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.
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.
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.