring tapes were kindly supplied and if you were over a certain waist size you were classed as overweight. I wear a UK size 10, yet as I sucked in, desperately pulling that tape towards the holy grail of thirty two inches, I nearly passed out. I put the tape away and cursed that last child. photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/4508825094/">quinn.anya</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Thankfully that stupid campaign ended. It had branded me overweight but if I am honest I choose to dismiss it as wrong. I continue to eat normal meals every day, and enjoy what treats I like in moderation every day. There are many foods I enjoy and can honestly say I am never guilty when I eat or afterwards. If in years to come my children can be as relaxed and guilt free around food as I am I will be happy.

Perhaps not talking about nutrition and healthy food was indeed the best policy.

photo credit: dearbarbie via photopin cc

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc

photo credit: Nino.Modugno via photopin cc

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27 thoughts on “Is talking about healthy food making us all fat?

  1. as a teacher of young children and mother of 3 daughters, i try to never address food and weight as issues. (unless there is a real health issue of some sort.) when she was little, one of my daughters ate nothing but peanut butter on white bread for 3 months and her doc said, don’t worry, she’ll eat something else when she’s ready and he was absolutely right. i think that by focusing on food and body size, we create unhealthy relationships with food and body of all kinds for these children.

    1. I agree completely. It reminds me of when we read a sign saying “keep off the grass” we want to stand on it, or “wet paint” we itch to touch it, being told we shouldn’t eat something, causes a similar reaction.
      I’d say we’d get on so well in real life, we seem to have so many similar ideas, not all conventional!

  2. Yep, I have to agree – I try not to get caught up in fads about eating eggs or not eating eggs etc. I always think if my kids are being given normal, balanced, varied food, it’s a decent start – even if it drive me mad that not one of the three of them will eat a single vegetable for me ever! I always think “sure they’re not in McDonalds”
    My bar is a bit low maybe πŸ™‚
    PS the cheese ad ban proposal was the most nuts thing I ever heard. I started to buy more cheese in protest

    1. LOL. πŸ™‚ If I’m honest I did over the years feel pressure to guide my kids and those I minded, towards healthy options, but my guide was always “are they healthy?”. Three of the four have not had antibiotics for over fourteen years and the twelve year old has never had one, so maybe it’s families like us they’ll turn to eventually for guidance, as we eat our chocolate guilt free, whilst having space in the fridge in the veg compartment! πŸ™‚

      1. Difficult to say. I know people who figuratively mainline on fast food and have healthy numbers. Other people I know eat healthy and are constantly ill.

  3. There are so many things I cannot eat… Milk, cheeses, fats, oils, sugars, corn syrup, some nuts, some chocolate, cream, avocados, sugar-rich fruits, etc. I weighed 112 pounds at my last appointment that I’m not worried. I would love to gain a few pounds. I’ve been a vegetarian for a couple of years but I eat fish and eggs.

    1. That is a lot of food intolerance’s. Luckily I’m like a mongrel dog and can eat anything! I could never be a vegetarian as I enjoy so few veg.

      1. I never had a food I did not like and I still do but now if I eat those things… bad things happen in my lungs. Yesterday I tried to eat out with my husband and there was really not one thing on the menu I could eat. Some day out, huh. 😦

  4. Oh, what a refreshing viewpoint! A healthy diet includes a healthy outlook on food, too–and one can’t have a healthy outlook if one is obsessing constantly. I do think about nutrition a lot but try to be very nonchalant about it around my kids and never label foods as good or bad and never use dessert as a reward (or withhold it as punishment).
    On another note, that tape measure campaign sounds insane. Have they never heard of different body types? Or that some heavier people are healthier than some lighter people? Egad.

    1. I’m with you all the way. I think we as parents must have a huge influence on our children, but we too are influenced by the media. It was definitely simpler in my mothers time when there were less convenience foods and also a lot less discussion on the topic.
      Good on you for trying to be nonchalant around your children. I wonder do they see through you?

  5. I grew up in a small town where there weren’t a lot of food options but home cooked meals. Now kids and adults are bombarded with fast food. What makes it worse, is the fact that it’s much cheaper to eat junk than it is to eat healthy foods. Is it the same in Ireland?

    1. Yes it is the same here and in Ireland and Britain it has been found that in the lower income bracket there is a tendancy towards heavier children at a young age,
      However I think it comes down to more than this. People don’t cook as before, and life is busier. Also many obsess about weight and are on permanent diets.
      Bottom line is if we used up the amount we ate we’d be okay, but most of us don’t.

      1. We’re much more sedentary now than at any other time in history. Basically, my desk job is killing me, albeit slowly, every day. Research shows exercise won’t even stop the damage of a desk job. I try to do what I can.

  6. Fast foods and pre-packaged food is readily available and cheaper than homemade, leading others to opt for those instead of fresh. I have three kids, 2 daughters with different body types and my son is average. All are healthy and happy with no obsessions about food or weight…I think a mother’s personal views can unwittingly skew a child’s…

    1. I agree. Parents are the greatest influence on their childrens eating in my opinion. It is not easy to manage childrens intake because as you say they are not all the same, although I do think we have more take aways and treats than we used to.

  7. I agree that there is an obsession with food however I do believe that what we eat impacts on our health. Fresh food is the way to go and everything in moderation is the key. I just worry about what the companies put into our foods that weren’t meant to be there.
    And my partner spent the first 10 years of his life living on milo (a powdered drink) and milk so I hear you about the child eating only pasta. I long for the day that my Tween stops being so picky with what she will and won’t eat. lol

  8. I totally got fed up with all the so-called ‘healthy eating’ advice. I try and eat sensibly, but allow myself treats too and I managed to maintain a healthy size 12 until my late 40s πŸ™‚

    1. I think the more we think about our diets the hungrier we get! I never really bought into the what is good for you and not, (only because I’ve not will power and like to eat certain foods) but i do firmly believe in everything in moderation.

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