The Weight of it

I had my first awareness that I was heavier than my friends when I was in sixth grade.  We had a tire playground at my elementary school (literally, it was made out of tires) and I was following my friends through one of the structures and noticed I was struggling a bit to fit where they had navigated easily.  Judging from childhood pictures of Brian, he was overweight even earlier than me because there are chunky pics of him by about four years old.  By adulthood, both he and I tipped the scales at well over 200 pounds before we finally managed to lose and then maintain healthy (although not skinny) weights  long-term (he lost the weight before I met him, me after we met and partially inspired by his story).

Julia is five and a half and at her five year checkup she was in the 95% percentile for weight but also in the 75% percentile for height.  In other words, she’s not THE fat kid, but she’s not as skinny as most of her friends.  Other than a belly that sticks out (which to be fair, even many skinny kids have) Julia doesn’t look overweight when she stands by herself.  She’s got round cheeks and an adorable booty, but she doesn’t look heavy per se.  Put her next to her friends though – the gazelle-like Laney, the petite Kasey and Karma, the positively model-esque physique of Eva and suddenly Julia starts to look a bit…. bigger.

This causes a tremendous deal of parenting stress for me.  I don’t want her to be bullied for her weight, don’t want her to feel different, don’t want her to have low self-esteem.  Yes, I know she is only five, but I feel like if I screw her up in some way (because all parents screw up their kids somehow), this might be the one I end up causing.  So I worry, even though I don’t think I am doing nearly enough and likely doing ineffective or potentially even harmful things about it.  Here’s a short list of my crimes:

  • Using food as a reward.
  • Using food as a punishment (i.e. not giving her a cookie at the diner if she behaves badly).
  • Refusing to give her something else to eat if she won’t eat what we gave her.
  • Giving in and giving other things to her when she won’t eat what we gave her.
  • Letting her eat meals that mostly involve her favorites of mac and cheese or cheese sandwiches instead of pushing harder for healthy options.
  • Insisting she be served a meal of healthy options that I am fairly certain she won’t actually eat.

How do you get a picky carb loving five year old to eat healthy?  We don’t let her have dessert regularly and we don’t keep juice in the house but we’re not tyrants. She gets ice cream on Wednesdays with Grandma & Papa and that cookie at the diner on Fridays.  She also gets chocolate milk once a week with school lunch and most weekends she gets to have one mini chocolate after lunch.   But she eats the same things for dinner most nights – mac and cheese, cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, sometimes with a side of the rare fruit or vegetable she’ll eat. I don’t mind the nuggets (compared to the meals that are strictly carbs and cheese) because it’s one of the only meat things she’ll eat.  She seems to have a textural issue with meat although I’ve seen her eat the occasional cheeseburger.

In case you were wondering why she doesn’t eat what we eat – we aren’t there yet with dinner because she goes to bed so early.  I come home early on Diner Friday so we can eat together but that means that she also goes to bed late that night.  I suppose we could keep her up later Saturday and Sunday too, but an overtired picky eater is less than fun to eat with, so it hardly seems worth it.

So what does she eat? She’ll eat American cheese and occasionally mozzarella but no other cheese.  She’ll eat pancakes and waffles but not french toast.  Bananas, apples and grapes are ok but not strawberries, pineapple or blueberries.  Peppers are fine, and the occasional carrot, but no broccoli, peas or anything else green.  Any food she doesn’t like is “disgusting”.  She’ll occasionally try new things but often either gag on them or spit them out.  There will likely be crying.

We never ever talk to her about her weight or her body.  We talk about eating less carbs, more variety of foods, how important it is to try new things, but never ever in the frame of her size.  But I worry.  That she’ll keep getting bigger. That she’ll realize it.  That we’re the ones making her this way.   Despite being so picky, she’s obsessed with food.  She thinks about it all the time.  At parties where there are less healthy foods out like chips, she’d eat 100 if I didn’t stop her.  Am I making her this way by restricting what she eats?

Brian and I both passionately love food, could eat it to excess if we don’t keep ourselves in check. Neither of us, despite working hard at keeping ourselves in more reasonable shape, will ever be skinny.  I don’t think she’ll ever be skinny either, you can look at her wrists and see just from the size of her bones that she’ll be a bit more sturdy. But that doesn’t mean she is destined to be fat either.  I know the route to keeping her somewhere in between is to give her both healthy foods and a healthy attitude towards food even when the food is not healthy.  But I’m not sure I am able to deliver on that properly at this point based on my confused and complicated path with food and weight in my own past.

I’d love to hear from some of my fellow moms of their ideas and suggestions for how to address this?  Book suggestions are welcome as well, if you know of any good ones.  I know there are tips for picky eaters, but what about picky eaters that are also overweight?  Is she overweight? See, I’m in the dark here.  Many people tend to reach out to me via text, email or in person as opposed to writing comments on this blog (how come guys? I’ll look more popular if you comment on my blog!), so I will collect all the feedback across sources and share it with everyone in a future blog, as I assume I can’t be the only mom who deals with this.  Thanks in advance!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Not-So-Dedicated Follower of Fashion

When I was 10, I decided I wanted to become a fashion designer. I became captivated by a particular Versace campaign. Christy, Naomi, and Cindy (the holy trinity) in graphic black and white, shot in the desert by Herb Ritts. I had never seen anything so glamorous.

I started making fashion sketches and reading Vogue. I wore all black for a while, not in a goth way, more of a simple chic sort of Audrey way. I dreamed about being old enough to go live in New York.

And I did it. I went to college, majored in fashion design (one year behind my co-blogger extraordinaire), and moved to New York after graduation to pursue my dream. I spent ten years working for big companies, and small houses. Mass market and red carpet.

Being a fashion designer came with an expectation to dress well, but little money to do so. I lived for sample sales and spent many a lunch break traipsing around the garment district from warehouse to warehouse in search of the best and the chicest at the lowest prices. Sometimes I was lucky enough to snag a freebie or two from the places I worked.

Clothes and body image are inextricably tied together. As a designer, I had to be always attuned to what women wanted to show, and conceal. I had never had major body image issues, but was always conscious, in the way I think every woman is, that there was someone with a smaller waist, bigger boobs, longer eyelashes. I spent my youth fighting those feelings and struggling with at times overwhelming jealously. Ain’t middle school grand?

Over time I grew out of it. Then I got pregnant. Here’s the thing–as a woman, you struggle with learning to love yourself, accepting your appearance. It takes years, if you ever get there at all. And then, if you have kids, you go through a huge body transformation right about the time you start to be good with what you saw in the mirror. All bets are off. You are back to square one. But this time you have to learn to love several different bodies in a pretty short time frame.

Some women revel in pregnancy. The dramatic changes that happen, the power of the female body. Others don’t. I suppose I was a bit in between.

Phase One: Lets be honest, it’s kind of hideous. You gain weight in all the wrong places, you’re probably trying to hide it at work so you start learning how to camouflage the best you can with sometimes ridiculous layering. You look, not glowingly pregnant, but like you just had two burritos for lunch and they gave you food poisoning. It’s not a good look.

Phase Two: You emerge from your layers when you start breaking the news, and then you hit the cute stage. A tiny round belly, and lots of congratulations from friends and family and random passers-by.  But you have to learn how to dress this little bump. There are tons of options out there, not all of them great, and usually the cuter ones are pretty expensive. The pricey stuff I admired but I just couldn’t get behind investing in a wardrobe that would last me for 6-8 months. I got away with, for a while, non-maternity things in stretchy fabrics, in larger sizes. But that only lasts for so long.

Phase Three: You are enormous. Insensitive assholes ask if you are having twins. You feel like a baby whale and have completely stopped looking in your full-length mirror. When you do, you often cry. Your feet are swollen and you have given up wearing heels. The time has come for full on maternity clothes. Large tent-like tops, pants with big stretchy panels that you pull up to your ribcage.

Post Partum (Phase Four): You are still wearing maternity clothes. A lot of people don’t know this, but just because you just dropped an 8 pound love bundle, doesn’t mean you suddenly don’t look pregnant anymore. Those insensitive assholes are now asking you when you are due, and you gave birth 5 weeks ago. Good times! You can’t throw away those maternity clothes just yet! (As much as you want to. And I KNOW that you want to.) You are disoriented and exhausted and sweatpants are your new best friend. I was never a big fan of sweatpants until Phase 4. You are tending to a tiny demanding baby and you may not change out of your pajamas in the morning. Why bother? You are going to get spit up on or pooped on, so it doesn’t really matter what you wear, right? (Yes, this is the fashion designer speaking!) And it better all be machine washable.

Phase Five: This is different for everyone but my Phase 5 was back to work and nursing. I loved wearing dresses to work, but having to stop and pump 3x a day while wearing a dress was awkward, so my wardrobe became pants and nursing friendly tops. Secret revelation: I was still wearing maternity pants. Once you get into pants with no fly or waistband and a soft stretchy panel, its REALLY HARD to go back to regular pants. REALLY HARD. After work I would race home to have a precious hour or two with my baby who would make sure to spit up on me one last time before bed, so I usually changed into a T-shirt and sweatpants when I got home. It got to the point where my husband rarely saw me not in sweatpants. Bless him for keeping his mouth shut.

Phase Six: I’m ready to give up my maternity pants. I fit back into some of my old clothes but not all, because while my weight is back to pre-pregnancy, my body is different. I know I want to have two kids, so I can’t burn my maternity clothes just yet. Aside from some shoes and accessories, I don’t really buy myself anything new, because I like to buy things that I can wear for several years, and I just don’t know what my body is going to be like after #2. Oh and also, once you have a kid you are acutely aware of any dollar you spend that should probably go toward that kid instead of you. $45 new top, or $45 to the college fund??? College is going to be one billion dollars a year by that time, so I really don’t need that new top.

Rinse and repeat. I’ve been through this cycle twice. My youngest is almost two. The maternity clothes have long been given away, but I’m still not shopping for myself either. My body didn’t snap back quite as well after number two as it did after number one. I have diastasis recti which means my abs didn’t completely come back together. The long and the short of it, is that I look a couple months pregnant. And some insensitive assholes have asked if I am. Mom Tip: NEVER EVER EVER ask someone if they are pregnant. EVER. If you can’t obviously tell they are pregnant you are treading on some very dangerous territory.

I have lots of things in my closet (even some still-great pieces from sample sales of my designer days) that just don’t fit me the same way, or draw attention to places I would rather not. I’m not ready to part with them. I’m not ready to accept this body as my own just yet. I’m a work in progress.

As it relates to pregnancy and fashion, I will leave you with a story. Once upon a time, Lisa and I were out to dinner. Young twenty-somethings living in New York. Girls on the town. At dinner we saw a group of women, one of which was pregnant. She was so amazingly stylish, we couldn’t help but notice her. She was definitely Phase Two. An emerald green open-back halter top over a black bandeau, white jeans, gold jewelry and gold platform sandals. Lisa, the more outspoken of the two of us, excused herself and went over and told her how fabulous she looked. It turned out she worked for a very popular online retailer and had access to great stuff, but she was absolutely thrilled for the compliment. I think about her often. I’m certain I never looked that fabulous when I was pregnant, but now I understand the effort it takes when you are pregnant to pull out all the stops, and that complimenting a pregnant woman is maybe one of the nicest things you can do.