This weekend I heard a child close in relation to me ask for a second mini cupcake and she was shot down.
I’d like to state here and now, I wouldn’t have let her have it either. My reasons were mostly because it was getting close to dinner time and almost all the snacks she ate at the small get together was cheese so I just felt like I would have suggested she eat some of the meat slices or the veggies instead.
I worked in a positive reinforcement childcare center and am a huge fan of creating a “yes” environment for children. This doesn’t mean let the child run amuck (as my dad likes to say), it more or less means you don’t just tell a child no without reason, you tell them what they can do instead. There’s a bunch of studies behind it and research and more information than what is needed for this post, so I’m not going to delve into the “yes” environment, but stick to the response this child was actually given from someone even closer to her than I am.
She was told no she couldn’t have the second mini cupcake because “your tummy will get so big if you have another cupcake.” And I cringed. I wasn’t facing the woman who told her this, and I’m so glad I wasn’t because I don’t think I would been able to hide how horrified I was by the response. This child is three and is already being told negative things about having a bigger body. While it wasn’t outright negative, eventually if that is always the response, she will begin to associate “big tummy” negatively because it is accompanied by not getting something she wants.
And I get it. Fat means unhealthy for so many people in our society. Obesity causes a lot of health-related issues. I’ve heard the studies, I’ve read the health books, I’ve listened to television doctors tell me how bad it is for me or anyone to be overweight. So this woman wants to keep the child healthy. I don’t fault her for that. Not at all.
But I have a firm, firm, firm belief that mental health when it comes to weight loss and eating disorders is an even larger cause for concern. I truly think there are better and healthier ways to talk to our children about food. And if you don’t want a child to have a second cupcake or more of whatever, I feel like there has to be better ways to say no, without causing them to have a horrible relationship with food for years to come. This still isn’t th point of my post, though.
My true concern is with myself. I didn’t speak up. I noticed this is something that happens to me on a regular basis. If I am put in an uncomfortable situation where I don’t like the way someone is talking about weight and diet and body positivity, I don’t actually say anything. I am having a hard time standing up and fighting for the cause in person, especially when it comes from a peer or during a time when I feel like it will cause a conflict. I am not the type who likes conflict. I don’t like to cause another person discomfort and when someone has good intentions (which I truly, truly believe this women does have), I feel like I will only cause problems.
Not to mention I get nervous I am not going to be able to talk about these things in a professional, researched manner. I feel like I will never have the right arguments and I won’t be able to articulate my responses so they make sense. I feel like I am always going to have these conversations with people who will never see my side and see how constantly talking about weight and diet and healthy foods and not healthy foods will cause more harm than good. I don’t think being so addicted to keeping track of everything you put in your mouth is any healthier for you mentally than having an addiction to not being in control of what you eat. There should be a balance, but I just don’t know if our society is ready to accept that and I don’t think I have the ability to be the person to spread that message.
I, however, don’t want to be that person. I want to be strong when these situations arise. I need to be able to say something because if I don’t say anything at all, it’s just as bad as agreeing with people who have these beliefs and that scares me. I want to be an advocate on social media and in person. It does me no good to be an advocate online, but not in person.
Please send me advice, share examples, help me with ways I can handle these kinds of situations in the future!!