On being a chubby kid.

I was at lunch today with a group of ladies from work and the topic of Lent came up. In the past, I’ve tried to give up chocolate, or fast food, but never made it the whole 40 days. But it seems like most people in the blogosphere are “doing” Lent this year, so I’m going to follow suit. I’m not going to eat red meat for 40 days. In all honesty, isn’t some kind of major sacrifice for me. I don’t love red meat anyway, and I don’t currently eat it all that often. I really just want to see if I can do it.

Anyway, this post really isn’t about Lent.

Today when we were at lunch, and one of the ladies (who I’ll call Ann) mentioned about how she told her 6 year old daughter (who I’ll call Sophie) that she had to give up junk food for Lent. Ann then described how they both got on the scale this morning to weigh themselves, and that Sophie didn’t want Ann to know how much she weighed. Ann told her to write the number down on a piece of paper and keep it in a safe place so that once Lent was over, she could see if she lost weight.

Remember…this little girl is 6 years old.

Now, I have seen Sophie several times when Ann has brought her into work. She is adorable. And yes, she is a little on the chubby side. But a lot of little girls and boys that age are. I know that childhood obesity is a major issue in this country, and that makes me sad. And maybe if fresh, unprocessed foods weren’t so damn expensive, it wouldn’t be such a problem. Clearly, I have a lot to say about on that topic…but I’ll save it for another day.

Based on my description of Ann and Sophie’s relationship, you might think that Ann is thin and might be scared by the fact that her daughter is not, even at such a young age.

But Ann is not thin – not by a long shot. I am sure that Ann weighs well over 200 pounds. She recently had another baby, and while she was pregnant, she actually LOST weight (doctor’s orders). As I sat and listened to the conversation today, I realized that Ann is dealing with one of my major fears about having kids.

I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t thought about what I would do if, when I have kids, one of them gets a little chubby. I’ve actually thought about whether or not I even want kids because I’m afraid that they might be genetically predisposed to be overweight. I know that sounds so ridiculous, because there certainly are things that are much, much worse in life than being overweight. But I also know first-hand the hardships and the disappointments that come with being overweight, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to see my child (or children) go through that.

As Ann talked about how much Sophie likes to eat, how she eats when she’s bored, how she never seems to be full – a strange feeling came over me. I felt like she could have been talking about me as a little girl. As an infant, my mom told me that my appetite was almost insatiable. I would cry and cry, she would feed me, and I would still cry. It wasn’t until she KEPT feeding me that I stopped crying. She thought that infants weren’t supposed to eat as much as I was eating.

Growing up, I had a big appetite. I especially liked junk food, much like Sophie. But I ate an otherwise well-balanced diet, and I was more active than most of today’s kids are. I think I was always in a higher percentile for height and weight, and I was always slightly bigger than most of my female (and male) classmates. I don’t remember exactly when I realized that I was bigger than other kids. I don’t remember when the teasing started, or I became self-conscious. But I am guessing that, even as a 6 year old, Sophie has already experienced those things. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be trying to hide her weight from her mother. That was clearly done out of shame. It breaks my heart.

I wanted to say something during that conversation, to add some kind of insight, or give Ann some kind of advice. But then I realized that if I did tell Ann that I was the same way as a little girl, it wouldn’t make her feel any better. She’d probably look at me and think, “And look at you now. You’re still overweight as an adult.” And who knows? Ann may have always been overweight, too. Her experiences might be very similar to mine. I know that any advice or insight I gave would have been perceived in a completely different light if I was thin or average sized now; it probably would have made Ann feel a lot better. Unfortunately, I’m not.

I don’t even know that what I’ve written makes sense or accurately captures how I felt today. But I felt like I needed to write it down. I still have a lot of thoughts flowing through my head about the whole situation. Maybe I’ll write about it again sometime.

Today, though, I’m just sad for Sophie.

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